Reddit Reddit reviews Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream

We found 27 Reddit comments about Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream. Here are the top ones, ranked by their Reddit score.

Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream
North Point Press
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27 Reddit comments about Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream:

u/soapdealer · 55 pointsr/SimCity

I totally love the Christopher Alexander books. Definitely check out his The Timeless Way of Building which is a great companion piece to A Pattern Language. You should know that his works, while great in my opinion, are sort of considered idiosyncratic and not really in the mainstream of architecture/urban design.

Here's a short reading list you should look at:

The Smart Growth Manual and Suburban Nation by Andres Duany & Jeff Speck. Another set of sort-of-companion works, the Manual has a concrete set of recommendations inspired by the critique of modern town planning in Suburban Nation and might be more useful for your purposes.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs is probably the most famous and influential book on city planning ever and contains a lot of really original and thoughtful insights on cities. Despite being over half-a-century old it feels very contemporary and relevant.

The Geography of Nowhere by James Howard Kunstler is similarly mostly a critique of modernist planning principles but is both short and very well written so I'd definitely recommend checking it out.

Makeshift Metropolis by Witold Rybczynski: I can't recommend this entire book, but it does contain (in my opinion) the best summary of the history of American urban planning. Really useful for a historical perspective on different schools of thought in city design over the years.

The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup is the book on parking policy. It's huge (700+ pages) and very thorough and academic, so it might be harder to get through than the other, more popular-audience-oriented titles on the list, but if you want to include parking as a gameplay element, I really can't recommend it highly enough. It's a problem that's thorny enough most city games just ignore it entirely: Simcity2013's developers say they abandoned it after realizing it would mean most of their players' cities would be covered in parking lots, ignoring that most actual American cities are indeed covered in parking lots.

Finally there's a bunch of great blogs/websites out there you should check out: Streetsblog is definitely a giant in transportation/design blogging and has a really capable team of journalists and a staggering amount of content. Chuck Marohn's Strong Towns blog and Podcast are a great source for thinking about these issues more in terms of smaller towns and municipalities (in contrast to Streetsblog's focus on major metropolitan areas). The Sightline Daily's blog does amazing planning/transpo coverage of the Pacific Northwest. Finally [The Atlantic Cities] ( blog has incredible coverage on city-issues around the world.

I hope this was helpful and not overwhelming. It's a pretty big (and in my opinion, interesting) topic, so there's a lot of ground to cover even in an introductory sense.

u/thebumpuses · 37 pointsr/architecture

If you want to learn quite a bit about why exactly suburbs are depressing, read Suburban Nation by Duany et al.

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

u/warpzero · 25 pointsr/toronto

This is the single biggest thing we can do to improve the economic viability of our cities and reduce the congestion of our roads.

I've linked to it a few times recently, but everybody doubting this should watch this 1990s-era presentation given by the architect/planner Andrés Duany. This is exactly the subject he has talked about for decades: that 'traditional neighbourhood development' is superior to North American suburban sprawl by every metric. For those who would like to read more, he has a very excellent book called Suburban Nation that is approachable to the layman.

These traditional neighbourhoods are not "inferior" to the suburbs (as some people have suggested in this thread already), and it doesn't have to mean skyrocketing housing prices. Look at some of the towns and neighbourhoods developed by DPZ (Andrés Duany's company), and "walk" around the town with StreetView (remember, these are all new developments, not old neighbourhoods):

  • Seaside, Florida
  • Habersham, SC
  • Kentlands, MD

    These neighbourhoods are all a mix of detached homes, townhomes, and apartments (they're not a suburban mono-culture of only one type), and they're all walkable. Each has a commercial area within walking distance, and also has offices within walking distance. The density is much higher than a typical suburb, but yet there's still a sense of privacy in a detached home (if you want that), or higher density town-homes near the 'town centre' (if you prefer that, instead). But all of these communities, because of their walk-ability and bike-abilty, have significantly less congestion than a typical suburb. If you combine this with a transit stop within walking distance, known a transit-oriented development, then you get a highly effective and highly productive mixed-use area that requires significantly less tax and government subsidies than our suburbs require today.

    If you're still not convinced, there is an excellent US-based non-profit organization called Strong Towns that was created by an ex-traffic engineer, explicitly for the purpose of informing the public about how current North American suburbs and towns are not economically viable. That is, they do not have the tax base to cover their infrastructure, and 'cover this up' by what they call the Growth Ponzi Scheme.

    tl;dr: look at this image (from and hopefully you will understand why this type of development is more economically viable.

u/gogolang · 23 pointsr/Libertarian

Everyone here should read this book to understand how US cities and suburbs have been screwed up by nonsensical government regulation (and by outsized influence of firefighters unions).

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

Basically, the whole idea that you can/should design a city like SimCity where the government mandates certain areas as high density/low density commercial, residential, industrial, etc. makes no sense at all.

The unwalkability of newer cities are because of firefighters unions. The unions required that you needed to have a certain number of firefighters per fire truck. That meant that instead of being able to buy smaller, nimbler fire trucks that can navigate smaller streets, cities have to buy enormous trucks. In order for those trucks to move through the city quickly, the cities nedded to build very wide roads and it lead to all sorts of other consequences.

u/cirrus42 · 18 pointsr/urbanplanning

In this exact order:

  1. Start with Suburban Nation by Duany, Zyberk, and Speck. It's super easy to read, totally skimmable, and has a lot of great graphics and diagrams that help explain things. It's not the deepest book out there, but it's the best place to start.

  2. After that, try Geography of Nowhere by Kunstler. The author can be cranky and there are no diagrams, but he does a nice job of explaining how suburbia happened, why it made sense at the time, and why it's not so great anymore. Basically it's a primer on the key issue facing city planning today.

  3. After them, you'll be ready for The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jacobs. This is the bible of urbanism, the most important and influential book written about the form of cities since the invention of the car. But it's not as accessible as the first two, so I wouldn't start here.

  4. Walkable City by Speck. This is the newest of the bunch, and provides the data to back up the claims from the previous 3.

  5. Image of the City by Lynch. This one is a series of case studies that will teach you how to "read" how a city functions based on its form. The examples are all woefully obsolete, which is too bad, but still teaches you an important skill.
u/Pinwurm · 12 pointsr/boston

That area will develop really quickly, I imagine. Especially as nearby Boston Landing takes off in the next few months (they're building 1100 housing units, plus restaurants and retail, plus fun activities like bowling, ice skating's already happening, plus office space, plus a hotel). It's all near the new 1A train station (which opens later this month, and YES, that is the same cost as the T. It'll take you to South Station in 10 minutes) and there's lot of frequent bus activity that takes you to Harvard Square in 10 minutes.

Continuum's also getting a grocery - Trader Joe's. That'll help.

All this stuff is like.. in between actual neighborhoods of Harvard, Lower Allston and Brighton. It'll fill up, I 100% assure you.

It's expensive but if noone rents/buys, they'll drop the prices until they do. I imagine a lot of Int'l Harvard Students will go there first.

Just as an FYI, any housing project approved by the city has to have a certain percentage of apartments be 'affordable housing units'. Mixed income areas are good for development because you diversify customer's competing for resources. It's nice to have options, like a Whole Foods and a Market Basket, ya know?

If you're interested in city planning, I'd highly recommend reading Suburban Nation by Jeff Speck. Or googling some of his youtube lectures. Very eye opening.

Or the videos by James Kunstler - like 'The Tragedy of the Suburbs'. REALLY interesting take.

u/an_ennui · 9 pointsr/orlando

Suburban development 🎉

For those interested, this book gives a very easy-to-read overview on American city planning: It’s tough to read living here, though, because after reading it you’ll definitely be bothered by so many things you never noticed before.

u/cruzweb · 6 pointsr/AskReddit

Thanks, glad to see people are taking the time to read it. IMO, there's a reason why city-states were the basic structure of settlement for centuries.

Here's some additional reading if you're so inclined:

Suburban Nation:

The Wealth of Cities:

Crabgrass Frontier:

Green Metropolis (great look at the environmental aspects of sprawl from a non-traditional viewpoint. Gotta love any green stuff that rips into the sierra club) :

u/heartbeats · 6 pointsr/starterpacks

I think the issue is more generally about economic opportunities and where employers are locating these days. I always wonder what people do for work in these smaller rural towns, and how I'd conceivably make a living if I decided to move there. Besides tradeswork, healthcare, government, some manufacturing and agriculture, what else is there really? We're urbanizing at a clip, both nationally and globally, and employers are increasingly relocating to urban centers where the talent is. There seems to be more opportunity in urban areas, with rural towns feeling like they're hollowed out leaving older folks on social security and younger folks in the rural poverty trap. I would honestly like to move to more rural environs to be closer to nature, but can't help but feel that's not where our economy is heading. Rural living has a lot more of an environmental impact, as well, with the car-dependency and the costs of transporting all those goods/services to more rural areas.

Sprawling suburbia is among the most environmentally and financially unsustainable movements in recent history. It is a sad, identity-less landscape that is actually really terrible over a number of different indicators. Highly recommend reading this short book to learn more about why suburbia ain't it.

u/ClimateMom · 5 pointsr/suggestmeabook

I'm not sure if it's exactly what you're looking for, but Suburban Nation is a layman readable discussion of suburban sprawl vs "New Urbanism"/smart growth, which would likely give you some insights into why cities like Portland and Austin are designed the way they are.

u/elbac14 · 5 pointsr/urbanplanning

Hey, I also love and studied human geography as my undergrad and then went into urban planning for a master's degree. Since you've still got time in high school, I strongly recommend some good books to see if it interests you more (you'll see that actual urban planning isn't like a Sim City game). Don't worry these books are written in easy language so you don't need a university education to appreciate them.

For a general overview of urban planning and why it might interest you, you should check out The Purpose of Planning. It is a British-based book but the concepts are the same (I'm assuming you are American).

For an overview of the current issues/topics within urban planning, I really recommend Walkable City. Another older book by the same author is Suburban Nation if you are curious but Walkable City is a lot more recent.

u/DarkBladeRunner · 4 pointsr/pics

Sigh, land use planning is my profession. May I suggest some light reading to get you started? Real urban non-car centric cities (like New York, as opposed to Dallas or Denver) are what I'm talking about, mind you. I'm guessing you're a suburban american? So this might help :

Suburban Nation

Then take the time to compare the per capita energy consumption, CO2 emissions and other indicators of a real city to that of it's surrounding suburbs and rural area. You'll understand then.

Or you could also sign up for an urban planning, landscape architecture, urban design or land planning university degree and study this better.

u/Doremi-fansubs · 4 pointsr/bayarea

Blame Chevron / Peoplesoft for building sprawling campus headquarters out in San Ramon / Pleasanton.

But the answer isn't that simple. SF in the late 70's was becoming increasingly a hellhole of shit and piss, and with rising rents large companies sought to build their headquarters sideways, rather than vertically since they were much easier to manage and easy to get to with the new highways being built (I-680, I-580, etc).

Suburban Nation has a section on the sprawl in the east bay:

u/grinch337 · 4 pointsr/todayilearned

Andres Duany is an authority in American urban planning that has strongly influenced my perspectives on all of this. He co-authored one book that explains how we got into this mess (Suburban Nation), and another that gives a good overview of what we should do to fix it (Smart Growth Manual). The first is full of good, hard facts and data to back up the claims he makes in the book. Both can be purchased for about $25 on Amazon.

A Jacksonville, Florida newspaper also did a very good comparison of exactly how cheap a streetcar system could be constructed (The Little Rock River Rail) with the bloated inefficiencies that stemmed from the overenthusiastic plans for a tram in Jacksonville (that still hasn't been built).

This site offers a continuation of the debate using the same two examples

Here's a list of rail transit systems in the US if you want to compare and contrast. I figured you might find it interesting.

Houston is a good example of what happens when we fail to distinguish 'good' growth from 'bad' growth. I always joke about how suburban Houston follows a template of a Kroger, and HEB, a Walgreens and Super Target that seems to be stamped onto the landscape at every major intersection. Its hard to imagine converting the mess into more urban communities, but if we use these clusters of commercial development to anchor higher-density residential growth along the edges that are tied together with designated pedestrian and public transit corridors, we will free up large quantities of land to further intensify development when parking areas are no longer needed and when big-box stores reach the ends of their life cycles (which usually top off at about 25 to 30 years). Remember that most commercial growth in suburban areas is, more or less, disposable. We can use this to our advantage to allow redevelopment to take place in an orderly and incremental manner.

The development of pedestrian corridors is not as expensive and complicated as you would think. The biggest problems are the single-use development patterns and the meandering streets that developers use to create a sense of depth to the subdivisions. In suburban areas, the house located behind yours may be over a mile away by road. The good thing about pedestrian corridors is that they don't really require large rights of way and they can be squeezed into areas where roads can't be (between houses). Geographically, most homes in the suburbs really aren't that far away from activity centers (as I like to call them), but the collector/distributor road systems employed can turn that short trek into a very time-consuming ordeal. If pedestrian corridors could offer a sort of short-cut to these, the time required to walk somewhere could compete with the time required to drive there. Once you get people moving on their feet, you'll really start to see changes to the landscape.

Within suburbia, I think the areas in close proximity to activity centers will enjoy the best chances for survival in the future. I think that the rest of the periphery will turn into less-desirable and low-income areas. But the saving grace in all of this is that household sizes in poor areas are usually larger than those in more affluent areas, so my prediction is that density in suburban areas may actually increase with an influx of poor people being pushed out from gentrifying inner-city neighborhoods. And since the reliance on public transportation would be carried with them, I think an increase in transit use in suburban areas would follow as well. So in the end, the urban shake-up may actually have the unintended consequence of dramatically improving the efficiency of the suburban landscape, but that's just my opinion.

Because this is such a HUGE topic, check out my other posts on this thread for some additional ways we could further modify these areas to make public transit and pedestrianism more viable. Sorry it took me so long to respond to your post. Let me know if you want me to clarify anything further.

u/ghettomilkshake · 4 pointsr/SeattleWA

Personally, I don't think a full repeal to all of the residential zoning is the best practice. A full repeal would likely only increase land values
(here's a good explainer as to how that can happen). I do believe they need to be loosened significantly. At the rate this city is growing, it needs to have all of the tools necessary to help increase density and banning thing such as having both an ADU and DADU on single family lots and requiring their sizes to be such that they cannot accommodate families is a bad thing. Duplexes and triplexes also should be legal in single family zones. These allowances also should be paired with strategic rezones that allow for some sort of corner market/commerce zone within a 5-10 minute walkshed of every house in SFZs in order to make it reasonable for people in SFZs to live without a car in these now densified neighborhoods.

In regards to more reading: are you looking for more reading regarding Seattle zoning law exclusively or are you looking for reading recommendations that follow an urbanist bent? For Seattle specific stuff, The Urbanist and Seattle Transit Blog post a lot regarding land use in the city. If you are looking for books that talk about general city planning the gold standard is The Death and Life of Great American Cities. I personally really enjoyed Walkable City, Suburban Nation, and Happy City.

u/YepItsThatDude · 3 pointsr/Atlanta

It just stuff I've picked up over the years since moving to Atlanta. I've always wondered why things are the way they are especially when they're different than the way I'm told they are. When I first moved to metro Atlanta, I lived in Dunwoody for a couple of months and everyone I met told me to never ride MARTA and that I should avoid going inside the perimeter as much as possible because "those people" live down there. But when I would use MARTA or go into the city, everything seemed ok. So I started reading books and doing research online to understand how the city and the suburbs came to be the way they are. One thing is for sure, it wasn't because this is what the people wanted most.

If you're interested in learning more, I suggest the book 'Suburban Nation'. There are thousands of books out there on city planning and suburbs but many of them are academic so not a lot of fun to read.

If you live in Atlanta or Fulton County, you can check it out at these branches: Central Library, Buckhead Branch, Georgia Hill Branch, Hapeville Branch, Kirkwood Branch, Ponce de Leon Branch, Roswell Regional, Sandy Springs Regional, and Stewart-Lakewood Branch

Amazon listing for the book:

u/snumfalzumpa · 2 pointsr/JusticePorn

honestly if that intrigues you, you should really read Suburban Nation. it's a fantastic book.

u/slow70 · 2 pointsr/CozyPlaces

You know, I don't really track such things on reddit so much, but the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) is sort of a hub for these things.

For years I didn't really have words or terms to go with my sentiment regarding our built environments, but reading first Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Death of the American Dream and then ["The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Environment] ( were wonderfully informative and encompassing on the topic.

Check out James Howard Kunstler's TED talk, you'll probably laugh and feel sad in equal parts.

It's incredible how wide reaching the effects are of our built environment, and in the United States, it's mostly negative.

u/patron_vectras · 1 pointr/Blackfellas

Other reading on this phenomenon can be found at Strong Towns and in the book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream .

> “We need to acknowledge the tension here: that “protecting” or “promoting” property values is the same thing as “making housing more expensive.””

u/kidfay · 1 pointr/AskEngineers

I second Jane Jacobs!

You're probably thinking of Suburban Nation. I have both books.

u/hexagonalshit · 1 pointr/urbanplanning

Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century by Peter Hall

>In order to give you some good context and historical background on how the field came to be the way it is now, I would suggest picking up Cities of Tomorrow: An Intellectual History of Urban Planning and Design in the Twentieth Century by Peter Hall. It will give you a really good foundation on urban planning theory and the different approaches planners have taken. Then, see what concepts in that book tickle your fancy and pursue some classic books in that particular sub-field.

>Here's the link to it on Amazon, but I'll bet your local library has a copy.

"Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream." By Andres Duany

>Despite its title, this book is written by one of the premier planners in the US. He outlines planning theory, practice, and history utilizing stories, maps, and plenty of examples. It was the best planning introduction book that I read (including Cities of Tomorrow, Death and Life of the Great American Cities, and many others).
It's not a tough or jargon-y read, but it has enough meat to it to get an idea about what planners do, how planning is implemented, and the influence that planners have on society. You can probably get it pretty cheap online used. Seriously.

The Death and Life of Great American Cities

>I strongly recommend The Practice of Local Government Planning, sometimes called the Green Book. It offers an easy to read history and overview of the field, and chapters on subfields within planning, such as environmental, transportation, land use, and urban design.

>As others have said, Jacobs and Hall are good too. The Death and Life of Great American Cities is a great starting point. Jacobs writes in a style that is most appropriate for a general audience, and Peter Hall's Cities of Tomorrow could be the perfect next step to dive deeper.

>In my opinion, first hand interaction can be the best source of information. If you're near a university with a planning program, find an admissions person, student, or professor to chat with, or a local government planner where you live. We're pretty aproachable people for the most part. :)

u/Hoffman81 · 1 pointr/exmormon

I never said it did. Actually, I think taking someone's donations to a church and building a three billion dollar shopping mall (it's actually a mixed use development including residential and office space) is a pretty shitty thing to do. But I'm also well aware that people are going to keep feeding the few dollars that they have to the church whether I like it or not, it might as well turn out good sometimes. I'm just saying to have the opinion that the "mall" isn't a tremendous benefit to the citizens of SLC and the metropolis area, you have to keep yourself ignorant to quite a few facts about city planning.

u/Jaimeser · 1 pointr/RealEstate

Considering how big an investment you're contemplating, the 3 hours or so it would take to read this book would be extremely well spent.*Version*=1&*entries*=0

u/LegitimateProfession · 0 pointsr/politics

I hope you're not seriously wanting the suburbs to grow more. Suburban development is the most ecologically and fiscally unsustainable invention in human history, except maybe capitalism.