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February 24, 2006

Is sprawl good, after all?

I have always assumed that sprawl is a Bad Thing. For Jane Jacobs, in ‘Dark Age Ahead’, urban sprawl is something that "murders communities, and wastes land, time, and energy". Sprawl is frequently blamed for environmentally-damaging transport intensity, the collapse of communities, even obesity. But James Woudhuysen, for one, thinks density has been over-sold, and that land in many countries is under- not over-used. The author of "Why is Construction So Backward" is a speaker at an intriguing seminar in London on 3 March. He appears with Ken Yeang (international architect and author "The Green Skyscraper") and Tristram Hunt, historian, broadcaster and author of the excellent Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City. The seminar is organised by Austin Williams, Director of the Future Cities Project.

Posted by John Thackara at February 24, 2006 07:01 PM


I think in a country the size of the UK, sprawl is definitely bad as we have so little land left for wilderness. But in a bigger country sprawl needn't be bad if there are plenty of gardens and parks to allow nature some space and if there are small neighbourhood centres to reduce the need to travel forever to get to useful services.

Posted by: Crafty Green Poet at February 24, 2006 10:50 AM

"...land in many countries is under- not over-used"

Isn't underuse precisely the problem of sprawl? Geography of Nowhere and Suburban Nation are more contemporary explorations that reinforce Jacobs' view. Density by itself isn't a panacea (as Jacobs admits) but that's a long way from advocating sprawl.

My understanding is that sprawl isn't really ever planned, much less advocated. I'm interested in what he has to say.

Posted by: Jeff at February 28, 2006 08:20 AM

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