Cover image for A field guide to sprawl
A field guide to sprawl
Hayden, Dolores.
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Publication Information:
New York : W. W. Norton, 2004.
Physical Description:
128 pages : illustrations ; 19 cm
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HT321 .H3856 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Duck, ruburb, tower farm, big box, and pig-in-a-python are among the dozens of zany terms invented by real estate developers and designers today to characterize land-use practices and the physical elements of sprawl. Sprawl in the environment, based on the metaphor of a person spread out, is hard to define. This concise book engages its meaning, explains common building patterns, and illustrates the visual culture of sprawl. Seventy-five stunning color aerial photographs, each paired with a definition, convey the impact of excessive development. This "engagingly organized and splendidly photographed" (Wall Street Journal) book provides the verbal and visual vocabulary needed by professionals, public officials, and citizens to critique uncontrolled growth in the American landscape.

Author Notes

Dolores Hayden, professor of architecture and American studies at Yale, writes about the politics of design.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Feminist, architect, and urban historian Hayden (Building Suburbia) skims over territory previously well trod in her other writings to assemble this compact, quirky, self-styled "devil's dictionary." Not nearly as scathingly aphoristic as Ambrose Bierce's original, this collection of 75 terms with illustrated definitions includes standard jargon, such as greenfield; buzzwords made popular by prominent critics of sprawl, such as gridlock; and politically charged slang, such as mansion subsidy. An introductory chapter encapsulates the economic and political history of 20th-century land development, emphasizing that an understanding of the unseen forces that drive sprawl is essential for combating its tragically all-too-visible manifestations. The brief definitions that follow are little more than captions for the book's real attraction: fascinating color aerial photos. Unfortunately, the novel "field guide" approach to defining sprawl for a general audience could backfire, for its allure may be limited to anti-sprawl activists who share Hayden's political leanings and appreciate her irony. James Howard Kunstler's Geography of Nowhere remains a solid introduction to the subject for newcomers. This is a worthy but optional purchase.-David Soltesz, Cuyahoga Cty. P.L., Parma, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.