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Architecture and Suburbia

From English Villa to American Dream House, 1690-2000

2008
Author:

John Archer

Architecture and Suburbia

An illustrated cultural history of the residential landscape of suburbia

John Archer argues that the ideal house is rooted in notions of privacy, property, and selfhood that are the foundation of the American nation and identity. From Enlightenment philosophy to rap lyrics, from the rise of a mercantile economy to discussions over neighborhoods, sprawl, and gated communities, Architecture and Suburbia addresses the past, present, and future of the American dream house.

John Archer shows that the suburban house and landscape raise the most profound issues of 'self, identity, gender, and relation to family and society.' Archer is both a compelling theorist and an adventurous researcher.

Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan

The American suburban dream house—a single-family, detached dwelling, frequently clustered in tight rows and cul-de-sacs—has been attacked for some time as homogeneous and barren, yet the suburbs are home to half of the American population. Architectural historian John Archer suggests the endurance of the ideal house is deeply rooted in the notions of privacy, property, and selfhood that were introduced in late seventeenth-century England and became the foundation of the American nation and identity.

Spanning four centuries, Architecture and Suburbia explores phenomena ranging from household furnishings and routines to the proliferation of the dream house in parallel with Cold War politics. Beginning with John Locke, whose Enlightenment philosophy imagined individuals capable of self-fulfillment, Archer examines the eighteenth-century British bourgeois villa and the earliest London suburbs. He recounts how early American homeowners used houses to establish social status and how twentieth-century Americans continued to flock to single-family houses in the suburbs, encouraged by patriotism, fueled by consumerism, and resisting disdain by disaffected youths, designers, and intellectuals. Finally, he recognizes “hybridized” or increasingly diverse American suburbs as the dynamic basis for a strengthened social fabric.

From Enlightenment philosophy to rap lyrics, from the rise of a mercantile economy to discussions over neighborhoods, sprawl, and gated communities, Archer addresses the past, present, and future of the American dream house.

Awards

The Society of Architectural Historians’ Alice Davis Hitchcock Book Award winner

Architecture and Suburbia

John Archer is professor of cultural studies and comparative literature at the University of Minnesota. His book The Literature of British Domestic Architecture, 1715-1842, is the standard reference on the subject, and he also contributed to the Encyclopedia of Urban America and the Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century Architecture.

Architecture and Suburbia

John Archer shows that the suburban house and landscape raise the most profound issues of 'self, identity, gender, and relation to family and society.' Archer is both a compelling theorist and an adventurous researcher.

Robert Fishman, Taubman College of Architecture and Planning, University of Michigan

Archer probes deeply into a very compelling topic and he brings a strong background and eloquent voice to the task.

Gwendolyn Wright, Columbia University

Exploring four centuries, this book explores phenomena ranging from household furnishing and routines, to the proliferation of the dream house in parallel with Cold War politics.

Abstracts of Public Administration, Development, and the Environment

Engaging. Archer is adept at illuminating both fine-grained architectural history and theoretical conceptualizations of space and identity. Architecture and Suburbia is a thorough and compelling work that extends our current understanding of modern suburbia and, in doing so, provokes a reconsideration of these often derided but ever popular landscapes.

Social & Cultural Geography

Archer is to be commended for deliberately and successfully spanning the realms of philosophy and populism. Highly recommended.

Choice

Archer’s book is substantive enough to be a text in college courses on suburban studies, while also being accessible and engaging enough as a timely work of cultural studies for the general reader. The work demonstrates how fertile this subject is while bringing it into focus and drawing the avenues for further exploration of it

Midwest Book Review

John Archer's Architecture and Suburbia is an original addition to the growing range of histories of suburbia. In a large and attractively illustrated history of both the interiors and exteriors of suburban housing, Archer eschews the parochialism that often limits American histories of suburbia by exploring in some detail the transatlantic English influences that have shaped the suburban dream in modern North America. Archer has made a strong and unique contribution to suburban history that will be of interest to a wide range of scholars working in urban and suburban history, planning history, social history, architectural studies, cultural studies and housing policy. Architecture and Suburbia certainly deserves a wide readership.

H-Urban

Architecture and Suburbia is quietly fascinating, engagingly thorough, and completely riveting.

Architectural Record

Scholarly, informative, and gracefully written. Architecture and Suburbia contains all you need to know about suburban history—and provides a compelling glimpse of the future.

Public Art Review

John Archer’s thoroughly researched examination of the roots of the American Dream remains a major contribution to the literature on American suburbs.

Buildings & Landscapes

Archer’s masterful and expansive work will interest a broad spectrum of scholars from architectural, cultural, planning, suburban, and urban studies, and is an important contribution to the study of suburbia in the United States.

American Studies

Architecture and Suburbia

Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: Self, House, and Suburb

Introduction: Built Spaces and Identity

PART I. EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY ENGLAND: THE GENESIS OF THE BOURGEOIS DWELLING

1. Locating the Self in Space
2.Villa Suburbana, Terra Suburbana
3. The Apparatus of Selfhood

PART II. NINETEENTH-CENTURY AMERICA: REPUBLICAN HOMES IN ARCADIAN SUBURBS

4. Republican Pastoral: Toward a Bourgeois Arcadia
5. Suburbanizing the Self

PART III. TWENTIETH-CENTURY AMERICA: THE DREAM HOUSE IDEAL AND THE SUBURBAN LANDSCAPE

6. Nationalizing the Dream
7. Analyzing the Dream

Conclusion: Reframing Suburbia

Coda: Looking Ahead
Notes
Permissions

Index