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Last minute gift ideas for urbanists

If you're a responsible adult, you've already finished all your holiday shopping. If you're like me, you've still got some to do. So here are some gift ideas for the urbanists in your life, all from brick-and-mortar stores in DC that you can visit today or tomorrow.

Fare card trivet, the Bible of urbanism, DC earrings, and SimCity computer game.

Get a book

You can't go wrong with books, and most large bookstores have a shelf or two dedicated to architecture & city planning. The four urbanist books I always recommend are:

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. It's the Bible of urbanism, the seminal book on what makes a good city, and the singular most essential book in any urbanist library.

The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler. By far the most accessible description of how suburbia happened, why it seemed to make sense at the time, and why it ultimately proved a disaster.

Suburban Nation by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck. Like Death and Life, but more contemporary, and beautifully illustrated with simple maps & diagrams that help make the point.

Walkable City by Jeff Speck. Speck is a DC resident, a GGW contributor, and one of the best urbanist writers today. He collaborated on Suburban Nation, and then with Walkable City presented the hard data that backs up his claims.

Go to the National Building Museum gift shop

The National Building Museum focuses on cities and architecture, and has great gift shop. It's open until 5pm Monday and Tuesday. They have DC street map earrings, Metro fare card trivets, city map ties, foldable paper Metrorail train cars, and all sorts of other cool stuff.

Get SimCity

If the urbanist you love is under 40, odds are he or she has played and loved the SimCity family of computer games. You can buy the latest version at any electronics or video games store.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a transportation planner for Arlington and professor of geography at George Washington University, but blogs to express personal views. He has a degree in urban planning from the University of Colorado, and lives in NE DC. He runs BeyondDC and contributes to the Washington Post


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Sim City in it's latest incarnation is drivel compared to the alternatives out there.

Might I suggest Cities in Motion 2? Local & Express rail, street cars, trams, busses, water taxis, bus lanes, parking lanes, pedestrian paths, highways, variable lane widths, one way streets, streets with medians. It;s got route management, special timings for rush hour nights and weekends, and trip & zone fare collection systems.

by Xavier on Dec 23, 2013 1:58 pm • linkreport

Only get the new SimCity if you want to send a passive-aggressive message to someone that you want to look like you love them, but really, you wish they'd fall down some stairs.

by NoNoNoNoNo on Dec 23, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

Question for everyone: What are your favorite (or suggested) transit/urban planning board games? I know a few exist but don't know much about them. I'd like to get one or two...

Many thanks!

by Luddite on Dec 23, 2013 2:08 pm • linkreport

This one is one of my favorites (though amazon has a different game pictured...). Like Settlers of Catan crossed with SimCity.

by cthend on Dec 23, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

I was here to also sugges Cities in Motion 2. It's more of the transportation planning aspect of SimCity, which they downplayed in the most recent version. SimCity 4 (the previous) also has a large and active modding community still at it, 10 years later. Just shoes how flexible the platform was!

by Andrew on Dec 23, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

I played SimCity when it first came out, but I think I was just too frustrated with the server issues and just haven't picked it up again. It also has some not great messages regarding urbanism (like larger streets equals more density).

I also played a little bit of Cities in Motion 2. I might need to give that another shot (as I really liked the first one) but the interface seemed awkward to me.

Also, can you still actually buy computer games at brick and mortar stores?

I don't really know of any with perhaps the exception of Ticket to Ride, which is nominally about freight rail. It basically takes the road building of Settlers of Catan and makes that more complex.

by Steven Yates on Dec 23, 2013 2:38 pm • linkreport

Walkable City by Jeff Speck is an awesome book. I highly recommend it. They also have the audible version for those that don't like to read.

by Niko on Dec 23, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Suburban nation and life and death are both highly recommended.

Simpsons Tapped Out has a sim city gameplay combined with the Simpsons which merges two big loves of mine.

by Drumz on Dec 23, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

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