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Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America Hardcover – June 1, 2006

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press; 1 edition (June 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156898572X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1568985725
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,481,696 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before readers hit the title page of this heavily illustrated if scattershot treatise, they'll see the following line alone on a page of brown paper: "Drosscapes accumulate in the wake of the socio- and spatio-economic processes of deindustrialization, post-Fordism, and technological innovation." Readers, however, will have to wait until the end of the book for Berger to offer a working definition of drosscape ("a design pedagogy that emphasizes the productive integration and reuse of waste landscapes throughout the urban world," or "the creation of a new condition in which 'vast,' 'waste,' or 'wasteful' land surfaces are modeled in accordance with new programs or new sets of values that remove or replace real or perceived wasteful aspects of geographical space"). Such roundabout writing, typeset in a stark sans serif font, will keep most readers-even those with a more than passing interest in issues of sprawl, waste-land, development, urban planning or the environmental consequences of industrialization-at bay. However, the dozens of charts, maps and aerial photographs, which depict urban sprawl and patterns of land usage-both wise and wasteful-are telling and place a much-needed real-world foil on the author's halting prose. Photos.
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"Berger's challenging new book on urban landscape...turns attention shockingly from the 'figure' of American cities to its ambiguous 'ground'." -- American Arts Quarterly, Spring 2006

An irresistible photograph album of drosscapes in 10 metropolitan areas. -- Planning Magazine, June 2006

Demand(s) to be read in order to understand the broader challenges of deindustrialization and rampant urbanization. -- World Architecture Magazine, May 2006

Exhibits a particular way of seeing the world and outlines what may be described as a uniquely "landscape intelligence." -- Landscape Architecture Magazine, May 2006

It is thought-provoking stuff, contributing graphic evidence to American exceptionalism in matters of land use, scale and programmes of ecological rehabilitation. -- Green Places, Nov. 2006

Makes excellent use of aerial photography and complex, detailed charts and images showing population densities and the migration of manufacturing activity... -- Civil Engineering, Oct. 2006

Offers seductive views of the phenomenon of sprawl... (Berger) obviously hopes to convey a little of the eerie, alienated beauty of the contemporary urban no-man's land as well. -- The Architect's Newspaper, Dec. 11, 2006

The chilling photographs of sprawl in Alan Berger's Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America. Rating: highbrow and brilliant. -- New York Magazine, Approval Index: Week of May 1, 2006

This book provides a follow-up to Berger's Reclaiming the American West, suggesting new ways to think about the 'dross' along the edges of American cities. -- Kansas City Star, Nov. 19, 2006

This profoundly original book at once advances and subverts the great challenge of "thinking regionally." -- Cite/Rice Design Alliance, summer/fall 2006

Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 21, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book has a marvelous collection of aerial photographs of sprawling urban areas, but not much else. The use of GIS (geographic information systems) to buttress the author's diffuse and confusing argument is intriguing, but the statistical maps seem to be designed more for visual impact than for conveying significant information. The text of the book is filled with needlessly arcane terminology and logic, and comes to no real conclusions. This is a book by a person who is fascinated by contemporary urban dynamics of land use, but who has no ideas about it that are not purely aesthetic. That is, he finds the process of wasteful consumption of land fascinating and awe inspiriring...beyond that, zilch.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael A. Duvernois on December 19, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The photographs are very impressive, beautiful through the decay, disaster, indeed the dross surrounding cities. Space wasted by bad design mostly. Yet, there just isn't much in the book besides that. There's nothing like a solution in here, nothing in the problem definition even aside from the examples. Sure, there's wasted space, but moving on from that, what is there here?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Frenchman on March 12, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Why write a book then design it so it is painful to read? That's the first clue to the detached amorality of the author's premise: you can't beat them, you don't even want to beat them, so join them. Consumerism, the religion of the 20th and 21st centuries, is a given so I don't need to mention it, in fact, I'm going to celebrate it. And since I have a prestigious spot on the faculty of a prestigious institution of higher learning and I take great pictures, my bankrupt theories will have weight.

This book is a good survey of the real world but buy it for the pictures, buy it for a look into the mindset of current corporatist acceptance, buy it for examples of unchecked capitalism's disrespect of simple human and aesthetic dignity. Don't buy it for background on how it came to be.

NB: the "geospatially derived maps, charts, and graphs" are unreadable.
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Format: Paperback
I will admit that I bought this book for the photos. I love urban aerial photography. As a kid, I used Legos to build cities with each brick representing a house or stack representing a skyscraper. If you are like me (geek alert!) then this book is for you because there are so many aerial urban photos representing a range of different though related scenes and locations.

That said, this book isn't meant as only a collections of aerial photos. The photos are suppose to support the "Drosscape" author's thesis that these photos show you how land was intentionally and not so intentionally wasted in the industrialization of the United States after the war and through the nineteen seventies. Mr. Berger makes the interesting if incomplete point that we have now experienced decades of de-industrialization but are left with a surfeit of wasted urban landscapes. These places are often ugly, difficult to repurpose, filled with toxic waste and serve as barriers to America transforming itself into a greener more dynamic place of sustainable economic activity and growth.

The real problem with the book is its design. The photos dominate every page in which they appear. The corresponding point the text is making gets lost in tiny boxes that tell you what you are looking and why that isn't well supported by the main body of the chapter. Worse, the text is all bolded, and there is no visual relief from the shouting black type. Furthermore, there are so many photos that the thread of the argument made in the chapters gets completely lost.

Bottom line: Buy these book if you love urban aerial photography but don't buy this book if you want to learn more about urban studies.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Nam Henderson on September 26, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is a natural extension of the direction Alan Berger took in his first book Reclaiming the American West. While in his first book he examined the "leftover" space, of human industrial development in the American West in his new book he examines the range of wasted spaces which are created by current urban development patterns. Although specifically about the American urban landscape, his work can be at least loosely applied anywhere where sprawl or horizontal urbanity has become the norm. A key aim of his book is to go beyond the partisan debate of pro-or anti sprawl activists. Instead, Berger sets out to initiate a conversation and to develop a vocabulary through which this phenomenon of "inevitable" horizontal development can be understood and critiqued. However, this is arguably one weakness of the book. Although he develops a wonderful analysis of the phenomenon, his acceptance of it's inevitably, especially in the face of the efforts of many to change the game, can come off as defeatist. Yet, his focus on the liminal nature of the typologies he outlines does open up many fascinating areas of discussion. For inspiration he draws on everything from William Gibson's Neuromancer to Lars Lerups' concept of Stim & Dross. Ultimately, his approach is hopeful though. He concludes that because of the large scale nature of the problem, any solution must draw on abilities and knowledge of all the design disciplines from landscape architecture to urban planning. Berger suggests a paradigm shift, asking "designers to consider working in the margins rather than at the center."
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