“Soul of the Suburbs” by Andrew O’Hehir in Salon, a popular electronic journal, is a review and discussion of Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream and Picture Windows: How the Suburbs Happened two books that explore in complementary fashion the failure of the suburb as a social environment.


In Suburban Nation, Andrés Duany, Elizabeth and Plater-Zyberk argue that a community-based lifestyle is within reach through New Urbanism planning principles.  These call for mixed-use, mixed-income developments designed to encourage street life and public transit and discourage isolation, traffic and waste.


Focusing on the history of Long Island as the prototypical suburb Rosalyn Baxandall and Elizabeth Ewen in Picture Windows demonstrate that the suburb has been shaped by conflict and activism from its earliest days. The authors criticize New Urbanism practices as producing “a packaged collection of nostalgia from a past that never was—except perhaps on television.”

Soul of the suburbs

From "American Beauty" to the New York Times, those who satirize and celebrate the burbs seldom understand how they got the way they are.

by Andrew O'Hehir