51MQR0TGKJLHayden, Dolores. Building Suburbia: Green Fields and Urban Growth, 1820-2000. 1st ed. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.

The Author

HaydenDolores Hayden

She is a professor at Yale University and past president of the Urban History Association.

The triple dream: house, yard, and neighborhood.

The following paragraph summarizes the intent of this book:

“Arguing for the metropolitan context of suburban landscapes, this history attempts to reconnect city and suburb, showing that since the early nineteenth century, suburbs have been important to the process of urbanization and economic growth, perhaps as important as the crowded centers of cities. Defining the seven historic landscapes of urban expansion can lead to more precise proposals for their reconstruction. The vernacular houses and yards of suburbia, the older suburban and small-town centers, so long overlooked by urban historians, are an essential part of American life. Their fabric could be preserved by sympathetic practitioners, skilled developers, architects, planners, and public historians, who mend and reweave landscapes while adding new housing, services, and amenities. This would demand both political insight and cultural understanding.”⁠1


Part One: The American Metropolitan Landscape

One—The Shapes of Suburbia

Two—The Suburban City

Part Two: Historic Patterns in the Landscape


Four—Picturesque Enclaves

Five—Streetcar Buildouts

Six—Mail-Order and Self-Built Suburbs

Seven—Sitcom Suburbs

Eight—Edge Nodes

Nine—Rural Fringes

Part Three: The Next Suburbs

Ten—Nostalgia and Futurism

Eleven—The Importance of Older Suburbs

“There is growing realization that the problems of excessive fringe suburban development require more than better design. Indeed, the story of the solar house echoes that of the electric car American inventors had designed, built, and sold early in the century. It was innovative, but large manufacturers chose to promote other products and fuels. In 2003 it is too late to correct past mistakes with better new products alone. Even a program for one hundred million solar houses or one hundred and thirty million electric cars could not make the United States sustainable. To turn patterns of excessive consumption into patterns of wise use that can be sustained forever would require severe limits on land use, energy use, and new construction. All such limits have to be enacted despite the opposition of lobbyists for real estate and product development, who have spent decades priming government and banks to work with them to promote new growth.

Looking at the contributions of architects who create historicist enclaves, digital houses, and green architecture, citizens can see substantial demonstrations of better ways to plan and build. Many architects are eloquent as they address the issues. Many are talented and hardworking. But new designs alone cannot redeem a throwaway culture organized around obsolescence and the continual consumption of undeveloped land and new products. Housing is tied to the political economy. Better architecture cannot, in itself, change the larger patterns of social and economic exploitation developed by growth machines which profit from round after round of fringe development. If the United States is to become a more sustainable and more equitable place, older suburbs have to be saved rather than abandoned on the way to new projects”⁠2





1 {Hayden, 2003 #194@17}

2 {Hayden, 2003 #194@229}

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