New Edition of Dunham-Jones and Williamson's Retrofitting Suburbia Available; More Relevant than Ever
When Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson's Retrofitting Suburbia first appeared in 2009, the book seemed eerily prescient for a country still teetering on the economic edge and wondering what its landscape would look like upon waking. With the housing market in decline and an unstable recovery barely afoot, the book offered a series of salvos for revitalizing the ever-encroaching march of underutilized and vacant spaces popping up all over the nation. Come 2011, with the country still paving an highly unsteady path towards a full economic rebound, Retrofitting Suburbia now reads like a go-to action planner for reclaiming America's vast dead spaces and invigorating them with renewed purpose.
In a newly released paperback edition of the book, courtesy of Wiley, Dunham-Jones and Williamson provide readers with a "2011 Update" showing how popular attitudes have changed for the better within the last few years. In the update, Dunham-Jones and Williamson write "a wide range of indicators and policy directions encourage us to be cautiously optimistic that infill development and suburban retrofitting will increasingly lead the real estate industry." Supporting facts such as the "median square footage of new single-family homes dropped from 2,277 in 2007 to 2,135 in 2009" and that "the difference in the growth rate between cities and suburbs narrowed significantly in the second half of the decade" (which paints a more complete picture than a strict reading of the recent 2010 Census results, and of some of the recent analysis provided by Kotkin/Cox), position Retrofitting Suburbia as a leading guide to reclaiming deadened areas and stimulating them through good design.
One of the more refreshing aspects of Retrofitting Suburbia is that while it is obviously concerned with curbing and re-outfitting unsustainable sprawl, it also shows an open-mindedness towards the adaptive reuse of strip mall centers where appropriate. In the chapter "Retrofitting Social Life Among the Commercial Strips," Dunham-Jones and Williamson write about "the silver lining to the failure of a big box is the availability of cheap space for alternative uses." Later on in the chapter, a photo of a Los Angeles strip mall being used by a diverse group of tenants is captioned, "Retrofitting strip malls may not always be in a community's interest, especially if its uses are providing spaces for diversification beyond standard retail..." Such acknowledgment reveals that Dunham-Jones and Williamson's main concern is that of effective placemaking, unlocking the potential of place to reveal itself.
Retrofitting Suburbia is mainly concerned with giving meaning to place. Applying a right fix that gives credence to the centrality of place and creates lasting power through efficient and effective use. With a foreword by Richard Florida, who calls the work of Dunham-Jones and Williamson a "highly convincing argument for both the desirability and the feasibility of redeveloping failed suburban properties into more sustainable places," this new edition of Retrofitting Suburbia secures the title as an integral part to (re)development in the age of The New Normal.
Purchase the newly released paperback edition of Retrofitting Suburbia through Wiley by clicking here.
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