A Field Guide To Sprawl Dolores Hayden, Wiley 2004.128pp. £19.99
This is a simple dictionary of fashionable terminology employed by some real estate developers and agents in America. Each term is explained by a punchy paragraph and a strong visual representation.
The two work well together: the text is short, sharp and to the point, giving a wealth of information in 250-word soundbites; and Jim Wark's aerial photography illustrates beautifully the subject under discussion.
Terms covered include 'litter on a stick' (a slang term for billboard advertising); 'starter castle' (for 'houses of exaggerated size and aspirations'); or 'snout houses' (those suburban dwellings with snubnosed garages pointed towards the road and dominating the frontage, effectively blocking out other elevational considerations).
The purpose of the book is to make a point about the ridiculousness of urban sprawl and to state that 'the visual culture of sprawl should read as the material representation of a political economy organised around unsustainable growth'. The hectoring and self-satisfied tone of the introduction is reflected in the snide response to suburbia and all who live there. This book, therefore, reflects on the chattering classes' new list of no-nos if, for 'sprawl, ' you read, 'irresponsible behaviour'.