Saturday, March 12, 2011

Building suburbia

Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 by Dolores Hayden

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I could give you some excellent examples of my suburban cred-I'll give you two:
I would ride my bike to my tiny side or back yard, and just leave it laying there til i wanted to ride it again.
I had no idea how to take a bus until I was a teenager and then still got confused.

Lucky for me, my urban mother moved me to the city when I was a teenager and I escaped its grown-up clutches. Maybe because of that, I go back to that suburb and find sweet things to muse about almost every time.

Suburbia has its many detractors. It has few supporters. I won't say this author is in either camp entirely. She does seem to understand them, which of course is the first step to changing them.

7 vernacular patterns of suburbia? I had no idea. But now I do. I can roam the old cities I see and find the patterns from "borderlands" (Ohio City in Cleveland to the Garden District in New Orleans), "picturesque enclaves" (oh my Lakewood for sure) to "streetcar suburbs" (my current neighborhood of MidCity New Orleans) and so on.

Builders (not necessarily developers in every case) were the main actors, we all know that but not always for the reasons you would think, is her argument. The communitarian movement, women needing to find paid work and so on.

Another round of applause for how she incorporates what has been written before. How can you write about suburbs and not mention the brilliant "Crabgrass Frontier"? Don't worry-She does.

Well worth it. Useful. Well designed. Just like some suburbs.

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