Monday, June 05, 2006

Book Review: Sprawltown

Sprawltown: Looking for the City on Its Edges by Richard Ingersoll

In this short book on the all-too-popular subject of sprawl, Richard Ingersoll adopts a critical stance not towards its existence but towards its future. Five chapters propose various ways of looking at the peripheral condition that is now ubiquitous in America and much of the rest of the Modern world: sprawl as its own ecology; the relationship between tourism and terrorism; "Jump-cut Urbanism", or a cinematic view of the condition; and the artistic view of infrastructure. Each chapter sticks to a consistent outline of stating a problem, touching on personalities in the past that tackled the problem, and then proposing ways of improving sprawl through an appropriate tactic. This last is becoming a common approach as architects and planners realize that sprawl is an inevitable condition that can't be abated by their criticism and grumblings, though the author acknowledges that environmental factors, more than human, will push us to change our ways. What that future may be is hinted in the book's title, where instead of a just an unfocused visual frame out our car window (sprawl), we might just see sprawl turn into something with roots (town), perhaps evolving a new entity that even early planners couldn't foresee.