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Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000 1st Edition

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0375421280
ISBN-10: 0375421289
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Editorial Reviews


"Dolores Hayden is a unique urban pathfinder. She hunts down the relationships among popular aspirations, big urban players, and the everyday experience of domestic life. In this book she traces the history of our suburban metropolises, guiding the reader through seven easily recognized on-the-setreet patterns. The end of the history is the now when the government and private corporations anxously push to maintain our cities of consumption. And yes, she has found a way leading from this dead end."
--Sam Bass Warner, Jr., author of Streetcar Suburbs

"Building Suburbia embraces the human desires that underlie two centuries of American suburban landscapes, even as it explains the myriad problems that ensued. It is only with this complex understanding that we, like Hayden herself, can imagine better patterns of suburban development, more equitable, sustainable, congenial, and beautiful."
--Gwendolyn Wright, author of Building the Dream: A Social History of Housing in America

"We think of suburbs as standardized places. Dolores Hayden shows us, for the first time, the remarkable diversity of suburban environments that Americans have produced over two centuries. Lucid, original, and abundantly illustrated, Building Suburbia is that delightful rarity: a scholarly book with a critical perspective and wide appeal."
--Richard Harris, author of Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto’s American Tragedy, 1900-1950

"Building Suburbia is compelling and beautifully written. It reads like a novel and at the same time offers an insightful social and political history of the rise of the suburbs in the United States. Hayden redefines the American Dream and critiques the rise of segregated housing and the isolated communities characteristic of the suburban landscape. There is no other book quite like this one because of its accessibility and breadth of scholarship. It will attract a wide audience as well as academic acclaim. Great work."
--Setha Low, author of Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Hapiness in Fortress America

"Bringing together several decades of research on suburban development, including Hayden's own, Building Suburbia will become the standard work on the suburban landscape the United States. At a time when debates about suburbia are dominated by smart growth and new urbanism, Hayden's important book provides both a much needed historical perspective and a vision of a future in which the suburbs are reused and not abandoned."
--Ann Forsyth, author of Constructing Suburbs: Competing Voices in a Debate Over Urban Growth

“With its wealth of illustrations and combined scholarly and anecdotal writing, Dolores Hayden’s Building Suburbia not only provides a brilliant a new understanding of suburban form--past, present and future--but also treats the reader to a delightfully opinionated assessment of today’s housing arrangements. Hayden’s persuasive plea for preserving and improving existing suburbs is right on target for the 21st century ”
--Eugenie L. Birch, Dept. of City and Regional Planning, Graduate School of Fine Arts, University of Pennsylnavia

"Whereas most successful guides make the foreign more familiar, Dolores Hayden tours us through the familiar landscape of American suburbia and, with great verve, makes it more foreign--much more diverse, complex, and important. Ordinary suburban homes, neighborhoods, and communities suddenly yield new insights into our past values--and future possibilities."
--Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

From the Inside Flap

For almost two centuries Americans have been moving to the suburbs in search of affordable
family housing, unspoiled nature, and small-town sociability?only to find that their leafy
new neighborhoods are part of the growing metropolitan sprawl. It is to this contested cultural landscape, where most Americans now live, that Dolores Hayden draws our attention.

From nineteenth-century utopian communities and elite picturesque enclaves to early twentieth-century streetcar subdivisions and owner-built tracts to the vast postwar sitcom suburbs and the subsidized malls and office parks that followed (on a scale that earlier builders could never have imagined), Hayden reveals the cultural and economic patterns that have brought us to the present. She explores the interplay of natural and built environments, the complex antagonisms between real-estate developers and suburban residents, the hidden role of federal government, and the religious and ideological overtones of the ?American dream? embedded in the suburbs. Hayden asks hard questions about who has benefited from the suburban building process and about ?smart? growth and ?green? building. And she makes a strong case for the revitalization of existing neighborhoods in place of unchecked new growth on rural fringes.
Few readers will see our ubiquitous suburbs in the same way again.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (September 16, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375421289
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375421280
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 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: #1,496,234 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dolores Hayden teaches popular courses on the American landscape at Yale University and has been the subject of features in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and on The Diane Rehm Show. A leading historian of American places and the politics of design, she has written six award-winning books that engage readers interested in how Americans have shaped their landscapes, towns, and buildings. Redesigning the American Dream received an American Library Association Notable Book Award for nonfiction.

Hayden is also a widely published poet. Her newest poetry collection is Nymph, Dun, and Spinner, published in November 2010.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 57 people found the following review helpful By S. Pactor VINE VOICE on July 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Building Suburbia is a capable synthesis of historical and recent scholarship on the development of the suburbs in America. Hayden, a professor of architecture and urbanism and professor of American Studies at Yale, knows what she is talking about. It was clear to me that this book is written for a general, rather then specialized audience.
Hayden's writting style is easy to understand, and she provides multiple in text illustrations and photographs to illuminate the text. The book tracks the historical development of suburbs in time (the subtitle is "Green Fields and Urban Growth 1820-2000.) She starts with "Borderlands", then covers "Picturesque Enclaves", "Streetcar Buildouts", "Mail-Order and Self-Built Suburbs", "Sitcom Subrurbs", "Edge Nodes" and "Rural Fringes". This historical approach is book ended by an introduction with two chapters and a conclusion with two chapters.
Hayden includes excellent end notes and a selected bibliography that is worthwhile to have on your shelf. Since this book was written in 2003, the bibliography is chock full of RECENT books on urban studies that allow the student or casual reader to follow up in any number of directions.
Worth checking out.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By The Kodachromeguy on November 23, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a readable and enlightening history of the American phenomena of suburbia, from the mid-1800s to the 1970s. It clearly shows how the government and communities subsidized builders and developers, who, in turn, left it up to taxpayers to support the cost of new streets, sewers, schools, and all the other infrastructure needed to support ever-expanding suburbs. The book could have done a more thorough job of explaining how the funds that went to suburbs ended up leaving cities impoverished, with the result that schools, security, and infrastructure suffered. Also, the author could have described the terrible environmental toll as thousands of square miles of McMansion ghettos devoured farms, deserts and forests. The housing orgy of the 2000-2007 era was an extreme manifestation of the trend that has been ongoing since the 1800s.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brown on July 2, 2010
Format: Paperback
The author did in an excellent job in presenting a variety of issues. In my opinion though, her stronger suit is the historical aspect rather than some of later subjects she delves into in the text. It was refreshing to have a feminist critique, but this is more developed in the first part of the text and less interesting or less confined to the latter chapters. Paraphrasing another reviewer, there are parts of the text which begin to feel mechanical, again the latter part of the text.

Despite stylistic critiques, I believe the text to be very good and importantly, recent in scope.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Greg C. Burke on November 13, 2012
Format: Hardcover
especially now when hurricane sandy has destroyed so many homes and lives, it is important to remember who planned what, how and why. This non-fiction book gives a blow by blow of how the developers acquired the land, who they worked with in government, and how inadequately it was developed. Homes without piping for gas or water lines-- and building bungalows in flood prone areas are just some of the issues explored.
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