Sequel to Suburbia
Glimpses of America's Post-Suburban Future
How the decentralized, automobile-oriented, and fuel-consuming model of American suburban development might change.
In the years after World War II, a distinctly American model for suburban development emerged. The expansive rings of outer suburbs that formed around major cities were decentralized and automobile oriented, an embodiment of America's postwar mass-production, mass-consumption economy. But alternate models for suburbia, including “transit-oriented development,” “smart growth,” and “New Urbanism,” have inspired critiques of suburbanization and experiments in post-suburban ways of living. In Sequel to Suburbia, Nicholas Phelps considers the possible post-suburban future, offering historical and theoretical context as well as case studies of transforming communities.
Phelps first locates these outer suburban rings within wider metropolitan spaces, describes the suburbs as a “spatial fix” for the postwar capitalist economy, and examines the political and governmental obstacles to reworking suburban space. He then presents three glimpses of post-suburban America, looking at Kendall-Dadeland (in Miami-Dade County, Florida), Tysons Corner (in Fairfax County, Virginia), and Schaumburg, Illinois (near Chicago). He shows Kendall-Dadeland to be an isolated New Urbanism success; describes the re-planning of Tysons Corner to include a retrofitted central downtown area; and examines Schaumburg's position as a regional capital for Chicago's northwest suburbs. As these cases show, the reworking of suburban space and the accompanying political process will not be left to a small group of architects, planners, and politicians. Post-suburban politics will have to command the approval of the residents of suburbia.
While most urbanists remain focused on the central city, Nicholas Phelps directs our attention to the contemporary American suburb whose recent metamorphoses and hybridizations challenge all traditional concepts of suburban and metropolitan form. His Sequel to Suburbia is both theoretically astute and thoroughly researched, and his findings will challenge us to reconsider places we thought we knew too well.
Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan
How to rework the outer suburbs to function better in the present and future is a key challenge of the current period. Using highly engaging prose, Phelps explores this issue theoretically and practically, focusing on the huge political challenges faced by those wanting to make metropolitan-scale changes in the fragmented governmental system in the United States. Based on very interesting empirical work in three diverse and important suburban centers, the book is critical and yet cautiously hopeful about their eventual evolution.
Ann Forsyth, Professor of Urban Planning, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Sequel to Suburbia provides students of urban studies with a fresh perspective on the political economy of America's edge cities. It also provides analysts, policymakers, and design professionals with important insights about how suburban space might be reworked in the context of contemporary political regimes.
Paul Knox, Virginia Tech, author of Metroburbia, USA and Cities and Design