EDGE CITY by Joel Garreau


Life on the New Frontier
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 After the suburbanization of America in the 50's, when people followed new highways out to new one-family homes, came the malling of America in the 60's and 70's and then, in the 80's, the high- rise office buildings that brought the jobs suburb-ward and added critical mass to dozens of ``urban'' clumps now bigger than many of the major old cities they surround. Today more people commute to work along the edge than into the old downtowns. Garreau (The Nine Nations of North America, 1981) devotes separate chapters to different ``Edge City'' regions, using them as springboards to tackle several issues. Among these are the restriction of civil liberties where the village center, as in New Jersey's Bridgewater township, is a privately owned mall; the enforced conformity in residential communities like those near Phoenix that are run by a corporation rather than a municipal government; the complications of race and class around Atlanta; the conflicts between developers' ideas of highest and best use and preservationists' devotion to sacred sites, as in the newest battle at Bull Run in Virginia. In general, Garreau approves the Edge City trend, which he justifies with a simplistic market-capitalist assumption that if that's where people are, then that's what people want. He pretty much ignores, to name just two major counterarguments, the effects of federal spending policies that favor highways over inner cities, and the wants of the people left behind or deliberately excluded from the Edge facilities. Even on issues he does consider, such as quality of life and culture on the Edge or developers' motives for building, he avoids much hard evidence and harder questions. Still, a provocative work that brings to popular attention a major restructuring that is, as Garreau says, all around us but largely ignored by professional architects and planners.

Pub Date: Sept. 10th, 1991
ISBN: 0-385-26249-3
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1991