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Suburban Nation The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck

North Point Press



Trade Paperback

320 Pages



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A Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Since its publication, Suburban Nation has given voice to a growing movement in North America to put an end to suburban sprawl and replace the last century's automobile-based settlement patterns with a return to more traditional planning principles. The movement stems not only from the realization that sprawl is ecologically and economically unsustainable but from an awareness of its many victims. Suburban Nation, a manifesto for this movement, assesses sprawl's ecological, economic, aesthetic, and social costs to society. Written by three of America's leading town planners, it is both a critical lament and an engaging exploration of the distinctions between postwar suburbia—characterized by housing clusters, strip shopping centers, office parks, and parking lots—and the traditional neighborhoods that were built as a matter of course until mid-century. Founders of the Congress for the New Urbanism, Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk are at the forefront of the movement, and even their critics, such as Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard, recognized that "Suburban Nation is likely to become this movement's bible." A lively lament about the failures of postwar planning, this is also that rare book that offers solutions: "an essential handbook" (San Francisco Chronicle). Intelligent, far-reaching, and timely, Suburban Nation will enrich any urban studies class.

This tenth anniversary edition includes a new preface by the authors.


Praise for Suburban Nation

"An essential text for our time . . . Not only a passionately argued, carefully reasoned dissection of the mess that is becoming man-made America but also a clear program of steps that can be taken to enhance the humanity of both our suburbs and our cities while conserving our rapidly dwindling countryside. Everyone who cares about the future of our American way of life should read this book."—Robert A.M. Stern, Dean, Yale School of Architecture

"[This book offers] a clear-eyed, closely reasoned description by its founders of the most important movement in American architecture and city making of this generation: the New Urbanism, based not upon the ‘nostalgia' for which it has been unjustly criticized but upon solid architectural, historical, and sociological analysis, and hard common sense."—Vincent Scully

"The authors make several sound points about the mindlessness of certain engineering standards, the often thoughtless application of zoning, and the visual coldness of unimaginative, homogenous subdivisions. The discussion of infill issues is especially thoughtful, including the compelling argument that downtown commercial areas should be managed more like malls."—Randall Crane, UCLA, Journal of the American Planning Association

"Suburban Nation dissects the physical design of the suburbs brilliantly . . . [the authors] set forth more clearly than anyone has done in our time the elements of good town planning."—Paul Goldberger, The New Yorker

"A powerful manifesto . . . No one has yet produced a work as pithy or likely to win converts to the cause as this briskly written and persuasive brief."—Alexander von Hoffman, The Boston Sunday Globe

"Suburban Nation, with its clear discussion of the issues and workable solutions, should be required reading for local officials, developers, and concerned citizens."—David Rocks, Business Week

"America will continue to grow, like it or not. The challenge is to do so in a way that contains sprawl and offers attractive living choices for families of all descriptions and income levels. To meet that challenge, Suburban Nation is an essential handbook."—John King, San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"[The authors] focus on exactly the right question—will we ever start building places that will feel better to us than the farms and forests such construction destroys?"—Joel Garreau, The Washington Post

"Progressive town planners Duany and coauthors share the fruits of their extensive experiences designing new neighborhoods and community revitalization projects in this cogent and illuminating investigation into the nature of sprawl and the failure of suburbs. They mince no words in condemning the soulless, 'repetitive and forgettable' landscape of subdivisions, shopping malls, office parks, and congested roadways that ring our cities, and articulate with great precision exactly how and why such places are detrimental to social health. They contrast traditional neighborhoods—'mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly communities'where people of diverse backgrounds and economic levels interact, with suburbia, where housing, work, shopping, and public facilities are segregated from one another, so people are forced to drive everywhere. Using numerous examples, the authors explain how and why sprawl has occurred, discuss why the quality of balkanized suburban life is so deplorably low, and offer suggestions for a more viable approach to planning in the immediate future. Place matters, and we can do so much better."Donna Seaman, Booklist

Reviews from Goodreads



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The cities will be part of the country; I shall live...

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  • Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck

  • Andrés Duany is a founding principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Town Planners and Architects (DPZ). He was co-author, with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, of Towns and Townmaking Principles.

    Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, also a founding principal of DPZ, is dean of the University of Miami School of Architecture, where she founded the Master in Suburban and Town Design program. She and Andrés Duany were co-founders of the Congress for New Urbanism.

    Jeff Speck is director of town planning at DPZ, managing projects in Colorado, New Jersey, Ontario, Germany, and Belgium.