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A Field Guide to Sprawl Paperback – June 17, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0393731989 ISBN-10: 0393731987 Edition: Reprint

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 128 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (June 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393731987
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393731989
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.2 x 6.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #206,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A mere glance through the pages of this book offers a quick education about the excesses of the recently built environment. By its very nature, sprawl is hard to identify and track, but Hayden, a Yale professor of architecture and American studies, provides a combination of informed but breezy text and 75 large, crisp color images that greatly simplify the task of "decoding everyday American landscapes." Organized alphabetically, with a big two-page spread for each entry, the book moves from "alligator" (an investment that "eats" cash flow, represented here by the vast and ghostly grid of an unbuilt New Mexico suburb) to "zoomburb" (a suburb on steroids, illustrated here by Arizona's spiraling Sun City). Along the way, the reader comes to the depressing understanding that troubling phenomena one might have thought strictly local or temporary—for instance, houses where the garage is the dominant projecting feature—are common enough to have acquired names, in this case "snout house." But more than a set of colorful terms—all of which, from "ball pork" to "parsley round the pig" are carefully sourced—this book is a concise guide to not only sprawl itself but to the powerful political and financial forces that sustain it. If the book has one problematic aspect, it is that Wark's aerial photographs are often so vividly beautiful that they risk aestheticizing their often grim subjects—but their seductive quality serves to draw the viewer into Hayden's passionately sustained argument.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


“A landmark contribution to this literature.” (Boston Globe)

“[P]rovides a great hawk’s-eye overview of exactly what uncontrolled growth has done to the American landscape…a must-read.” (The Statement)

“A flair for words and a collection of stunning photographs. . . . Captivating.” (New Urban News)

“May well establish Ms. Hayden as the Roger Tory Peterson of Sprawl.” (New York Times)

“A concise guide to not only sprawl but to the powerful political and financial forces that sustain it.” (Publishers Weekly)

“[T]he images are fascinating and, in many cases, a frightening testament to human impact on the landscape.” (Ben Brain - Amateur Photographer)

“You have to know what to call something before you can do anything about it. So if you really hate the way urban blight is despoiling virgin landscapes, take a look at this snappy pictorial guide to developer slang, US-style, which could rival Dr Seuss for verbal inventiveness.” (Civic Focus Magazine)

“Educational as well as humorous…a great stocking stuffer for the environmentalist in the family.” (Village Books Newsletter)

“[T]he often beguiling beauty of sprawl photographed from the air.” (Nicholas A. Phelps - Environment & Planning B: Planning & Design)

“A wonderful guide to the terrible things being done to the American landscape.” (Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation)

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.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jenny Jenkins on July 22, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have ever wondered what to call those cul-de-sacs that took the place of the dairy farm down the road, this field guide will finally give you the language to express yourself. With fascinating aerial photographs of all sorts of American sprawl, and interesting, to-the-point accompanying paragraphs, this field guide is a must to share with those neighbors of yours who lack the imagination to envision what will happen in their part of the woods (if the woods still exist) when subdividers come to town. (Naw, it's not happily ever after because the property taxes will increase revenue for the town.) Read this guide and you will never be content to leave the future of God's green earth in the hands of suburban planners again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robin Benson on September 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Dolores Hayden's intriguing book visually decodes fifty-one examples of bad building in the landscape and the use of aerial photography to do this was a good idea, sprawl by its nature stretches off into the horizon but when seen at ground-level could seem pretty ordinary. Some of the differences though, especially with domestic dwellings, seem a bit arbitrary, there are seven examples of housing shown which, to me, don't seem that different. With commercial sprawl it is easy to understand the visual differences, from 'Rural slammer' (Soledad) to 'Tank farm' (part of the port of Houston)

Though the book is primarily visual, with seventy-five well chosen aerial photos used to illustrate the categories, I thought the essay on the first ten pages was first class in explaining the reasons behind sprawl, basically the fault of those folk in Washington allowing commercial interests to favor suburban white populations and male-headed households during the last few decades. The back of the book has a useful bibliography, list of websites and index.

Jim Wark's aerial photos were used by the author to carefully explain the categories and you can see several hundred other examples of his work in 'America' (ISBN 8854400033). If you like aerial photos have a look at Alex MacLean's book 'Designs on the Land' (ISBN 0500284148) with over four hundred stunning color photos of what is happening commercially on the ground.

Though a large number of Americans live in the sprawl environment (and by choice, too) it is worth remembering that over ninety percent of the US is still open land. This fascinating book is a useful visual guide to how bad things can get.

***FOR AN INSIDE LOOK click 'customer images' under the cover.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By AcornMan on April 7, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The numerous color aerial photos in this book do a wonderful job of putting US development patterns into a whole new perspective. This isn't intended to be the end all be all of commentary about sprawl. For that, there are plenty of other great books that emphasize analysis and critique rather than a visual approach (A Better Way to Live is an example of a terrific book in the former category). This book is a great introduction to the different kinds of sprawl and what they look like. Sure, Dolores Hayden puts a fairly cynical touch on what commentary there is, but when you see the pictures of how developers have ruined our open spaces, you'll understand why. In short, a great little book that achieves its purpose very well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Lewyn VINE VOICE on August 1, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I agree with both the positive and negative reviews: I loved the pictures (as did the positive reviews)- they definitely gave me a better feel for concepts like "pods" that I am used to seeing from ground level. But I also think that some of Hayden's language was unclear, needlessly polemical, or both. For example, she writes that ducks (buildings that serve as advertisements) "are always out of context and do little to unify neighborhoods." But what does it mean for a building to be "out of context"? How does a cheese shop "unify a neighborhood", whether it is ugly or pretty? Also, Hayden's points sometimes have little to do with sprawl- for example, she has an entry on "Export Garbage" but she does not explain why she thinks suburbs generate more garbage than cities.

But on balance I liked this book, mainly because she spends only a paragraph or two on each concept, so even the text entries I would have written differently did not take up a lot of my time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Small coffee-table format picture book. There is a 10-page introduction, which is excellent, then 51 vocabulary terms. Each vocab term is 2 pages - one page is an aerial example picture, the facing page is text describing the term. The terms are mostly pejorative (slang) and are critical of certain types of development. This is not "new" stuff many of these terms and criticisms go back to the 1940s. While some of the terms are obvious (strip malls, McMansions) much of it is not obvious and opens a whole new way of seeing why certain things are laid out the way they are. More so, it helps to predict how future development will happen based on current development patterns. This book is a layman's guide to development criticism. Should be required reading for all who live in a developing community.
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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful By doomsdayer520 HALL OF FAME on February 18, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This collection of outstanding aerial photos illustrates the nonsensical contempt for nature inherent in American social and economic systems, as embodied by sprawl. We build wasteful suburbs on productive farmland, and destroy watersheds to make way for developments that then need taxpayer-supported water systems. We've become so dependent on cars for all errands and social calls that developers don't even bother to make it possible to walk anywhere, while we mistakenly equate large lot sizes with privacy and outdoor solitude. We then give new soulless housing subdivisions and concentrated shopping districts names, featuring words like "Woods" or "Creek," that are mockeries of the ecosystems that were destroyed in order to build them. Dolores Hayden starts this book with various explanations for this unique brand of American waste, especially in terms of tax breaks and legal loopholes that encourage the development of virgin territory and the abandonment of formerly constructed areas. And don't forget the political influence of the real estate, construction, and transportation lobbies.

After the quick and informative introduction, the book is made up of remarkable and usually cringe-inducing aerial photos, by aviator Jim Wark, of sprawl in all its many forms. Hayden and Wark find real examples of many different categories of sprawl, featuring names coined by either developers or critics, such as boomburb, greenfield (a hideously inaccurate title), pod, and privatopia. These stunning and often disturbing photos truly illustrate the ridiculous nature of American sprawl in all its shapes and sizes. If you find yourself concerned by the nature of these photos, you may end up wishing you lived in a place where it was still possible to interact with your neighbors daily and do your errands easily on foot. Find a spot like that before they're all gone. [~doomsdayer520~]
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