Images of a dispiriting suburbia are so familiar as to be cliché: new homes sitting isolated on lonely cul-de-sacs, miles from any job or anyplace worth walking to; endless highways and strip malls; outsize garages, acres of parking, and roads that are dauntingly wide to pedestrians. With increasing frequency, newspapers and magazines are addressing the ugliness, congestion, and isolation spawned by sprawl. Citizens, with varying degrees of success, have tried to stop new development that threatens to impinge on their space. And some politicians, aware of the growing discontent, have incorporated anti-sprawl policies into their platforms.
Both citizens and politicians, it seems, tend to equate anti-sprawl with anti-growth, and therefore direct their efforts toward impeding development altogether: decades of growth-as-sprawl have convinced most people that any new construction at all is detrimental to the landscape. In Suburban Nation, however, Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck argue that although growth may be inexorable, sprawl, as their own experience attests, need not be.
Duany and Plater-Zyberk, a husband-and-wife team who are both architect-developers, have long been designing communities engineered to be vibrant and convivial—antidotes to sprawl. They believe that community planning as it was done in the old days of town greens and dense villages, with people of different income levels mingling in a landscape of pedestrian-oriented scale, makes for far more viable communities than do today's mainstream practices. The couple is perhaps most famous for Seaside —the resort town in Florida that awakened many to the idea that traditional town planning still works. With its emphasis on walkability, consistency of building design, and on appealing spaces for public gathering, Seaside has proved so popular that it costs more to buy or rent there than in adjacent communities where homes are larger and have more land.