Last year, author and Georgia Tech professor Ellen Dunham-Jones spoke to an Atlanta audience on the topic of “retrofitting suburbia,” delivering a riveting 20-minute TED Talk, one of the first for that website.
Her landmark work on this subject, Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions For Redesigning The Suburbs, was released two years ago.
Now, Retrofitting Suburbia has been released in an updated edition.
It serves as a comprehensive guide book for urban designers, planners, architects, developers, environmentalists, and community leaders that illustrates how existing suburban developments can be redesigned into more urban and more sustainable places.
While there has been considerable attention by practitioners and academics to development in urban cores and new neighborhoods on the periphery of cities, there has been little attention to the redesign and redevelopment of existing suburbs.
Dunham-Jones and co-author June Williamson, both architects and noted experts on the subject, show how development in existing suburbs can absorb new growth and evolve in relation to changed demographic, technological, and economic conditions.
In the TED talk above, she dispels several assumptions about suburbia and discusses those demographic shifts in detail.
For example, since 2000, two-thirds of suburban households do not have kids in them.
She details the emerging dynamic of “huge” demand for urban lifestyles in suburbia.
Dunham-Jones goes on to explain the growing phenomenon of “underperforming asphalt” and what repurposing underperforming dead malls and office parks can mean for our collective future. (Eight of 13 regional malls in Denver are now undergoing some phase of “retrofitting”).
While “pockets of walkability” are nice, she goes on to explain how new corridors are providing systemic transformation by fundamentally altering towns and cities without spreading further outward or other “less green” solutions to meet the challenges of growth.
With hands-on lessons for architects and planners, Retrofitting Suburbia:
documents innovative case stufies of prototypical American suburban developments (malls, commercial strips, office parks, cul-de-sac subdivisions) that have been retrofitted to new uses and forms
provides examples of how a dead mall can be transformed into a thriving mall and office park with transit-oriented downtown, how malls can incorporate housing and other mixed uses, and how a failed mall can be converted to wetland or public park
covers retrofits of office and industrial parks, residential subdivisions, and suburban apartment complexes
When the first edition was released two years ago, it was named winner in the Architecture & Urban Planning category of the 2009 American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence (The PROSE Awards) awarded by The Professional and Scholarly Publishing (PSP) Division of the Association of American Publishers.
Both the book and the lecture are worth a look.