On the Nightstand, 008: A Field Guide to Sprawl

A Field Guide to Sprawl

“Sprawl is politically unfair as well as environmentally unsustainable and fiscally shortsighted.”

-Dolores Hayden

A Field Guide to Sprawl

LULU, Valhala, Litter on a Stick, TOAD, and Boomburb are words that describe patterns present in modern suburbia. They are negative connotations associated with present situations in the fields of architecture, landscape, and planning and are, for the most part, unknown to the the average human being. 

We all spend the majority of our lives (and our money) surrounded by environments that we take as ordinary, but are in reality far from it. Things like interstate highways, car dependency, big box retail surrounded by impervious asphalt, and even drive-thrus are all aspects of everyday life that are detrimental to the growth and longevity of society. Perhaps worse than the existence of such things is the ignorance associated with it.

I can’t sit on my high-horse or preach from my soap box because I must admit that I was unaware of the majority of the issues this book covers. It opens with a brief history of American expansion and then shares a collection of vocabulary and aerial photographs that describe social, economic, architectural, and cultural aspects of sprawl. Needless to say, the first step towards recovery is admitting you have a problem. This book provides images and vocabulary that can be used to identify the issues.

Verdict: Get this book.

It may be that, being a product of suburbia, this book happens to resonate with me personally which skews my opinion. I am very sad to admit that about half of the example images used in the publication were captured from the skies over Colorado. Other significant portions were taken from over California and Texas. My point being that I’ve seen and experienced first hand the effects of sprawl and, though they weren’t necessarily harmful places for me to live, are in the long run incredibly wasteful and selfish in terms of preservation for future generations. 

Put plainly: I am passionate about this topic and think that more people should be aware of sprawl related issues.

On the nightstand


1 Comment

  1. Great Choice! If you would like more readings on the topic read anything by Jan Gehl. Also Jane Jacobs offers an interesting point of view for someone who never studied architecture or planning.

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