A FIELD GUIDE TO SPRAWL

Dolores Hayden, Author, Jim Wark, Author, Jim Wark, Photographer
Dolores Hayden, Author, Jim Wark, Author, Jim Wark, Photographer , with photos by Jim Wark. Norton $24.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-393-73125-5
Reviewed on: 05/03/2004
Release date: 07/01/2004
Paperback - 128 pages - 978-0-393-73198-9
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A mere glance through the pages of this book offers a quick education about the excesses of the recently built environment. By its very nature, sprawl is hard to identify and track, but Hayden, a Yale professor of architecture and American studies, provides a combination of informed but breezy text and 75 large, crisp color images that greatly simplify the task of "decoding everyday American landscapes." Organized alphabetically, with a big two-page spread for each entry, the book moves from "alligator" (an investment that "eats" cash flow, represented here by the vast and ghostly grid of an unbuilt New Mexico suburb) to "zoomburb" (a suburb on steroids, illustrated here by Arizona's spiraling Sun City). Along the way, the reader comes to the depressing understanding that troubling phenomena one might have thought strictly local or temporary—for instance, houses where the garage is the dominant projecting feature—are common enough to have acquired names, in this case "snout house." But more than a set of colorful terms—all of which, from "ball pork" to "parsley round the pig" are carefully sourced—this book is a concise guide to not only sprawl itself but to the powerful political and financial forces that sustain it. If the book has one problematic aspect, it is that Wark's aerial photographs are often so vividly beautiful that they risk aestheticizing their often grim subjects—but their seductive quality serves to draw the viewer into Hayden's passionately sustained argument. (June)

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