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Reforming Suburbia

Reforming Suburbia: The Planned Communities of Irvine, Columbia, and The Woodlands

Ann Forsyth
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 394
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  • Book Info
    Reforming Suburbia
    Book Description:

    The "new community" movement of the 1960s and 1970s attempted a grand experiment in housing. It inspired the construction of innovative communities that were designed to counter suburbia's cultural conformity, social isolation, ugliness, and environmental problems. This richly documented book examines the results of those experiments in three of the most successful new communities: Irvine Ranch in Southern California, Columbia in Maryland, and The Woodlands in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Based on new research and interviews with developers, designers, and residents, Ann Forsyth traces the evolution, the successes, and the shortcomings of these experiments in urban innovation. Where they succeeded, in areas such as community identity and open space preservation, they provide support for current "smart growth" proposals. Where they did not, in areas such as housing affordability and transportation choices, they offer important insights for today's planners, designers, developers, civic leaders, and others interested in incorporating new forms of development into their designs.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93791-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Chapter 1 The New Community Experiment
    (pp. 1-52)

    It was the late 1960s and early 1970s. The planners, designers, and developers were in their twenties and thirties or just a little older. They were trying to reshape the U.S. suburban landscape by creating “new communities” at the Irvine Ranch in Southern California, Columbia in Maryland, and The Woodlands in the suburbs of Houston, Texas. Working intensively with tens or hundreds of millions of private dollars at their disposal, they designed and built new social organizations, physical forms, legal structures, and marketing programs. They left big plans that over several decades have continued to shape new landscapes. Together the...

  7. Chapter 2 The Irvine Ranch
    (pp. 53-106)

    The Irvine Ranch in Southern California is the largest privately master-planned new community or satellite new town ever built in the United States.¹ Thirty-five miles south of the Los Angeles Civic Center, the ranch was planned in stages, starting with an early college town plan of 1959–60, then moving to a wider coastal development in 1964 and finally to a plan for the majority of the ranch in 1970. Each stage owed much to the tradition of the architect-planner—with a strong emphasis on physical layout, design elements, infrastructure, and formal governance. The Irvine Ranch was also the most...

  8. Chapter 3 Columbia
    (pp. 107-160)

    In the 1950s, James (Jim) Rouse pioneered the speculative air-conditioned shopping mall. In the 1970s and 1980s, Rouse developed the first festival marketplaces. Both of these innovations in shopping center development were highly popular and very profitable and because of this were replicated enough to reshape urban areas across the United States. Malls created a new community focus for suburban areas. Festival marketplaces like the Rouse Company’s Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, and South Street Seaport in New York became models for center-city retail. In the civic arena, Rouse was also a key player in national debates...

  9. Chapter 4 The Woodlands
    (pp. 161-207)

    Houston is renowned as the largest city without zoning in the United States. This has created a very interesting market for real estate, and Houston is the location of a number of large master-planned developments that satisfy some of the demand for an ordered environment. The Woodlands new community entered this market, using landscape as its niche to differentiate it from other Houston developments.¹

    This was not a simple task. The development is designed primarily to protect relatively invisible water systems, allowing aquifer recharge and limiting runoff. It combines this emphasis on hydrology with a striking but somewhat messy aesthetic...

  10. Chapter 5 Organizing the Metropolis
    (pp. 208-246)

    While the preceding chapters have traced the unique paths of each development, many similarities in their social and physical configurations are also obvious. These new communities are organized as balanced developments—with the activities, facilities, and jobs for self-containment—while also functioning as integral parts of a metropolitan area.

    After land assembly, the first step in the overall development process was arranging the project areas. The holdings had to be to be broken up into parts that could be designed in detail, built at different times, and managed as independent units. The development teams generally hoped that different parts of...

  11. Chapter 6 Alternatives to Sprawl?
    (pp. 247-273)

    Those planning the developments expended a tremendous amount of effort to create an alternative to sprawl. The book has shown how development teams grappled with how to change development patterns, working to redesign the metropolitan landscape and fashion new kinds of social settings. However, developments could do all this and, as meaningful as the changes might be, still not provide an actual alternative to the perceived problems of sprawling suburban growth. Instead, they might merely repackage the same features into a bundle that would look slightly different but be indistinguishable from other, more incremental and less coordinated development in relation...

  12. Chapter 7 New Town Planning and the Paradoxes of Private Innovation
    (pp. 274-290)

    Why do the stories of these new communities matter today? This book started out with a number of questions about Irvine, Columbia, and The Woodlands. How well did these planned communities avoid the problems of sprawl? What can they tell us about current attempts to create more sustainable or livable places? Are the techniques that they used still viable alternatives to sprawl, or are they now part of the problem? Can private-sector planning achieve important public purposes?

    These new communities did manage to compete in the market against incremental, unplanned suburban growth, which externalizes the costs of sprawl. They also...

  13. APPENDIX A. Ahwahnee Principles, Charter of the New Urbanism, and EPA Smart Growth Principles
    (pp. 291-296)
  14. APPENDIX B. Census Data for Irvine, Columbia, and The Woodlands, 1980–2000
    (pp. 297-308)
  15. APPENDIX C. Study Methods
    (pp. 309-314)
  16. APPENDIX D. Criticisms and Benefits of Suburban Growth with Evaluation of Case Study New Communities
    (pp. 315-325)
  17. APPENDIX E. Densities of Typical Residential Villages in Irvine and The Woodlands
    (pp. 326-328)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 329-340)
    (pp. 341-366)
  20. INDEX
    (pp. 367-379)