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Sprawl and Suburbia: A Harvard Design Magazine Reader

Introduction by Robert Fishman
William S. Saunders Editor
Volume: 2
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 152
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttv56f
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  • Book Info
    Sprawl and Suburbia
    Book Description:

    Sprawl and Suburbia brings together some of the foremost thinkers in the field and calls for architects, urban planners, and landscape designers to work at mitigating the impact of sprawl and improving the built environment as a whole. Contributors: Mike Davis, Ellen Dunham-Jones, Peter Hall, David Harvey, Jerold S. Kayden, Matthew J. Kiefer, Alex Krieger, Andrew Ross, James S. Russell, Mitchell Schwarzer.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9819-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface: Will Sprawl Produce Its Own Demise?
    (pp. vii-x)
    William S. Saunders
  4. Introduction: Beyond Sprawl
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Robert Fishman

    Jane Jacobs’s admonition—“A city cannot be a work of art”—applies with special force to urban designers’ attempts to re-form the radically innovative low-density city we persist in calling “suburbs” or “sprawl.” Jacobs was not condoning ugliness; rather, her concern was that designers fail to comprehend what she calls the “complex systems of functional order” that are the true glory of cities; they mistakenly see only chaos and therefore attempt to impose a simplistic visual order that undermines the “close-grained diversity” on which cities depend. We have already learned her lesson with regard to the pedestrian-scaled districts of older...

  5. 1 Seventy-five Percent: The Next Big Architectural Project
    (pp. 1-20)
    Ellen Dunham-Jones

    It is a well-recognized if unwelcome fact of architectural life: architects design only a small percentage of what gets built in the United States. Still, it is astonishing that in the past quarter century a vast landscape has been produced without the kind of buildings that architects consider “architecture,” a landscape almost entirely uninformed by the critical agendas or ideas of the discipline. This landscape is the suburban fringe, the outer suburbs and exurbs—the landscape often called “urban sprawl.” The favored venue for development associated with the postindustrial economy, this landscape accounts for approximately 75 percent of all new...

  6. 2 The New Urbanism and the Communitarian Trap: On Social Problems and the False Hope of Design
    (pp. 21-26)
    David Harvey

    On returning to Oakland after many years of absence, Gertrude Stein remarked that “there is no there there.” This is often taken as a simple condemnation of the impoverished qualities of American urban life, a comment that came naturally to someone who viewed America as her home country and Paris as her hometown. That reading fits into a long line of critical and sometimes outraged commentary on the “placelessness” and lack of “authenticity” that characterize many American cities, an urbanization process that produces what James Kunstler dubs “the geography of nowhere” (soulless suburbs, mindless edge cities, collapsing and fragmenting city...

  7. 3 Ozzie and Harriet in Hell: On the Decline of Inner Suburbs
    (pp. 27-33)
    Mike Davis

    Once upon a time, a placid town, celebrated in millions of picture postcards, basked in the golden glow of its orchards. In the 1920s it was renowned as the Queen of the Citrus Belt, with one of the highest per capita incomes in the nation. In the 1940s it was so modally middle-class—the real-life counterpart of Andy Hardy’s hometown—that Hollywood used it as a preview laboratory to test audience reactions to new films. In the 1950s it became a commuter suburb for thousands of Father-Knows-Bests in their starched white shirts.

    Now its nearly abandoned downtown is surrounded by...

  8. 4 Suburbia and Its Discontents: Notes from the Sprawl Debate
    (pp. 34-43)
    Matthew J. Kiefer

    Most Americans don’t think much about the design of the built environment, odd though this may seem to those who do. But every so often broader issues bubble up into public discourse. The debate over sprawl, until recently confined to land-use planning circles, seems to be everywhere now: at town meetings, in daily newspapers, and in latte lines at Starbucks. For most of its long etymological life,sprawlwas only a verb: “to spread out awkwardly.” The modern noun form emerged in the 1960s as the pejorative phrase “urban sprawl,” reportedly coined by William H. Whyte. As the concept has...

  9. 5 The Costs—and Benefits?—of Sprawl
    (pp. 44-56)
    Alex Krieger

    In the growing literature on sprawl, a predominant view holds urban sprawl accountable for much that is wrong with America. This is the view of New Urbanists, among others, who consider sprawl a recent and aberrant form of urbanization that threatens even the American Dream. Such is clearly expressed in titles such asSuburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream(2000) by Andreas Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck, andThe Regional City: Planning for the End of Sprawl(2001) by their West Coast counterparts Peter Calthorpe and William Fulton.”¹

    A second view—today...

  10. 6 Smart Growth in Atlanta: A Response to Krieger and Kiefer
    (pp. 57-70)
    Ellen Dunham-Jones

    Living in Atlanta, a city whose reputation as the poster child for sprawl precipitated significant ongoing public and private “Smart Growth” initiatives, I have “situated knowledge” of specific examples to both corroborate and question Alex Krieger’s and Matthew Kiefer’s more general comments on the discourse on sprawl and Smart Growth. As both authors point out, Smart Growth is difficult to define precisely. Atlanta’s attempts to put Smart Growth into practice reveal an even messier, one-step-forward, two-steps-back, multipronged effort involving U.S. government–pressured regional planning on the one hand, and market-driven individual development projects on the other. The marriages and divorces...

  11. 7 Diversity by Law: On Inclusionary Zoning and Housing
    (pp. 71-73)
    Jerold S. Kayden

    At a time when the real estate market has made it increasingly difficult for American cities to foster or maintain social and economic diversity, “diversity by law” zoning programs are attracting new attention. Using such labels as “inclusionary zoning” and “inclusionary housing,” some local governments—including those in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Santa Fe, New Mexico—are mandating that private developers provide low-income housing along with their market-rate units as a condition for project approval. Developers might be required to construct the affordable units on-site, or arrange to have them constructed off-site, or make an “in lieu of...

  12. 8 The Spectacle of Ordinary Building
    (pp. 74-90)
    Mitchell Schwarzer

    InThe Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord defined the world of the spectacle as corresponding to that “moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life.” In the decades since Debord’s 1967 manifesto, the commodity—the central feature of the marketplace system in which needs and desires are channeled through purchases—has come nearly to dominate the built landscape of the United States. Today the weight of relentless consumption lies heavy on ordinary architecture, from single-family houses to big-box stores to office parks.

    Buildings are a special type of commodity. Like other products, they are bought...

  13. 9 Privatized Lives: On the Embattled ’Burbs
    (pp. 91-109)
    James S. Russell

    A recentNew York Timesstory captures a dilemma that has become all too familiar at the developing edges of urban America. In 1978 Carol and Dennis Ferry thought they had found their close-to-nature dream when they moved from a starter home in Trenton, New Jersey, to a house on the edge of farm fields in Hamilton. But a few years later, houses covered those fields, and a drive that once took ten minutes stretched to half an hour. So the Ferrys moved to Hopewell at the rural fringe of Mercer County. But once again, their dream seems about to...

  14. 10 Duct Tape Nation: Land Use, the Fear Factor, and the New Unilateralism
    (pp. 110-121)
    Andrew Ross

    In the fall of 2002, a pair of snipers brought terror to the suburban strongholds around Washington, DC, claiming as many as ten victims over several weeks. A striking consequence of their shooting spree was the spectacle of suburbanites driving to urban gas pumps to fill up their tanks, ostensibly because they believed the city was the only safe place to get out of their cars in public. It was an image that spoke volumes about the geography of safety in the United States now, especially if you consider how heavily racialized that geography is. Not long after the snipers...

  15. 11 Retro Urbanism: On the Once and Future TOD
    (pp. 122-130)
    Peter Hall

    The point that worried Peter Calthorpe, over lunch last spring in Berkeley, is this: why does “New Urbanism” always seem to want to wear old clothes? Visit any of the archetypes—Poundbury, Kentlands, Celebration—and you are immediately borne back into the past. Poundbury is doubtless supposed to be reminiscent of nearby Dorset villages along that river quaintly called the Trent or Piddle, but even more uncannily it recalls a Lancashire mill town. Parts of Kentlands look like parts of Georgetown. Celebration resembles a streetcar suburb circa the turn of the past century.

    This curious regression goes wider and deeper,...

  16. Contributors
    (pp. 131-132)