Suburban Nation : The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. Presentation by Gabe Vermund , Liz Davis, & Jordan Smith . By Andres Duany , Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk , and Jeff Speck. About the Authors.
Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream
Presentation by Gabe Vermund, Liz Davis, & Jordan Smith
By Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck
Jeff Speck is a city planner and architectural designer who worked with DPZ as director of town planning for 10 years. He created the Governor’s Institute on Community Planning which helps state governors fight suburban sprawl.
Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk is the dean of The University of Miami’s School of Architecture where she teaches. She is also a founder and emeritus board member of the Congress for New Urbanism.
Andres Duany got his undergraduate degree in architecture and urban planning from Princeton and his master’s in architecture from Princeton. He is a co-founder of Duany-PlaterZyberk and Company.
“No more housing subdivisions!
No more shopping centers!
No more office parks!
No more highways!
Neighborhoods or nothing!” (243)
Housing subdivisions, one major component of sprawl, are often characterized by looping roads that do not follow a single cardinal direction and pockmarked by the cul-de-sac, originally a tool used to cut down through traffic.
The mall and the shopping center are both mainstays of suburban sprawl, requiring seas of parking spaces, since they are largely unreachable by foot.
Office parks are another essential component in suburban sprawl. Since mixed-use zoning is often not allow, offices are forced to stand alone. Directly above, workers coming to the Denver Tech Center causes many traffic jams on I-25 throughout the work day.
Civic institutions hold anonymous positions in suburban sprawl. Above, the Bellaire Public Library has no clear distinguishing features. To the left, a high school drowns in a sea of parking.
Above, Toronto’s Highway 401 is estimated to carry 50% of vehicles heading to downtown Toronto (according to a 1983 study of the system). In a suburban sprawl system, highways and roadways are necessary if anyone is to travel.
Levittown, NY was one of the original subdivisions. Created by the Levitt and Sons firm and racially exclusive by covenant, Levittown came to represent the stereotypical suburb.
Collins Road, in Marion, IA illustrates many of the points that Plater-Zyberk, Duany, and Speck make about auto-dependency. The stores are close together, while still separated by large parking lots and pedestrian-unfriendly streets.
To the left: Chicago’s main highways, with the exception of one, all seem to run straight through sections of the city with large minorities. Above: car wrecks and traffic jams are to be expected in suburban sprawl.
While communities with literal gates around them are common in the sprawl-infected landscape, even more prevalent is the economic segregation by block. Certain blocks may only have houses of a certain cost, separating even the middle-class into groups.
Children lose their mobility in a sprawling landscape, forced to rely on soccer moms (another oppressed class) until they obtain a driver’s license. Also, large, impersonal schools such as the one at the left are a natural by-product of the strict residential zoning.
The elderly are often victims in suburbia, trapped within their own homes or sent off to nursing homes (such as the one on the right) as soon as their eyesight prevents them from driving.
Above and to the left: sprawl’s necessary concentration of commercial enterprises, such as fast-food, tends to blight the environment with neon signs. To the right: originally conceived to allow Americans to get out and see nature, as in Robert Moses’ vision for New York, now the tangled highway system only affords miles and miles of bleak pavement for the driver’s viewing pleasure.
A pedestrian-friendly town center not only creates space for unique community events, but also encourages locally owned stores and gives an incentive to work and live within town.
When blocks are zoned so that residences are within walking distance of offices and shopping, dependency on cars is removed and community can thrive as formerly private spaces become public.
Grid street patterns in traditional neighborhoods allow for adjustment of path in heavy traffic.
When a street is narrow, drivers feel less comfortable going at high speeds, making the sidewalk safer for pedestrians.
Mixed-use zoning, a practice largely outlawed by new zoning laws, makes it possible for a person to live, work, and shop all in the same place, as illustrated in this grocery store housed in an apartment complex.
In a traditional neighborhood, civic institutions such as schools, libraries, and town halls are set apart to create a memorable space.
Traditional neighborhood developments such as this one in Kentlands, MD sell well because of their community and all that it can offer.
- Government Action:
“In sum: the federal government is distant, local government is myopic, and regional government is lacking. In this context, state government is best able to promote regional planning.” (233)
-Architecture Concerns: Modernist vs. Traditional
-The “Armchair Urbanist”: How the average citizen can get involved