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Alain Bertaud (阿兰·柏图) is an urbanist, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and a senior research scholar at the NYU  Marron Institute of Urban Management. In 2018, he completed his book “Order Without Design: How Markets Shape Cities.” It has since been translated into Chinese and Portuguese.

Bertaud previously held the position of principal urban planner at the World Bank. After retiring from the Bank in 1999, he worked as an independent consultant. Prior to joining the World Bank, he worked as a resident urban planner in a number of cities around the world: Bangkok, San Salvador (El Salvador), Port Au Prince (Haiti), Sana’a (Yemen), New York, Paris, Tlemcen (Algeria), and Chandigarh (India).

Bertaud’s research, conducted in collaboration with his wife Marie-Agnès, aims to bridge the gap between operational urban planning and urban economics. Their work focuses primarily on the interaction between urban forms, real estate markets, and regulations.

In 2024, Mr. Bertaud received an honorary doctorate from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, India, the first such degree bestowed in the institution’s history.

Paul Romer, Nobel Laureate in Economics 2018, interviews Mr. Bertaud on “Order without Design: How Markets Shape Cities”

Publications

As an urban planner, my goal is to translate the theories and equations (and sometimes the jargon) of urban economists into approaches and methods that can lead to concrete decision-making in the everyday world of an urban planning office. 

Alain Bertaud

Order without Design

In Order without Design, Mr. Bertaud argues that cities and markets are inseparable from each other if they are to work efficiently. Urban economics gives us the tools to apply these ideas and produce cities that both increase human productivity and human welfare.

The first chapter of Alain Bertaud’s 2018 book, Order Without Design, is available as a preview here. The full book can be purchased here:

Publications by topic

The following reports and papers, produced at the request of a municipality, the World Bank, or another city stakeholder, illustrate Mr. Bertaud’s pathbreaking approaches and methods. 

Urban Spatial Structures and City Planning
Comparative Urban Structures
Asian Cities
African Cities
European Cities
North, Central and South American Cities
Land Use and Financial Models – AKA Bertaud Model

Land use and financial models are used to test the feasibility of large land development projects. They can also be used to test the affordability of land use regulations. They allow trade off between many different parameters, land use, land use intensity (FAR), rate of interest, scheduling of works. They should be used from the early design stage to completion of the project. They should not be used after design is completed but in parallel with design. A number of models used in real projects in real cities are presented here. Each model is different from the other reflecting the different issues faced by the land development project.

Links

Articles, columns and biographies

Additional links and sources:

Graphs

The profile of urban built-up densities may reveal the economic past history of a city

This graph shows the difference in a city’s spatial structure between Moscow that was “designed” by a central planning organization and Paris that was shaped mostly by market forces. Although densities are lower in Paris than in Moscow, commuting distance are much higher in Moscow because of the differences in the density profile (most people are farther away from the center in Moscow than in Paris).

The pattern of commuting trips shows how the labor market works in different spatial structures

Urban densities are not trivial, they severely limit the transport mode choice and change only very slowly

Because of the large differences in densities between Atlanta and Barcelona about the same length of metro line is accessible to 60% of the population in Barcelona but only 4% in Atlanta. The low density of Atlanta render this city improper for rail transit.

Designing and tracing new streets on the ground in fast growing cities is the main task of urban planners

In Yemen in 1972, Alain Bertaud and two assistants surveyors tracing new streets for the expansion of Saada, in the north of the country.

European Cities
African Cities
Asian Cities
Comparative Urban Structures
North, Central and South American Cities
Land Use and Financial Models - AKA Bertaud Model
Links
Graphs

Graphic Panel

Spatial Distribution of Population in Jakarta and London (represented at the same scale; from 1990 census data)

jakarta-london

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