It was two years ago when we helped bring to Memphis Jeff Speck, former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts. His seminal book, Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, is being reissued for its 10th anniversary. When he was in Memphis, he issued his 10 modest suggestions for improving Memphis. Recently, he provided his list of 10 things he hates about suburban sprawl. Unfortunately, these apply to our community, too
“Over a decade ago, when we started writing our book, “Suburban Nation,” we had no idea how quickly the conversation was about to change. The New Urban critique of sprawl, initiated by my co-authors in the late seventies, was at first an aesthetic discussion — by God, this stuff is ugly. But then, when they discovered that it was possible to build real towns again, it became a social discussion — we shouldn’t have to live our lives stuck in traffic between the soulless subdivision and the plastic shopping mall.
“But now, a preference has become a mandate, as sprawl has quietly been identified as a central cause behind a growing list of mounting national crises including foreign oil dependency, climate change, and the obesity epidemic. With economists, environmentalists, and epidemiologists all bemoaning suburbia, it is a good time to step back and remind ourselves what we’re still up against.”