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Metroburbia, USA

Metroburbia, USA

Paul L. Knox
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Metroburbia, USA
    Book Description:

    Decades of economic prosperity in the United States have redefined the American dream. Paul Knox explores how extreme versions of this dream have changed the American landscape. Increased wealth has led America's metropolitan areas to develop into vast sprawling regions of "metroburbia"ùfragmented mixtures of employment and residential settings, combining urban and suburban characteristics.

    Upper-middle-class Americans are moving into larger homes in greater numbers, which leads Knox to explore the relationship between built form and material culture in contemporary society. He covers changes in home design, real estate, the work of developers, and the changing wishes of consumers. Knox shows that contemporary suburban landscapes are a product of consumer demand, combined with the logic of real estate development, mediated by design and policy professionals and institutions of governance. Suburban landscapes not only echo the fortunes of successive generations of inhabitants, Knox argues, they also reflect the country's changing core values.

    Knox addresses key areas of concern and importance to today's urban planners and suburban residents including McMansions, traffic disasters, house design, homeowner's associations, exclusionary politics, and big box stores. Through the inclusion of examples and photos, Metroburbia, USA creates an accessible portrait of today's suburbs supported by data, anecdotes, and social theory. It is a broad interpretation of the American metropolitan form that looks carefully at the different influences that contribute to where and how we live today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4515-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Geography

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    Let’s begin with the big picture. American society has been going through some important transformations (along with much of the European Union and several other advanced economies). First, the old economy, based on manufacturing industries, is being displaced by a “new economy” based on digital technologies, biotechnology, and advanced business services. It is an economy that is increasingly dominated by large transnational corporations and intimately tied to complex flows of information and networks of commodity processing, manufacture, and sales that are global in scope. Second, as the economic and occupational structure of the country has changed, so has the distribution...

  6. Chapter 2 Prelude: The Serial Enchantment of Suburbia
    (pp. 13-36)

    The settings that provide the arenas for the contemporary social geography and material culture of metroburban America are the legacy of serial enchantment and disenchantment. Each phase in this history has been shaped to some degree by intellectuals, designers, developers, builders, and realtors, as well as by the aspirations of households and the resources, economic climate, and technologies of the time. The phases have overlapped, and the influence of some of the key actors echoes through several phases, so that there is no neat way of classifying them.¹ A persistent theme in this history, however, has been the notion of...

  7. Chapter 3 Metroburbia and the Anatomy of the New Metropolis
    (pp. 37-65)

    The sheer scale and extent of contemporary development in America has challenged our lexicon of urbanization. It also severely challenges the models of urban form and structure that for so long have been the staples of urban studies. The suburbs now not only contain the largest fraction of America’s households and population but also a significant fraction of America’s industry, commercial office space, retailing, recreational facilities, and tourist attractions. Traditional “laws” of urbanization are being repealed by massive changes in real estate investment, in tandem with equally significant changes in the structure and functional organization of metropolitan regions. The simultaneous...

  8. Chapter 4 Developers’ Utopias
    (pp. 66-88)

    Just as metropolitan form is constantly evolving, so too is the development industry that produces it. Property development involves many different actors and institutions, and the nature of their involvement can vary from one project to another. Landowners, subdividers, investors, financial analysts, commercial banks, title insurance and trust companies, mortgage companies, lawyers, federal, state, and local agencies, transportation and utility companies, architects, landscape architects, planners, civil engineers, appraisers, general building contractors, subcontractors, realtors, market researchers, special-interest groups, political leaders, and consultant media, marketing, and imagineering specialists are all involved in property development, but the principal actors, the key “place entrepreneurs,”...

  9. Chapter 5 Comfortably Numb: Degenerate Utopias and Their Evangelistic Consultants
    (pp. 89-111)

    The self-image of the design professions generally emphasizes their independent, socially progressive, environmentally sensitive, holistic, and far-sighted—if not visionary—perspectives on urban development. The practical reality, though, is a little different. Private-sector design professionals must compete for commissions and professional standing, while public-sector design professionals must strive for professional advancement within agendas set by municipal boards. Both must practice within a starkly neoliberal political economy in which progressive notions of the public interest and civil society have been eclipsed by the bottom line in corporate and public-private investment. So, for designers and planners to survive and prosper, their solutions...

  10. Chapter 6 The Politics of Privatism
    (pp. 112-131)

    The artful fragments of suburban and exurban development that constitute the newest residential fabric of the New Metropolis are the seedbeds of a new politics that finds expression at several geographic scales. In terms of community governance, the degenerate utopias of master-planned developments have been characterized as fragmented “privatopias,” in which “the dominant ideology is privatism; where contract law is the supreme authority; where property rights and property values are the focus of community life; and where homogeneity, exclusiveness, and exclusion are the foundation of social organization.”¹ Privatopias are premium spaces designed to accommodate the secession of the successful in...

  11. Chapter 7 Material Culture and Society in Metroburbia
    (pp. 132-153)

    To really understand America, as the conservative commentator David Brooks observes, “You have to take seriously that central cliché of American life: the American Dream.”¹ The entire residential fabric of metroburbia rests on the American Dream, founded on the promise of ever-increasing levels of material consumption, the expectation of single-family home ownership, the accumulation of wealth, and systematic upward social mobility through ingenuity and hard work. Brooks is particularly taken with the way in which material things “are shot through with enchantment”:

    The suburbs themselves were built as conservative utopias. Children are raised with visions of ideal lives. This is...

  12. Chapter 8 Vulgaria: Moral Landscapes at the Leading Edges of the New Metropolis
    (pp. 154-174)

    Previous chapters have shown how the suburban settings at the leading edges of the New Metropolis have been shaped by the interaction and interdependence of a broad set of actors that together constitute the “structures of building provision”: intellectuals, designers, developers, builders, realtors, private governments, and households. These new suburbs, boomburbs, and exurbs, the most recent manifestation of a long sequence of enchantment, disenchantment, and reenchantment, have taken on a distinctive form, dominated by a combination of bigness, luxury, and neotraditional iconography. They are the physical settings in which the social relations and material culture of America’s most affluent and...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 175-200)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-214)
  15. Index
    (pp. 215-232)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 233-234)