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Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream Paperback – Sep 14 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; 10th Anniversary ed. edition (Sept. 14 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865477507
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865477506
  • Product Dimensions: 20.1 x 2.1 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 67 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #207,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Like "an architectural version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, our main streets and neighborhoods have been replaced by alien substitutes, similar but not the same," state Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Speck in this bold and damning critique. The authors, who lead a firm that has designed more than 200 new neighborhoods and community revitalization plans, challenge nearly half a century of widely accepted planning and building practices that have produced sprawling subdivisions, shopping centers and office parks connected by new highways. These practices, they contend, have not only destroyed the traditional concept of the neighborhood, but eroded such vital social values as equality, citizenship and personal safety. Further, they charge that current suburban developments are not only economically and environmentally "unsustainable," but "not functional" because they isolate and place undue burdens on at-home mothers, children, teens and the elderly. Adapting the precepts that famed urbanologist Jane Jacobs used to critique unhealthy city planning, Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Speck call for a revolution in suburban design that emphasizes neighborhoods in which homes, schools, commercial and municipal buildings would be integrated in pedestrian-accessible, safe and friendly settings. While occasionally presenting unsupported claims--such as that gated communities (of which there are now more than 20,000 in the U.S.) deprive children of gaining "a sense of empathy" in a diverse society--their visionary book holds out hope that we can create "places that are as valuable as the nature they displaced." (Mar.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Progressive town planners Duany and coauthors share the fruits of their extensive experiences designing new neighborhoods and community revitalization projects in this cogent and illuminating investigation into the nature of sprawl and the failure of suburbs. They mince no words in condemning the soulless, "repetitive and forgettable" landscape of subdivisions, shopping malls, office parks, and congested roadways that ring our cities, and articulate with great precision exactly how and why such places are detrimental to social health. They contrast traditional neighborhoods--"mixed-used, pedestrian-friendly communities" --where people of diverse backgrounds and economic levels interact, with suburbia, where housing, work, shopping, and public facilities are segregated from one another, so people are forced to drive everywhere. Using numerous examples, the authors explain how and why sprawl has occurred, discuss why the quality of balkanized suburban life is so deplorably low, and offer suggestions for a more viable approach to planning in the immediate future. Place matters, and we can do so much better. Donna Seaman --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
My comments regarding this book differ little from the other positive reviews it has been receiving by other readers. It is important that Americans understand the social ramifications of how they develop. The architecture of our homes and communities reflects the our values and how we view ourselves relative to our community. Recent trends in home and neighborhood development reveal a highly individualistic value system that excludes it participation in the larger community and neighborhood. As mentioned in the book, Americans do a great job in making the inside of homes extremely livable, but do a poor job in integrating that home, and the family living in that home, with the neighborhood. Homes are built as insulators from other people. A community of insulated homes and isolated people is best described in the terms the authors use for modern suburban development.
My only complaint with this book is that it carries an underlying hint of elitism and makes the fatal mistake of assuming poorly planned development can be blamed for all nagging social ills. True, our social values determine how we build and develop, and isolated designs can induce negative social outcomes, but these experts focus too closely on their own field of expertise and lose sight of the larger picture. For example, perhaps TV watching has a large part in explaining Americas decline in it sense of community.
This book will be a source of information on how prudent and farsighted development can be acheived, but readers should be aware of the attitude these writors bring with this important work.
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Format: Paperback
I had always felt a bit uncomfortable in suburbs, despite being suburb-born and suburb-raised, I always craved visiting old neighborhoods on foot (the Vieux-Québec is a favorite of mine). I was never really able to put in words what is it that I liked so much in cities and disliked so much in suburbs. This book essentially put my feelings into words and explained why they existed. It is an excellent book that explains well the failings of post-WWII urbanism.

Essentially, the book describes how the modern suburb, by separating uses and being built for cars instead of for people, has had a negative impact on our communities, our social lives and even our economies. The book talks about how cars are anti-social modes of transport, isolating us from our environment and our community, and how building cities for cars has a disastrous effect on all other modes of transport. Large parking lots and streets made to accommodate the excessive use of cars make walking unpleasant, too slow and even unsafe. In the end, the public spaces of our modern suburbs have become undesirable, creating a generation of people who spend almost their entire life indoor, because their communities offer no reason to go outside, and so go out only while in transit to other buildings.

The author isn't satisfied just of making a charge against modern suburbs, he offers an alternative: new urbanism. Despite the name, this is more of a return to the traditions of the past, of building communities and walkable places which can be pleasant just to be in.

The book is never boring, the author always careful of not going too "dry" for too long in theoretical descriptions and instead always supporting his affirmations by concrete examples.
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Format: Hardcover
I am not an architect or city planner, but I believe this book would be an interesting and informative read for anyone. It provides a lot of information and references for a professional and it is a great starting point for an amateur or concerned and active citizen. Additionally (and very difficult to accomplish all three), it is a very pleasant read for anyone else who wants to learn more about designing a neighborhood, how cities form, how to combat environmental destruction or simply why they do or don't enjoy a specific neighborhood.
Part of the success of this book for me was the format. There are small pages with wide margins. The margins allow for small black & white pictures directly next to the text they illustrate. The pictures by themselves are not very good, but they illustrate the text very well. Additionally, the authors used two systems of footnotes/endnotes (a system that I have not seen before) that expand and clarify the story very well, without bogging it down. For asides or amplifications, they have footnotes that you can quickly read, after you have finished your current line of thought. These sources are not always completely referenced, sometimes the authors only reference a series, article, or individual book; but if you are interested the source along with some additional thoughts from the authors are available. For the sources they are citing, the authors use a typical endnote system.
This book is a call to action. The authors try to explain the current problems with our cities (and consequently our lives) and some of their solutions. They do a very good job explaining their views, and I believe present a very convincing argument that these problems do not have one source or solution.
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