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Building Suburbia


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About the Author

Dolores Hayden, urban historian and poet, is professor of architecture, urbanism, and American studies at Yale. She is the author of several books on the American landscape, including The Power of Place: Urban Landscapes as Public History, Building Suburbia, and A Field Guide to Sprawl. A former president of the Urban History Association, Hayden is the recipient of a Radcliffe Graduate Medal, an American Library Association Notable Book Award, two awards for Excellence in Design Research from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, among other honors. She is also the author of two poetry collections, American Yard and Nymph, Dun, and Spinner.


The number of suburbia studies by scholars and critics has increased dramatically since the appearance of Kenneth T. Jackson's seminal Crabgrass Frontier in 1985, and the trend shows no sign of slowing. Unlike most commentators, Hayden (architecture & American studies, Yale) effectively demonstrates that the 'burbs are not just a post-World War II phenomenon by tracing their origins back to the early 19th century. The story of the postwar growth of suburbia has been told elsewhere but seldom as lucidly as here. Throughout, Hayden emphasizes the role that the federal government played in directly subsidizing suburbia by massively funding highways, providing generous tax benefits to homeowners, and (from 1954) allowing the accelerated depreciation of commercial real estate-the significance of the last point in particular is often not recognized. Hayden is not happy with the built environment and social climate created by suburbia, but she generally keeps her animosity restrained. However, she is not as sanguine as some urbanists, arguing that recent attempts to combat the excesses of suburbia are not ikely to achieve much unless we first address their fundamental underpinnings. This clearly written book will appeal to specialists and nonpecialists alike. Highly recommended.-David A. Timko, U.S. Census Bureau Lib., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Praise for Dolores Hayden's Building Suburbia

"An engaging and richly illustrated account [that] makes a landmark contribution to this literature." --The Nation

"Important. . . . Inviting and lucid. . . . [Hayden] shows us that it was not inevitable that our space turned out quite this way." --Newsweek "Provocative. . . . Well worth reading." --Detroit Free Press "A rich and rewarding book with new and original material and surprising insights. . . . Beautiful and accessible writing . . . fascinating historical narratives. . . . Unlike most commentators, Hayden goes beyond analysis to propose solutions. . . . A welcome and significant addition." --Constructs "A lively and informative overview of the American mania for suburban living. . . . Fascinating." --Audubon Naturalist News "A fascinating book, as well as an important one." --Tulsa World

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