Critical Praise for
 Rural by Design
Rural by Design Cover

“The new edition of Rural by Design is part Reference Manual, part Guidebook, and part Inspiration. It should be on the shelf of every planner, developer and citizen interested in better land development. This book proves that small towns can grow without losing the attributes that make them unique and valuable. We have choices for how we grow. Randall Arendt’s new book tells us what they are and how to achieve them”

--Ed McMahon,Senior Resident Fellow at the Urban Land Institute, Washington, DC


“The second edition of Rural by Design is worth the 20 years necessary for its update. This book is a tremendous resource explaining the issues associated with successful land conversion and the absolute importance of design as the fundamental component of the preservation of place. Arendt's latest work is thorough and well researched. It provides planners with the critical tools necessary to actually create great places, especially at the rural and suburban end of the transect, by explaining the best of historic town-building principles and updating them with the latest in current practice. This is a must-have book for every planner's library. The concepts are transferable and clear, and the rationale is directly on point and understandable to all audiences.

--Rick Bernhardt, FAICP, Executive Director, Metropolitan Nashville-Davidson County Planning Department


“This updated version of the 20-year-old classic is a how-to guide to creating walkable towns in rural and urbanizing suburban North America, bursting with examples, many not yet built when the original book was written. It also shows how metropolitan residents can have a connection to nature that is so crucial for human settlements no matter the density. We are witnessing the end of sprawl, and this book provides the blueprint for how it is being replaced by environmentally sustainable, socially equitable, and economically successful ways of building the country.”

--Christopher B. Leinberger, Nonresident Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution and Charles Bendit Distinguished Scholar and Research Professor of Urban Real Estate Chair, Center for Real Estate and Urban Analysis, George Washington University School of Business, Washington, DC


Rural by Design represents a lifetime of experience and wisdom. Randall Arendt is a passionate proponent of the value of good design for planning more humane and healthy communities. His grasp of the history of planning new communities--and his deep personal involvement in making numerous plans across the United States--inform Rural by Design. This expanded edition includes considerable new information, notably concerning sustainability. Arendt's clear and informative writing make Rural by Design an invaluable resource for practitioners, educators, and students in planning, landscape architecture, architecture, civil engineering, law, and real estate.”

--Frederick Steiner, Dean, School of Architecture, University of Texas at Austin


The new, second edition of Rural by Design is much, much more than an updating of the original seminal volume. Arendt has expanded the book considerably and covers many recent trends in urban planning and design. While it still emphasizes the rural context, it covers many topics relevant to urban and suburban areas. What makes this new work especially valuable is that it includes thoughtful discussion about the practical challenges facing communities in implementing strategies to become more livable and sustainable. While its size (525 pages) and heft may be daunting, the book’s writing style and layout make it very accessible. It is easy to read, has many photographs and illustrations that help communicate issues, and includes numerous case studies from a wide range of contexts. This is a book that should become a standard reference for every planner.””

--Paul Zykofsky, AICP, Associate Director, Local Government Commission, Sacramento, California


“What a delight to find not just a new edition to a great foundational work but a total modernization and sharing of the most current capture of town form and planning history. Standing on Arendt's shoulders to inform your next work, or to just broaden your knowledge or plan of action in your community, is just one of many benefits to be drawn from this deep well.”

--Dan Burden, Director of Innovation and Implementation, Blue Zones, and national consultant on walkability


The new version of Rural by Design is even better, and vastly different, than the first edition--even more comprehensive, up-to-date, useful. Just looking at the illustrations, one is struck by the quality as well as the quality of the case study examples. Diving into the text on almost any page reveals a depth of knowledge, presented in straightforward and easily understandable prose, primed for quotes and footnotes. This new edition will be invaluable to educators, practitioners, planning advocates, commission members, public officials, and private landowners and developers--anyone involved with identifying and discouraging poor development practices and defining and encouraging state-of-the-art initiatives for our rural, hamlet, and suburban communities.”

--Ernest Watson Hutton Jr., FAICP, Hutton Associates/Planning Interaction, New York


If you liked the first Rural by Design as much as I did, you will likethe second edition even more. Randall Arendt has gone well beyond the typical update to this classic planning textbook. He has made it highly relevant and useful to practicing planners by a more broadly and defined notion of "rural" that will assist planners, developers, policy makers and citizen to improve the quality of our "urbanizing" suburbs and to make better land use and development decision for rapidly growing communities. If you are a planning student, practicing planner, or land use policymaker, I highly encourage you to consult this volume, as it is a planner’s treasure chest. As a practicing planner myself, I find it incredibly inspiring and applicable to contemporary practice.”

--Fred Merrill, FAICP, Principal, Sasaki Associates, Watertown, Massachusetts


Rural by Design, Second Edition comprehensively links different areas of planning practice in a new and unique way. Most importantly, Randall Arendt connects form-based placemaking, creating vibrant, and walkable human habitats with the preservation and enhancement of natural and cultural landscapes. He also squarely faces the political, economic, and practical obstacles that confront both robust urbanism and effective land preservation. By weaving together diverse strands of planning practice, this magnificently illustrated book shows how to improve our human habitat while preserving the fragile ecological systems on which we all depend."

--Joel Russell, Principal of Joel Russell Associates in Northampton Massachusetts, and former Executive Director, Form-Based Codes Institute


“We are using the new revised Rural by Design in the classroom. The text and color illustrations are great and so inspiring for our Masters of Urban Design students.”

--Max Underwood, Presidents’ Professor at The Design School, Arizona State University


“If you have an interest in planning as a form or a function, this book is one that will be educational, entertaining, and evocative. Not only has the text been updated to include a much more comprehensive and current review of planning options, but the layout and formatting of the text is a delight to read.

In this edition, Mr. Arendt has successfully pulled together many diverse areas of planning practice and most importantly he is communicating their value and their impacts in a vibrant and highly readable manner, which should help people better understand planning as a function and the value of placemaking.

It has been a decade since I read the first edition, and as I read the text and browsed the clear illustrations, I was struck by how useful the information is to rural and urban alike. In many ways the title of the book is a misnomer, because this book is a great tool for new urbanists, small town enthusiasts and those that want to preserve and enhance the open space we all need.

--Christopher G. Parker, AICP, Assistant City Manager: Director of Planning and Strategic Initiatives , City of Dover, New Hampshire


“I’m a lawyer and planner and I represent any and all interests in the “zoning game”. I’ve done it about as long as Randall has been a planner (call it 40 years), and my license plate number is “ZONING”. This is my world too, except I’m for hire and Randall is owned by no one, pure as the driven snow. I loved the first edition and learned a lot from it. This one is even better. It is so richly and thoughtfully illustrated. The care that went into it--selecting, sizing, placing the images--is evident. Randall’s devotion to the subject is palpable. The revisions are substantial and appropriately reflect two key developments in the 20 years since the first edition. First, we know a lot more, thanks to Randall and others, than we did back then about planning, regulation, and how to make things right. Second, there has been a demographic tectonic shift with aging boomers, footloose millennials, and the emergence, soon, of the single-person household as the dominant type.

There is simply less pressure to sprawl and more to intensify. Most of my work is infilling and redevelopment, in one form or another. This book is as strong on those efforts at remaking as it is on new development. Look at the table of contents and you will be struck at how encyclopedic this book is. It covers every important topic, all in detail.

I have said to be effective in planning and regulation, you need a vocabulary; you can’t talk about things for which you have no words. This book, as noted, provides the vocabulary.  You also must orchestrate planning and regulatory techniques. Don’t expect TDR, or form-based codes, or alternative treatment systems to save your landscape … but orchestrate these and dozens of other ways of planning and regulation, as Randall lays out for us, picking and choosing, and limiting and expanding, and pushing hard and downplaying as you go, like a great conductor--are we not all in our work trying to be just such a great conductor?--and you will greatly improve your chances of success. And maybe, just maybe, if you read this book and use it, you’ll be an illustration and laudable example of success in the third edition in 2035.

--Dwight H. Merriam, FAICP, CRE, Partner, Robinson & Cole LLP, Hartford,Connecticut


Rural by Design captures in vivid photos and poignant text what was great about our communities before the age of sprawl, and what they can become again. From the very first page, Randall Arendt presents with urgency, simplicity and elegance a profound understanding of how community design not only reflects but ultimately defines who we are as a people. The book is SO incredible, SO well written, that I can't say enough. It reads not like a textbook but rather as the impassioned and meaningful book that it obviously is. Anyone in any profession could pick up this book and become entranced with both its sentiment and its message.”

--John A. Lipman, Lipman Development Strategies, South Orleans, Massachusetts


“An amazing compendium of use for decades to come.”

--William L. Rawn III, FAIA, LEED AP, William Rawn Associates, Boston, Massachusetts


What a tour-de-force your second edition is!  I've gotten a chance to browse thru now and am so impressed with the level of detail you've provided.  It's a wonderful resource for planners and I hope APA markets it aggressively.”

--Philip Caton, FAICP, Partner, Clarke, Caton & Hintz, Trenton, New Jersey


This is THE foundational work on how we can use land for a higher quality of life and without destructive exploitation of the land. It is a practical thesis that can be applied to any project. Exhaustive in scope, it also points us to how to build our communities for a higher quality of life than has been done for much of our recent past. Real, existing, and successful examples of projects that provide for great living and profit for the developers. There is no excuse for anyone to do sorry development ever again. If you only have one book about planning and development, this should be it.”

--Clay Preston, Village Habitat Design, Atlanta, Georgia.


What I have found most helpful is the depth of research. The book contains an extensive number of well documented examples with links to websites. This allows one to further research the successes (and challenges) others have dealt with when reworking their codes or offering conservation design as an alternative to ‘business as usual’. I also really appreciate all the color images. I will be referencing your book in the research I am doing for rural coding as a part of a best practices research effort on scenic byway planning and regulations.”

--David Ager, Principal, Townscape Design, Clarksville, Maryland


“Well, you’ve done it again. No brag, just facts. Evidence abounds here. You have left us with a wealth of information for how to make sound land planning decisions.”

--Prof. Jon Rodiek, FASLA, Harold L. Adams '61 Endowed Interdisciplinary Professorship in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas


“It’s hard to add something new to the many thoughtful comments you have already received on your book. What I found interesting and very useful was the updated organization and structure of the book which made it easy to find a particular topic of interest, how you organized each chapter with an opening paragraph or two that helped a reader scanning the book understand the gist of each chapter, the outstanding use of illustrations and photographs throughout, and your updated case examples. Well done. This excellent work will be a must-read for our planners here at the City.

--Roger E. Eastman, AICP, Comprehensive Planning and Code Administrator, City of Flagstaff, Arizona


Thank you for a great resource. I will be referencing many elements from this second edition with both my graduate students and in the visioning workshops my graduate students and I will be leading in a collaborative effort to institutional community goals and objectives in a zoning district linking the rapidly growing Gallatin Valley (4.7% population increase, last year). Of particular interest to me were more evidence supporting TDR strategies and your conclusions regarding overbuilt commercial corridors (confirming what I have observed in many new subdivisions and new urban developments).”

--Prof. Ralph Johnson, Director of the School of Architecture, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana


“Your new book is beautifully designed, provocatively written and, best of all, a practical and useful guide for better design and development. I believe you and I share a similar philosophy when it comes to the built environment and I appreciate how you share that philosophy with others. The book has also been useful in several recent projects, particularly a code language initiative with design guidelines prepared for a scenic byway in Delaware.”

--John M. Gaadt, AICP, Principal, Gaadt Perspectives


“The new edition of Rural by Design is an important addition to my undergraduate environmental planning courses and is a valuable follow up to the original classic text that became a driving force in the conservation design movement in the US. It builds on the original concepts while including broader coverage of non-residential development. As with the first, this edition includes a sequential topical format, thoughtful and concise interpretations, applicable case studies and excellent supporting graphics. It's a great achievement and will have a lasting impact on development here and abroad.”

--Dr. Eric Sanden, Professor of Conservation and Environmental Planning, University of Wisconsin-River Falls


“Arendt does a fantastic job of describing the path American urban planning has taken. With beautiful photos and illustrations, he shows us that we know how to build great places and that, by paying closer attention to the details, we can improve both the built environment and the lives of the people who inhabit those environments. While Rural by Design emphasizes the value of land conservation, the second edition takes a broader view of urban planning and addresses design issues that are applicable across the rural to urban transect. More than any recent work, this book is an excellent resource for planners to convey planning concepts to citizens, planning commissioners and elected officials.

--Tom Yantis, AICP, Assistant City Manager, City of Leander, Texas


“I highly recommend Rural by Design, 2nd Edition,which explores urban planning and design through a rural construct. As the director of land use and transportation for the second-largest county in Oregon, with both rural and urban planning challenges, I feel that it offers practical advice and strategies applicable to all aspects of land development. Arendt synthesizes the needs for growth and preservation, navigating political and economic challenges to create a blueprint for healthy, vibrant communities where unique character is preserved and valued. This text is a recipe book for sustainable, livable communities, and comprehensively examines transportation opportunities, land preservation, rural character, housing choice, town centers and more.”

--Andrew Singelakis, AICP, Director of Land Use & Transportation at Washington County, Oregon


The new edition of Rural by Design is a definitive text. In 1994 Randall Arendt offered an important template to counter suburban sprawl. Centered on the conservation subdivision, Rural by Design enlightened policy and regulations were recalibrated. In the past two decades, conservation subdivisions have protected 180,000 acres of natural and rural land. At the same time, Arendt was updating his repertoire. His new book is thoughtful and richly illustrated. Mitigating sprawl is still at the forefront, but it also addresses the growing focus on infill development. Analyses of pocket neighborhoods, complete streets, waterway daylighting, and habitat restoration reveal how sustainable human environments can be crafted in an urban setting. Arendt is at his best in a chapter devoted to greenways. Mixing historic principle and innovation, he presents a series of projects that guide development on lines of ecology, health, equity, and profit.

Town planning is rooted in landscape architecture, a fact foreign to too many practitioners. Fortunately, Arendt celebrates this history. Like the early stalwarts of the profession--the Olmsted Brothers and John Nolen--he offers a pragmatic vision to protect nature and promote urbanism. Henry David Thoreau's adage "in wildness is the preservation of the world", inspired earlier generations, but Arendt is a visionary who sees livable cities as the key to the preservation of the world. This endeavor will define landscape architecture, and we are lucky to have Rural by Design as a guide.

Rural by Design is not just for practitioners in small cities and suburbanizing towns. New Urbanists will also profit from an array of strategies and examples for concentrating development and minimizing impacts.  Most of all, Rural by Design provides professors in planning and landscape architecture a text for their most important task: training students to apply ideals and principles in practice.

--Bruce Stephenson, Professor of Environmental Studies, Rollins College, Winter Park, Florida


“This new edition of Rural by Design is a comprehensive guide to navigating myriad aspects of growth management for small-town America, and is an excellent resource for communities with limited budgets. While providing relevant technical information on a wide range of rural land management tools, it beautifully articulates and illustrates the vision of the CNU--which is to encourage human-scale development built in harmony with its natural environment."

--Robin Bergstrom, Executive Director, Congress for the New Urbanism, New England Chapter, Boston, Massachusetts


“In this update to his classic book, Randall continues to shape rural planning by integrating current discussions of town centers, sustainability, biophilia, and green infrastructure into his timeless advice for maintaining rural character, creating a detailed reference guide that everyone involved in planning the towns and open spaces of the American countryside should have at their side. Though full of case studies and supporting facts, this edition is organized to give quick, easy access to the practical tools needed to create great places.”

-- Daniel K. Slone, national land-use and sustainability lawyer; board member of the Congress of the New Urbanism and the Resilient Design Institute


Randall Arendt has managed to take a great book and make it even better. Since the original version in 1994, which won praise from the likes of Ian McHarg (Design with Nature), Rural by Design has become a timeless planning classic. This newest version has been expanded to make it even richer in content, including nearly doubling the number of case studies and graphics. It has also evolved to remain relevant to current planning philosophies by addressing critical issues such as the leveraging of greenways as a framework for broader planning, providing well-designed affordable housing, combating the ills of strip commercial development by offering a clear alternative, revitalizing town centers, and the intricacies of transfer of development rights (TDR) techniques. Even if you’ve read the original edition, the new and improved version of Rural by Design is unquestionably worth another read.

--Philip Walker, AICP, Principal, The Walker Collaborative, Nashville, Tennessee


“Randall Arendt has done it again! The second edition of Rural by Design focuses on newly emerging trends evident in our own rural Hunterdon County, New Jersey, such as focusing development in town centers, broadening housing choice, and creating greenways. The re-emergence of historic town centers, the desire for increased connectivity, and a defined vision for a sustainable future are all highlighted within the pages and photographs of this book. The new Rural by Design will, no doubt, become a standard for all planning professionals.

--Sue Dziamara, NJPP/AICP, Director of Planning, Hunterdon County, New Jersey

Rural by Design: Planning for Town and Country (second edition) is a valuable resource for anyone interested in how to promote and protect small-town quality of life through proactive community design strategies. Arendt's new edition is a comprehensive, extremely readable, and practical resource for staff as well as local leaders and community partners. His inclusion of critical lessons learned over the past 20 years, illustrated case examples, and new emphasis on greenways as a recurring theme in town planning are especially helpful in education and advocacy work.”

Sherry Barrett, Sustainable Communities Program Associate, Upstate Forever, Spartanburg, South Carolina


Rural by Design is one of my favorite books. This second edition is equally focused on rural areas and developing suburbs, and has much to offer large towns and even small cities wishing to retain their traditional character and to create greenway open space systems. Containing 80 percent new material, the new edition is far more comprehensive, contains twice the number of illustrations, and has 75 more pages, compared with the 1994 version.

If all volunteer planning commission members, professional paid planners, township and city officials, and others involved in the land development and home building industry read this book, America would be a much finer place. We'd never see a dull cookie-cutter subdivision again, and children and adults would have easy access to nature close to their homes. This second edition is a must-read for planners and anyone interested in improving their community and quality of life. A powerful book for advocates and anyone tired of seeing their communities stripped of their traditional identity by outdated, behind-the-times planners and developers who continue to produce the same old boring product. Buy it, read it, and implement the excellent and profitable techniques today. It's that good!”

--Kirt Manecke, Citizen Planner, Milford, Michigan


This final review, providing an international perspective, was written by Cliff Hague, Professor Emeritus of Planning and Spatial Development at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Past President of the Royal Town Planning Institute, and of the Commonwealth Association of Planners, and past Chair of Built Environment Forum Scotland.

“The first edition of Randall Arendt's Rural by Design was published 20 years ago, and became a classic resource for a generation of planners and urbanists in North America. The new edition is even better, and has an international relevance, despite remaining rooted in the planning and development context of the USA.

Arendt makes a persuasive case that a study of traditional towns reveals some time-tested principles that were lost in the second half of the 20th century, as suburbs spread and a routine land use zoning system set the template for layouts. However, the book is no whimsical hymn to a bygone age. The new edition embraces very 21st century concerns such as low impact development, the role of green infrastructure networks, and how to redevelop commercial corridors, to list just a few examples.

Rural? The book's subtitle "Planning for Town and Country" gives a better indication of the contents than the title itself. The author takes a broad definition of "rural" and notes that "rural" is a subjective concept. His contention is that many principles of rural design can work in towns and neighbourhoods. Green space--in all shapes, sizes and configurations--is integral to creating attractive and environmentally sustainable places. Thus, for example, when discussing traffic calming in residential neighbourhoods, he favours curved, even meandering streets, echoing natural landscape features, and argues for keeping the centreline radius in curves down to 72 feet (roughly 21 meters) if the aim is to slow car speeds down to 15-18 mph (roughly 25kph). Similarly, in residential streets, broad grassy areas separating paving from the road can dispense with the need for curbs and allow stormwater to seep into the ground as it does alongside traditional rural roads.

Chapter 8, "Blending New Urbanism with Greenway Planning and Conservation Design" distills the philosophy that infuses the whole book. It begins "Creating greenway networks for informal recreation, exercise and enjoyment of nature is perhaps the most fundamental element of enlightened town planning, whether in rural, suburban or urban locations".  Green corridors are fundamental to "civilized, healthful community design"; and good quality green space design pays dividends to developers prepared to use it.

Design begins with understanding and respecting the natural environment: preserving major tree groups, for example, rather than clearing them to create a "blank sheet" for new development. The book illustrates the many ways (successful and unsuccessful) in which houses can be laid out adjacent to green space.

Gateways and Corridors Commercial strips fronting the highways are a typical feature of US towns. When I see them, I always puzzled by just what difference a century of planning has made. Set back behind asphalt parking lots, and often without "sidewalks", trees, or anything to compete with the commercial signage, they are hostile environments, negotiable only by cars and trucks. Yet they seemingly tick all the regulatory boxes imposed by the local planning systems. Arendt's explanation is that "the scale, pattern, design, and location of new buildings and parking areas are scarcely addressed in most land use regulations".

How can these 20th century dinosaurs be re-planned? Happily many were short-term investments, with short design-lives, often only 25 years, and the advent of e-commerce may accelerate their demise.  Getting buildings to be more than a single storey and to front on to the street, with parking at the rear, should be a basic requirement. A more provocative planning instrument that civic organisations might be tempted to use is a "Map of regrettable buildings", such as the one produced by urban design students in Northampton, Massachusetts, and which the book illustrates.

A Wealth of Practical Examples It is impossible adequately to summarise the comprehensive scope of this 525 page blockbuster in a short blog such as this. Suffice to say that it is crammed full with practical examples, and illustrated by a multiplicity of colour photos, maps and layouts. The American Planning Association, the publishers, have produced a handsome volume in which the nearly 900 visuals do justice to the clarity and flow of the writing. The book exudes a deep professional understanding of how to design and manage the physical environment in all its aspects. It synthesises an enormous amount of practice from across the USA, piecing together research findings and local examples. Reading it is like being taken on a classic American road trip by an expert guide who stops off at numerous places, interprets them for you, and leaves you the photos to take home and use afterwards.  

Here in the UK, the chronic under-provision of housing in areas of high demand has created a "numbers" mentality, obscuring important questions about the quality of the living environments that are to be created. Randall Arendt's book should be a reminder to planners and designers that conservation-inspired design can deliver places that people want to live in, streets where children can play safely, businesses can operate successfully, and ecosystems that are in a healthy condition. It's what is now being called "place-making", though that phrase is only used obliquely by Arendt, when summarising others' recommendations. For those of our generation it was just "planning".


home services about contact links