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Alex Marshall
Alex Marshall
Alex Marshall
Born Alexander Campbell Marshall
(1959-05-07) May 7, 1959 (age 58)
Norfolk, Virginia
Occupation Journalist
Nationality United States
Citizenship United States
Education B.S., Political Economy & Spanish, Carnegie Mellon University, 1983
M.S., Journalism, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, 1988
Genre Non-fiction, journalism, commentary
Subject Urban design, transportation, economics
Notable works How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl and the Roads Not Taken
Beneath the Metropolis: The Secret Lives of Cities
The Surprising Design of Market Economies
Partner Married to Kristi Barlow

Alex Marshall (Journalist)

Alex Marshall is a writer and independent journalist who specializes in matters of urban planning, transportation, and political economy. He is a Senior Fellow of the Regional Plan Association, and regularly contributes to publications concerned with urban design, municipal government, architecture, and related matters, including Metropolis and Governing.

Family and Education[edit]

Alexander Campbell Marshall was born in Norfolk, Virginia, on 7 May 1959, the second son and fourth child of John Francis Marshall, Jr., and Eleanor Jackson Marshall.[1] Marshall's great-grandfather, Albert H. Grandy, founded The Virginian-Pilot newspaper in Norfolk in 1898, and was its first publisher and editor-in-chief.[1]

Marshall is married to Kristi Barlow. They live in Brooklyn, New York, with their son, Max. The couple received notice locally, betwen 2008 and 2010, for their efforts to organize a cohousing community in Brooklyn.[2]

Marshall was graduated from the Woodberry Forest School in 1978.[3] He received a dual Bachelor of Science degree in political economy and Spanish from Carnegie Mellon University in 1983. The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism granted him a master's degree in journalism in 1988. Marshall studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Design during the 1999-2000 academic year as a Loeb fellow.


From 1988 to 1997, Marshall worked as a staff writer and occasional columnist for the Virginian-Pilot, where he came to concentrate on State and local politics and urban development.[4] In 1998 and '99, Marshall wrote a bi-weekly opinion column as a correspondent for the Virginian-Pilot.[5]

Marshall left the paper in 1999 for a Loeb Fellowship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He moved to New York City shortly thereafter, where he continued his journalism as a free lance.

Controversy Over New Urbanism[edit]

Marshall in the 1990s became involved in controversy over his often-damning criticism of New Urbanism, a fashionable style of suburban design which he regarded as essentially a marketing scheme that repackaged conventional suburban sprawl behind a façade of nostalgic imagery and empty aspirational slogans.[6]

In a 1996 article in Metropolis Magazine, Marshall denounced New Urbanism as "a grand fraud".[7] The attack continued in numerous articles, including an opinion column in the Washington Post in September of the same year,[8], and in Marshall's first book, How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken (Austin: U. of Texas Press 2000).

Andrés Duany, the architect whose Duany Plater Zyberk & Company is among the leading promoters of New Urbanism, and some of whose projects had come under Marshall's strongest criticism, dismissed Marshall's criticisms in an interview for the Daily Princetonian, saying that Marshall, ". . . cannot stand the fact that we're working with the middle class. He wants us to spend all our time with the poor." [9]

Return fire from New-Urbanism advocate James Howard Kunstler hit much closer to home in a withering review of How Cities Work, in Metropolis Magazine—on Marshall's own turf, so to speak.[10]. Kunstler wrote,

As an analysis of the urban condition, the rest of How Cities Work is a patchwork of non sequiturs, platitudes, and tautologies. Its general theory is a one-dimensional preoccupation with transportation. As a discussion of particular places - Portland, Silicon Valley, Jackson Heights - it doesn't get beyond the self-evident. Along the way it takes cheap shots at the few figures on the contemporary scene who have tried to do something to alleviate the fiasco of the human habitat in our time. [11]

He concluded,

. . . I simply cannot find a consistent or coherent point of view in Marshall¹s long essay on the question, or at the very least an explanation of how cities work.

What's missing is a recognition that the way cities have worked in America for the last half of the twentieth century was a gross aberration from the norms of human ecology that any civilization with a desire to endure would do well to avert. [12]

On the other hand, Architectural Record's reviewer hailed How Cities Work as an "important new work", and concluded,

In many ways, this book is the 21st-century analogue to one of the most important planning books of the past century, Benton MacKaye's 1928 landmark, The New Exploration. Like MacKaye's book, which shaped the thinking of generations of regional planners in the 20th century, How Cities Work could become a touchstone for coming generations interested in comprehending and redirecting metropolitan growth. [13]

Honors and Awards[edit]



  • The Surprising Design of Market Economies (University of Texas Press, 2012), ISBN: 978-0-292-71777-0
  • Beneath The Metropolis: the Secret Lives of Cities (Carroll and Graf, 2006), ISBN: 978-0-786-71864-1
  • How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl and The Roads Not Taken (University of Texas Press, 2001), ISBN: 978-0-292-75240-5

Notable Articles & Columns[edit]

  • “Who Should Control Broadband?”, Governing Magazine, April 2013: p. 26. Print.
  • "The $5.9 Billion Question”, Metropolis Magazine, February 2013: p. 45. Print.
  • "Capitalism and Government Are Friends After All”, Bloomberg View, 13 September 2012: Web.
  • "How To Get Business To Pay Its Share", New York Times, 3 May 2012: p. 27. Print.
  • "New York : Signes Particuliers", Revue Urbanisme [Paris, France], No. 350, September-October 2007: Dossier. Print. (Summary, in French)
  • "A World Class Ride: What New York Could Learn from Transit Systems Around the Globe", New York Magazine, April 2005: p. ___. Print.
  • "Rich People in Ugly Buildings: The New York Apartment Building – Past, Present and Future" (published as "Brick and Glass in New York Apartment Buildings"), Slate Magazine, 16 March 2004. Web.
  • "Love (And Hate) That DC Metro", Planning Magazine, February 2004: p. ___. Print.
  • "Egyptian Sprawl: Is the American University in Cairo Buying Sanctuary or Isolation?”, Metropolis Magazine, August 2003: p. 39. Print.
  • "Connect the Connector: Repairing Mass Transit After 9/11", New York Times Magazine, 11 November 2001: p. 37. Print.
  • "How To Make A Frank Gehry Building", New York Times Magazine, 8 April 2001: p. 37. Print.
  • "A Higher Court," Newsday, 16 Oct. 2000: p. B1. Print. Review of new federal courthouse in Islip, NY, designed by Richard Meier.
  • "Stop Building Roads and Consider How Transportation Systems Affect Environment." Architectural Record, Dec. 2000: p.577. Print.
  • "A More Benevolent Sprawl," Metropolis Magazine, August/September 2000: p. 110. Print.
  • "The Future of Menial Jobs", Op-ed column, Boston Globe, 10 July 2000: p. A23. Print.
  • "Typing for Nonconformists: The Dvorak Keyboard is a Boon for the Aching Hand," Salon Magazine, Oct. 26, 1998. Web
  • "Putting Some City Back in the Suburbs", Washington Post, 1 September 1996: p. C1. Print.
  • "Suburb In Disguise", Metropolis Magazine, July 1996: p. 70. Print. Analysis of the Kentland housing development in Gaithersburg, Md., as a critique of New Urbanism. (Archived on Marshall's web site.)
  • "Eurosprawl", Metropolis Magazine, January 1995: p. 61. Print.
  • "The Elder Statesman", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], 4 December 1996: p. A1. Print. Profile of the aging Henry Howell, former lieutenant governor of Virginia and three-time gubernatorial candidate.
  • "His Dream Demolished", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], 30 November 1996: p. B1. Print. Argues that the city of Norfolk improperly tore down a man’s home in the name of reducing blight.
  • "Libraries’ Use Speaks Volumes", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], 30 September 1995: p. A1. Print. Norfolk's declining library system.
  • "When The New Urbanism Meets an Old Neighborhood," Metropolis Magazine, May 1995. p. 41. Print.
  • "Book Lovers: Romance Novel – to a man – Reads Like Female Porn." Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], March 3, 1994: p. E1. Print.
  • "When The Big Guns Fail, Here’s A Secret Weapon in the Battle with Warts", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], Aug. 9, 1993: p. B1. Print.
  • "The Quiet Integration of Suburbia", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.], 25 July 1993: p. A1. Print.
  • "The Many Faces of Fidel’s Cuba", San Francisco Chronicle, 17 August 1988: Cover, Briefing section. Print.


  1. ^ a b Obituary of John Francis Marshall, Jr., Norfolk, Va., The Virginian-Pilot, 16 July 1995, archived at
  2. ^ Toy, Vivian S. (30 November 2008). "A Village Down the Block". New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2013. ; related slide show,; Dominus, Susan (29 July 2009). "Cockeyed Optimists and a Visionary Co-op". New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2013.  (printed as "Cockeyed Optimists and Steely-Eyed Lenders"); Toy, Vivian S. (5 October 2010). "Abandoning a Bid to Create an Urban Village". New York Times. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  3. ^ Woodberry Forest Magazine and Journal, “Book Report: Recent Publications by Woodberry Alumni”, Fall 2012, p. 63, Retrieved 10 August 2013.
  4. ^ See, e.g., Alex Marshall, "Libraries' Use Speaks Volumes", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.]: 30 September 1995, p. A1. Print; "Sound Investment or Shaky Gamble? The City Council Will Decide Soon If Norfolk Will Pay Most of the $60 Million to Fund the East Ocean View Project", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.]: 14 January 1996: p. B1. Print; "Fraim Optimistic About Rebirth of Urban Cores of Center Cities Mayor Says Norfolk Would Again Be a Hub of 'Creativity and Collaboration'", Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.]: 12 April 1996, p. B3. Print.
  5. ^ See, e.g., Alex Marshall, "Urban Renewal Paves Over Norfolk's Past: Many Historic Structures, Along With Slums, Were Bulldozed in the Name of Progress." Virginian-Pilot [Norfolk, Va.]: 29 Aug. 1999, p. M9. Print. Archived by Infotrac Newsstand, Retrieved 13 Aug. 2013.
  6. ^ See, e.g., Alex Marshall, "Building New Urbanism: Less Filling, But Not So Tasty", Builder Magazine, 30 November 1999, p. ___. Print; republished on Marshall's web site,
  7. ^ Alex Marshall, "Suburbs in Disguise", Metropolis Magazine, July 1996, p. 70, republished as "New Urbanism" in Busch, Akiko, ed., Design is . . . Words, Things, People, Buildings and Places (New York:Metropolis Books/Princeton Architectural Press, 2002), p. 272; and as "Suburbs in Disguise" on Marshall's web site,, retrieved 2 October 2013.
  8. ^ Alex Marshall, "Putting Some 'City' Back In the Suburbs", Washington (D.C.) Post, 1 September 1996, p. C1, print,; retrieved 2 October 2013.
  9. ^ Jessica Gross, “Alums lead New Urbanism movement”, Daily Princetonian, 10 March 2005, Web. Retrieved 13 August 2013. Metropolis Magazine published a "round-table debate" between Marshall and Duany in May of the same year, which is archived on Marshall's web site.
  10. ^ James Howard Kunstler, "One Track Mind", Metropolis Magazine, January 2001, p. ___. Print.
  11. ^ Ibid.
  12. ^ Ibid.
  13. ^ Robert D. Yaro "'How Cities Work: Suburbs, Sprawl, and the Roads Not Taken.'(Books)(Book Review)." Architectural Record, May 2002, p. 99. Print. Archived on the Web at Academic OneFile, (subscription required). Retrieved 2 October 2013. Yaro is president of the Regional Plan Association, which later named Marshall a senior fellow.

External links[edit]