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Jigsaw Cities: big places, small spaces

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Anne Power, John Houghton
Policy Press (14 March 2007)

This new book explores Britain's intensely urban and increasingly global communities as interlocking pieces of a complex jigsaw, which are hard to see apart yet they are deeply unequal. How did our major cities become so divided? How do they respond to housing and neighbourhood decay.

Jigsaw Cities examines these issues using Birmingham, Britain's second largest city and pioneer of the modern urban order, as our strongest model of the drive to create public solutions to private squalor. Through looking at major British cities, using Birmingham as a case study, the authors explore:

  • the origins of Britain's acute urban decline
  • the idea that 'one size doesn't fit all'
  • the continuing urban flight that traps the poor and pays the rich to move out.

The book will attract policymakers in city and government; it will help students of social science, regeneration bodies, community organisations and environmental specialists. The style of the book with its live examples and hands-on experience is extremely accessible in spite of its strong historic background. Its unique 'insider' perspective on policy making and practical impacts offer a useful and unusual perspective.

  • Anne Power is professor of social policy at LSE; sustainable development commissioner responsible for regeneration and sustainable communities; member of the Government's Urban Task Force; author of books on cities, communities and marginal housing areas in the UK and abroad.
  • John Houghton was head of the Communities Division at the Neighbourhood Renewal Unit; a visiting research associate at CASE; and currently a Harkness scholar at the University of Minnesota. John Houghton worked as Anne Power's assistant during 2002-03 while Anne was chair of the Independent Commission on the Future of Housing in Birmingham


'Jigsaw Cities is pacy, punchy and powerful. Even if you don't agree with all of it you won't want to put it down. It's a timely challenge to current orthodoxy and an intelligent and controversial intervention in the debate about contemporary British urbanism. The authors are persuasive advocates for places that have been on the receiving end of misguided housing policies, for the excluded, for local solutions to local problems. Jigsaw Cities is a polemical and passionate analysis of what has been done to some of our poorest urban neighbourhoods and how damaged communities can rebuild themselves.'
Richard Simmons, chief executive, CABE, UK

'At a moment of immense urban possibilities, Anne Power and John Houghton have delivered a roadmap for retrofitting British cities in a way that advances economic prosperity, promotes environmental sustainability and furthers social inclusion and opportunity. They move effortlessly from the macro to the micro, from vast city-regions to small neighbourhoods, pragmatically integrating the jigsaw pieces of national priorities, historic cities and fragmented policies. Their call for community-led urban regeneration provides a strong, timely caution against 'Made in Whitehall' solutions that ignore the complexities of real places. There is a smart way to grow Britain, and this book is it.'
Bruce Katz, vice president and director, Metropolitan Policy Program, Brookings Institute, Washington, USA