Building Suburbia: Green Fields
and Urban Growth, 1820-2000

Planetizen Ten Best Books in Urban Studies

For almost two centuries Americans have been moving to the suburbs in search of affordable family housing, unspoiled nature, and small-town sociability, only to find that their leafy new neighborhoods are part of growing metropolitan sprawl. Hayden reveals seven basic landscape patterns that have brought us to the present, from nineteenth-century utopian communities and elite picturesque enclaves to early twentieth-century streetcar subdivisions and owner-built tracts to the vast postwar sitcom suburbs and the subsidized malls and office parks that followed. She explores the interplay of natural and built environments, the complex antagonisms between real-estate developers and suburban residents, the hidden role of federal government, and the religious and ideological overtones of the “American dream” embedded in the suburbs. Hayden asks who has benefited from the suburban building process, challenges definitions of “smart growth” and “green building,” and makes a case for the repair of existing neighborhoods in place of unchecked new growth on rural fringes. Few readers will see suburbs in the same way again.

Praise for this book:

Whereas most successful guides make the foreign more familiar, Dolores Hayden tours us through the familiar landscape of American suburbia and, with great verve, makes it more foreign--much more diverse, complex, and important. Ordinary suburban homes, neighborhoods, and communities suddenly yield new insights into our past values--and future possibilities.

— Lizabeth Cohen, author of A Consumers' Republic: The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

Dolores Hayden is a unique urban pathfinder. In this book she traces the history of our suburban metropolises, guiding the reader through seven easily recognized on-the-street patterns.

— Sam Bass Warner, Jr., author of Streetcar Suburbs

We think of suburbs as standardized places. Dolores Hayden shows us, for the first time, the remarkable diversity of suburban environments that Americans have produced over two centuries. Lucid, original, and abundantly illustrated, Building Suburbia is that delightful rarity: a scholarly book with a critical perspective and wide appeal."

— Richard Harris, author of Unplanned Suburbs: Toronto’s American Tragedy, 1900-1950

Building Suburbia is compelling and beautifully written... Hayden redefines the American Dream and critiques the rise of segregated housing and the isolated communities characteristic of the suburban landscape. There is no other book quite like this one because of its accessibility and breadth of scholarship. It will attract a wide audience as well as academic acclaim.

— Setha Low, author of Behind the Gates: Life, Security, and the Pursuit of Happiness in Fortress America

Building Suburbia will become the standard work on the suburban landscape the United States. At a time when debates about suburbia are dominated by smart growth and new urbanism, Hayden's important book provides both a much needed historical perspective and a vision of a future in which the suburbs are reused and not abandoned.

— Ann Forsyth, author of Constructing Suburbs: Competing Voices in a Debate Over Urban Growth