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As anyone who has flown into Los Angeles at dusk or Houston at midday knows, urban areas today defy traditional notions of what a city is. Our old definitions of urban, suburban, and rural fail to capture the complexity of these vast regions with their superhighways, subdivisions, industrial areas, office parks, and resort areas pushing far out into the countryside. Detractors call it sprawl and assert that it is economically inefficient, socially inequitable, environmentally irresponsible, and aesthetically ugly. Robert Bruegmann calls it a logical consequence of economic growth and the democratization of society, with benefits that urban planners have failed to recognize. In his incisive history of the expanded city, Bruegmann overturns every assumption we have about sprawl. Taking a long view of urban development, he demonstrates that sprawl is neither recent nor particularly American but as old as cities themselves, just as characteristic of ancient Rome and eighteenth-century Paris as it is of Atlanta or Los Angeles. Nor is sprawl the disaster claimed by many contemporary observers. Although sprawl, like any settlement pattern, has undoubtedly produced problems that must be addressed, it has also provided millions of people with the kinds of mobility, privacy, and choice that were once the exclusive prerogatives of the rich and powerful. The first major book to strip urban sprawl of its pejorative connotations, Sprawl offers a completely new vision of the city and its growth. Bruegmann leads readers to the powerful conclusion that "in its immense complexity and constant change, the city-whether dense and concentrated at its core, looser and more sprawling in suburbia, or in the vast tracts of exurban penumbra that extend dozens, even hundreds, of miles-is the grandest and most marvelous work of mankind." “Largely missing from this debate [over sprawl] has been a sound and reasoned history of this pattern of living. With Robert Bruegmann’s Sprawl: A Compact History, we now have one. What a pleasure it is: well-written, accessible and eager to challenge the current cant about sprawl.”—Joel Kotkin, The Wall Street Journal “There are scores of books offering ‘solutions’ to sprawl. Their authors would do well to read this book.”—Witold Rybczynski, Slate
A history of the expanded city and of urban sprawl offers a new vision of the city and its growth and refutes commonly held assumptions about sprawl in suburbia, urban areas, and other locales near major urban centers.
In our architectural pursuits, we often seem to be in search of something newer, grander, or more efficient—and this phenomenon is not novel. In the spring of 1910 hundreds of workers labored day and night to demolish the Gillender Building in New York, once the loftiest office tower in the world, in order to make way for a taller skyscraper. The New York Times puzzled over those who would sacrifice the thirteen-year-old structure, “as ruthlessly as though it were some ancient shack.” In New York alone, the Gillender joined the original Grand Central Terminal, the Plaza Hotel, the Western Union Building, and the Tower Building on the list of just one generation’s razed metropolitan monuments. In the innovative and wide-ranging Obsolescence, Daniel M. Abramson investigates this notion of architectural expendability and the logic by which buildings lose their value and utility. The idea that the new necessarily outperforms and makes superfluous the old, Abramson argues, helps people come to terms with modernity and capitalism’s fast-paced change. Obsolescence, then, gives an unsettling experience purpose and meaning. Belief in obsolescence, as Abramson shows, also profoundly affects architectural design. In the 1960s, many architects worldwide accepted the inevitability of obsolescence, experimenting with flexible, modular designs, from open-plan schools, offices, labs, and museums to vast megastructural frames and indeterminate building complexes. Some architects went so far as to embrace obsolescence’s liberating promise to cast aside convention and habit, envisioning expendable short-life buildings that embodied human choice and freedom. Others, we learn, were horrified by the implications of this ephemerality and waste, and their resistance eventually set the stage for our turn to sustainability—the conservation rather than disposal of resources. Abramson’s fascinating tour of our idea of obsolescence culminates in an assessment of recent manifestations of sustainability, from adaptive reuse and historic preservation to postmodernism and green design, which all struggle to comprehend and manage the changes that challenge us on all sides.
There is a wealth of research and literature explaining suburban sprawl and the urgent need to retrofit suburbia. However, until now there has been no single guide that directly explains how to repair typical sprawl elements. The Sprawl Repair Manual demonstrates a step-by-step design process for the re-balancing and re-urbanization of suburbia into more sustainable, economical, energy- and resource-efficient patterns, from the region and the community to the block and the individual building. As Galina Tachieva asserts in this exceptionally useful book, sprawl repair will require a proactive and aggressive approach, focused on design, regulation and incentives. The Sprawl Repair Manual is a much-needed, single-volume reference for fixing sprawl, incorporating changes into the regulatory system, and implementing repairs through incentives and permitting strategies. This manual specifies the expertise that’s needed and details the techniques and algorithms of sprawl repair within the context of reducing the financial and ecological footprint of urban growth. The Sprawl Repair Manual draws on more than two decades of practical experience in the field of repairing and building communities to analyze the current pattern of sprawl development, disassemble it into its elemental components, and present a process for transforming them into human-scale, sustainable elements. The techniques are illustrated both two- and three-dimensionally, providing users with clear methodologies for the sprawl repair interventions, some of which are radical, but all of which will produce positive results.
Phoenix, Arizona is one of America's fastest growing metropolitan regions. It is also its least sustainable one, sprawling over a thousand square miles, with a population of four and a half million, minimal rainfall, scorching heat, and an insatiable appetite for unrestrained growth and unrestricted property rights. In Bird on Fire, eminent social and cultural analyst Andrew Ross focuses on the prospects for sustainability in Phoenix--a city in the bull's eye of global warming--and also the obstacles that stand in the way. Most authors writing on sustainable cities look at places that have excellent public transit systems and relatively high density, such as Portland, Seattle, or New York. But Ross contends that if we can't change the game in fast-growing, low-density cities like Phoenix, the whole movement has a major problem. Drawing on interviews with 200 influential residents--from state legislators, urban planners, developers, and green business advocates to civil rights champions, energy lobbyists, solar entrepreneurs, and community activists--Ross argues that if Phoenix is ever to become sustainable, it will occur more through political and social change than through technological fixes. Ross explains how Arizona's increasingly xenophobic immigration laws, science-denying legislature, and growth-at-all-costs business ethic have perpetuated social injustice and environmental degradation. But he also highlights the positive changes happening in Phoenix, in particular the Gila River Indian Community's successful struggle to win back its water rights, potentially shifting resources away from new housing developments to producing healthy local food for the people of the Phoenix Basin. Ross argues that this victory may serve as a new model for how green democracy can work, redressing the claims of those who have been aggrieved in a way that creates long-term benefits for all. Bird on Fire offers a compelling take on one of the pressing issues of our time--finding pathways to sustainability at a time when governments are dismally failing in their responsibility to address climate change.
A noted urban historian traces the story of the suburb from its origins in nineteenth-century London to its twentieth-century demise in decentralized cities like Los Angeles.
It’s easy to stand in awe of a city’s impressive skyline, marveling at its buildings reaching for the clouds and its vast network of roadways and train lines crisscrossing in every direction. It can often seem like everything in a city is man-made, all concrete, steel, and glass. But even the asphalt jungle is not all asphalt—a sidewalk’s cracks are filled with nature, if we know where and how to look. To aid us in this quest is Nature All Around Us, which will help us to recognize (and look after) the natural world we traipse through in our daily lives. Nature All Around Us uses the familiar—such as summer Sundays humming with lawn mowers, gray squirrels foraging in planters, and flocks of pigeons—in order to introduce basic ecological concepts. In twenty-five short chapters organized by scale, from the home to the neighborhood to the city at large, it offers a subtle and entertaining education in ecology sure to inspire appreciation and ultimately stewardship of the environment. Various ecological concepts that any urban dweller might encounter are approachably examined, from understanding why a squirrel might act aggressively towards its neighbor to how nutrients and energy contained within a discarded apple core are recycled back into the food chain. Streaming through the work is an introduction to basic ecology, including the dangers of invasive species and the crucial role played by plants and trees in maintaining air quality. Taken as a whole, Nature All Around Us is an unprecedented field guide to the ecology of the urban environment that invites us to look at our towns, cities, and even our backyards through the eyes of an ecologist. It is an entertaining, educational, and inspiring glimpse into nature in seemingly unnatural settings, a reminder that we don’t have to trek into the wild to see nature—we just have to open our eyes.