Skip to content
CityLab
Design

How Cities Design Themselves

Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.
Shoppers walk through the central textile market to buy new clothes in downtown Jakarta.
Shoppers walk through the central textile market to buy new clothes in downtown Jakarta.Supri Supri/Reuters

Since first crisscrossing the urbanizing outskirts of Sana'a—one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities—by Land Rover in 1970, Alain Bertaud has gained a reputation as a “real-life Indiana Jones of urban planning.”

But there’s also a Forrest Gump-like quality to Bertaud’s lengthy resume. His work at organizations like New York City’s Department of City Planning and the World Bank places him at key moments in recent urban history. He can tell you about organizing East Harlem outreach with the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, working with planners in Beijing as the People’s Republic of China began to open up in the early 1980s, and creating brand-new urban land markets in post-Soviet St. Petersburg and Moscow in the early 1990s.