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A Better Place to Live: Reshaping the American Suburb Hardcover – August, 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Massachusetts Pr; 1st edition (August 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870239147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870239144
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #785,143 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

American suburbs foster social isolation, dependence on the automobile, long commutes and segregation of land use, thereby contributing to family distress and civic decay. That damning verdict by Langdon ( Urban Excellence ), who crisscrossed the U.S. over the past 10 years, informs a much-needed and visionary critique of suburban planning and lifestyles. Among his proposals: organize communities around well-defined public spaces; create generous networks of streets and sidewalks that encourage people to explore their neighborhood; design houses oriented to facilitating residents' interactions and daily involvement in community. Policymakers and developers, in Langdon's view, ought to encourage pedestrian-scale, affordable suburbs--with shopping, services and employment close to home. Compelling reading for those concerned with the declining quality of life, his well-illustrated analysis will serve as a sourcebook for planners, architects, builders and designers.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A student of American middle-class life, Langdon has written some impressive books, including Orange Roofs, Golden Arches: The Architecture of American Chain Restaurants (LJ 6/1/86). Here, he trains his eye on that landmark of American middle-class culture, the suburb and small town. Walkable streets, neighborhood stores, affordable gathering places, compact downtowns, dense housing, and more amenable parks and public places-these are the palliatives he prescribes for suburban residents crucified on a grid of commodity fetishism. He is also a postmodernist; he wants to return to the circumstances of his upbringing in small towns in western Pennsylvania and New York. This book summarizes a great deal of recent writing on the dystopia of suburbia, and it prescribes sensible and workable cures for many of our environmental ills such as improved pedestrian circulation, greater contextualism in design, and better use of older buildings. Recommended for subject collections.
Peter Kaufman, Boston Architectural Ctr.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is the most comprehensive yet concise book I have read on the topic of 'New Urbanism' and it's many parallel trends. It is loaded with pictures, diagrams, and maps that prove the point. Other than an unfortunate religious comment, the subject matter is presented in a fair and very readable format. This book should be required reading for planners, civil engineers, developers, bankers, appointed and elected officials, etc.---who are unknowingly promoting urban sprawl through their professional background and/or official policies.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By jmelody@earthlink.net John Melody on May 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
Langdon describes why modern American suburbs, with typical cul de sacs, feeder roads, and strip malls, rob us of our sense of community and of our connections to our neighbors. He explains how the over-reliance on the automobile is both a cause and a result of these suburban designs. But he goes further, describing why older neighborhoods feel so much better to us-- neighborhoods with grid layouts, houses with front porches, homes placed fairly close to tree lined streets. If you've ever looked around at modern American developments and wondered why they feel alienating and uncomfortable, this book will answer your questions in fascinating detail. Langdon's prose is beautifully clear.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By sunflr8697@aol.com on January 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Reading this book started out as a requirement for my Urban Planning class. However, I became so interested in what Langdon had to say, and his easy to read diction, that I couldn't put it down. I would recommend this book to anyone who lives in the city, in the suburbs or anywhere in between. Everyone can relate to the issues that Langdon brings up, and they are truly interesting and relavent in today's society. A great book to use as an introduction to issues of urban planning and urban improvement.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By saskatoonguy on April 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Langdon's book is a gentle and articulate introduction to New Urbanism - the notion that our cities and our suburbs are a mess, and that in their place, we should have higher residential densities, mixed-use zoning, and pedestrian-oriented design. Langdon extols the benefits of the traditional street grid, and bemoans suburban developers' fascination with "pods" (i.e., clusters of cul-de-sacs). The author highlights the design of individual houses, and describes various ways of hiding garages and "granny apartments." Places given special attention include Seaside (Fla.), Kentlands (Md.), Laguna West (Cal.), Portland (Ore.), Kirkland (Wa.), and Bellevue (Wa.). The book is profusely illustrated with well over a hundred photographs and diagrams, a welcome change from authors who feel they can discuss this topic at length without a single illustration.
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