25 July 2006

A Field Guide to Sprawl

I just picked up a little picture book A Field Guide to Sprawl (WW Norton, 2004) which is a collaborative work by author Dolores Hayden who teaches at hte Architecture School at Yale and aerial photographer Jim Wark. The book offers an "illustrated vocabulary of sprawl," a lexicon for envisioning and discussing the consequences of uncontrolled land use.In her introduction Hayden writes: "When people struggle to interpret their local landscapes aerial photographs reveal the scale of existing and new development. In an era when a truck stop can be larger than a traditional town, aerial images convey the vast spread of twenty-first- century development and can bring up-to-the- minute data on the progress of construction. Also, aerial photographs can be understood by people without technical training in a way zoning maps, zoning codes, satellite surveys, and traditional site plans cannot. If shot at altitutdes of 1,000 to 2,ooo feet, they can show building facades as well as site massing. Although they rarely include recognizable people, when aerial images are shot at oblique angles and at relatively low altitutdes, showing land and buildings together, they entwine natural and constructed elements. Low-level, oblique-angle pictures can establish a complete visual inventory of a town because they can show inaccessible places such as wetlands or steep terrain, and reveal hidden sites such a dumps or gated communities."

Here are a couple of examples of images from the book that illustate the difficulty of envisioning "hidden sites" of the sort Hayden mentions:

Tire Recycling Dump. Midway, Colorado, CO, United States. (11/5/1997) © Jim Wark.

Golf Condos. Palm Desert, California, CA United States (3/10/2002) © Jim Wark.

On the highly questionable economic consequences of sprawl I recommend: Robert W. Burchell, Anthony Downs, and Sahan Mukherji, Sprawl Costs (Washington D.C.: Island Press, 2005) as a terrific companion to the Hayden/Wark book. Burchell, et. al. puncture the common refrain that only uncontrolled development is economically viable.

Labels: ,


Blogger chuk said...

this is interesting, thanks for posting. in case you hadnt seen another book on the same theme


20 June, 2007 02:29  

Post a Comment

<< Home