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The New American Village (Creating the North American Landscape) Hardcover – December 17, 1999

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Product Details

  • Series: Creating the North American Landscape
  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: The Johns Hopkins University Press (December 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801861578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801861574
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 0.6 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,331,986 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Since 1971, Thall has undertaken this photographic project, documenting monumental change in Chicago's suburbs as they became filled with concrete parking lots, business buildings, and shopping outlets. The resulting collection of off-hour images is eerie, quiet, and desolate, yet these empty spaces are filled with loud tales of our times." -- DoubleTake

"Surely this isn't the village Hillary Clinton had in mind... Thall, who specializes in photographing architecture in his native Chicago, has ventured out to the environs of O'Hare Airport to look at the transformation of what was once flat farmland into a Brasília-style 'edge city.' Judging by his pictures,... depicting modern buildings in crisp detail, the edge city is a corporate space characterized by anonymous galss-walled office high-rises, shopping malls, parking garages, and town-house condos. Only rarely does a human being appear to inhabit and soften these places, which makes their blankness even more forbidding." -- Andy Grundberg, BookForum

"Urban sophisticates eager to condemn the suburbs as categorically bland and generic will find their attitude yielding before Thall's meticulously produced black-and-white images." -- Art on Paper


"The New American Village reveals the architecture of today in real places where a growing majority of people live and work. Bob Thall's photography never condescends to its subject. These cool images are contemporary social records as surely as Walker Evans's Depression chronicles." -- Ross Miller, University of Connecticut, author of American Apocalypse and Here's the Deal

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Thall is a photographer and his photographs are marvelous: lucid, lovely, tonally rich, beautifully constructed. What's astonishing, though, is the way he has applied his sensibility to the least-liked spaces that increasingly dominate America and the globe: the "edge cities" of prefab warehouses for outsourced products, of instant townhouse communities (really trailer courts stacked upright) of malls and corporate "campuses." Most writing about this new American landscape excoriates it or, more rarely, argues that it's the landscape we want (ignoring that "we" aren't the architects, the patrons, or the developers). Thall seeks simply to look, to see what's remarkable, and then to communicate it, in pictures that embody the complex history of our newly decentralized human habitations. On the cover is a picture of two shocking office towers shot from a parking garage. Only one car is there: a beat-up Toyota station wagon perched impudently at off-angle to the resolute order of the rest of the space. That must be Thall's car; certainly it's the embodiment of the position he takes when he makes these pictures.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on July 24, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Schaumburg, Illinois (incorporated 1956) is now on the map thanks to Bob Thall's excellent photos taken during the growth of the town in the Nineties. Divided into four chapters dealing with the landscape: corporate; commercial; domestic and natural, the photos carry on the flat format of Adams, Baltz, Gohlke and others associated with the New Topographics style.

Despite appearing rather anonymous because there are no people in the photos Schaumburg does look a very reasonable place to live and Thall mentions in his short opening essay that many of the houses and corporate offices overlook small lakes and ponds, created by the developers to control flooding, this water obviously encourages wildlife. As is usual with suburbs/edge cities/New Villages, critics will assume that the inhabitants can't possibly be happy living in such an environment but I bet they are. Probably the best folks-at-home-in-the-suburbs book is Bill Owens stunning Suburbia, photographed in Livermore, San Francisco.

The sixty-five photos in 'The New American Village' are well presented (in 250sreen) in the standard art-photo landscape format though there is the usual photobook annoyance of having to turn to a page in the back to read each photo's caption. Unfortunately the captions say no more than place and date yet the images frequently, it seems to me, deserve more of an explanation than just resting on the page.

Incidentally, it is worth looking down at Schaumburg on Google Earth or Street View, you will see a place that has matured over the years since Thall took his photos and especially look at the space between houses, the curved streets, the position of corporate and retail units in relation to domestic housing. A pretty good place to live!

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Z. Freeman VINE VOICE on April 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In the 20 page written intro to Bob Thall's book of photographs, the author discusses the introduction of the new suburban areas surrounding large cities, specifically the ones surrounding Chicago, and even more specifically Schaumburg, Illinois. His description is admittedly subjective, but that doesn't make it negative. He addresses the pros and cons of both city life and suburban life, and details the way that his photographs will illutrate his points.

The photographs themselves are stunning simply because they are of such typical subruban non-descript businesses, streets, homes, and parks. What is interesting is how new everything looks, and yet 8 years later, I wonder what it looks like. Thall considers what these neighborhoods will look like 20 years from their construction dates, considering they are built with such cheap material, and almost a decade later, we're close to finding out. It would be interesting to see a follow-up book about the same area, just to see how much can change in such a short amount of time in a rapidly growing suburban area.

For anyone interested in the suburbs and the small cities full of strip-malls and housing developments that arise around major cities, this book is an excellent reference point.
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