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Sprawl Repair Manual

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There is a wealth of research and literature explaining suburban sprawl and the urgent need to retrofit suburbia. However, until now there has been no single guide that directly explains how  to repair typical sprawl elements. The Sprawl Repair Manual demonstrates a step-by-step design process for the re-balancing and re-urbanization of suburbia into more sustainable, economical, energy- and resource-efficient patterns, from the region and the community to the block and the individual building. As Galina Tachieva asserts in this exceptionally useful book, sprawl repair will require a proactive and aggressive approach, focused on design, regulation and incentives .  The Sprawl Repair Manual is a much-needed, single-volume reference for fixing sprawl, incorporating changes into the regulatory system, and implementing repairs through incentives and permitting strategies. This manual specifies the expertise that’s needed and details the techniques and algorithms of sprawl repair within the context of reducing the financial and ecological footprint of urban growth.

The Sprawl Repair Manual draws on more than two decades of practical experience in the field of repairing and building communities to analyze the current pattern of sprawl development, disassemble it into its elemental components, and present a process for transforming them into human-scale, sustainable elements. The techniques are illustrated both two- and three-dimensionally, providing users with clear methodologies for the sprawl repair interventions, some of which are radical, but all of which will produce positive results.

304 pages, Paperback

First published July 22, 2010

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Galina Tachieva

3 books2 followers

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5 stars
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4 stars
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3 stars
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2 stars
8 (11%)
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Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews
284 reviews2 followers
June 30, 2011
It's told from an architect's point of view, so it's great at allowing you to imagine how the sprawliest suburbs of today could be retrofitted for density and walkability. The pictures are fantastic. It doesn't, however, really take seriously the idea that the suburbs are how they are for a reason. Sure, you could put a row of mews through the backyards of a line of McMansions, but what would it take for that to happen? And yes, you could redesign gas stations to put pedestrian uses along the sidewalk, but that doesn't even happen in NYC - there's probably a reason.
Profile Image for Paul.
96 reviews
January 20, 2020
Very torn about this book.
Pros: delightful imaginings of possible futures for what will almost inevitably be an outdated building mode. Good illustrations to facilitate thinking.

Cons: every solution in this book involves coordinated efforts at the local, state, and possibly federal level on both political and legal fronts. Property would have to seized and re-allocated. That’s a challenge, for sure, especially in our country where property rights are paramount. It almost makes it seem willfully naive about the situation.

The real problem with this approach to sprawl repair is that, because NIMBYism and commitment to auto-oriented culture is so deeply embedded in the middle-class imagination as a symbol of prosperity, any of these solutions is essentially dead on arrival. The political resistance would be too great.

On the other hand, how could a book approach this without itself throwing up its hands (?) in despair? I don’t know.
Profile Image for Jamie.
67 reviews
June 2, 2013
Very insightful guide that outlines practical methods for the difficult task of converting suburban landscapes into a traditional urban form. It contains a surprising amount of detail in some cases. There are dedicated chapters for multiple categories of sprawl, including neighborhoods, strip malls, big-box centers, parking structures, sports stadiums, and many others. Some of the solutions seem obvious, but others are quite innovative. It contains a large number of illustrations, which are generally very helpful and well done.

Quite a bit of overlap exists between some of the chapters. This is bound to happen due to the nature of this process, but it gets a bit repetitive. I think some of the common steps could be consolidated in one chapter and then have subsections for each unique type of development. The way the book is structured gets the point across though, and one can always skim the repetitive parts.

There are times in the book when the goals seem a little far-fetched, and one questions if the solutions proposed would be economically viable. Example: building high-density infill townhouses and apartments in an area surrounded by a surplus of cheap, vacant land. Or dedicating patches of land to growing local food, which is not economically feasible. Generally, using that vacant land to increase density is more useful than the token amount of food produced on small plots (see Edward Glaeser's books).

I can't criticize the book too much for it's slightly unrealistic views in this regard. It demonstrates the most optimistic possibilities of redevelopment and gives ideas on how to do that. While the reader may need to temper the enthusiasm with a bit of real-world caution, it's a very informative and timely book.
Profile Image for Cyrus Molavi.
110 reviews1 follower
December 19, 2021
Having read a couple reviews in advance, I was able to appreciate this one for what it is.

There's a periodic desire as we go through our lives to change what we see around us. We see seas of parking and barren lawns and wish we could just snap our fingers to fix them. This book delivers on that hollow gratification. It's a steady stream of visuals that shows us what our intellectual urges crave.

It's nothing like actually getting enmeshed in a real world project. It couldn't possibly ever just come off like this. I didn't agree with or appreciate a few of the minor choices throughout. (The mobility section was particularly weak.) No one would ever really go for these projects, the way they're presented. The book just chooses not to mire us in the complexities that come along with these sorts of transformations.

And that's okay. Who wants a book about the endless slog of shifting the continental paradigm about suburban development in the hearts and minds of the people who worked their whole lives to set it up this way? It'd be impossible to write. I didn't bother paying much attention to the measly narrative of the text, anyways. It was more about enjoying the pretty pictures as a way to fantasize about the solution.
Profile Image for uosɯɐS .
297 reviews
August 8, 2022
Overall I thought this book had great suggestions, and kept thinking how great it would be if there was a SimCity like game where you took sprawl scenarios and repaired them!

1. The author talks of repairing "open space." Probably parking lots and such are intended, but where I live "open space" is undeveloped land often of a scenic nature containing native plants, supporting wild life, trails, etc. We don't need to repair that, we need more! See: pollinator corridors, native plants landscaping, trails, nature centers, wild life crossings, etc.
2. The number one focus seems to be on increasing density. While good, I don't think this is entirely necessary. I think increasing mixed-use and pedestrian connectivity should be the priorities. Pedestrian connectivity is mentioned, but almost always in tandem with car connectivity. Likewise, mixed use is mentioned, but not discussed in as much detail as I would have hoped.
3. Only one mention of co-housing (McMansions retrofitted for student or senior living. If people are segregated by age is that really co-housing?)
Profile Image for Nathan.
100 reviews
January 12, 2021
I enjoyed this book, although it is really more of a desk reference or guide. The illustrations were helpful in understanding the recommended repairs for various types of suburban sprawl. I would have preferred more real-life examples of sprawl repair instead of sketches. I also felt the book was repetitive at times as the same solution (densification and infill construction) was suggested for many of the sprawl repairs. Interesting overall!
Profile Image for Emil.
9 reviews
June 26, 2018
Seem pretty specific to some american planning concepts. Lots and lots and lots of parking.
6 reviews1 follower
May 7, 2013
This is an excellent book for practitioners in urban design or planning. Highly visual, it inspires some fantastic design ideas for sprawling neighbourhoods with less emphasis on text or the usual historical sprawl narrative that preludes almost every book relating to suburbs. I love that I can just pick the book up and flip to a section to quickly see design strategies for whatever kind of suburban landscape I can think of, without having to sit down and work through bulky and unnecessary text that is too often included in urban design-related material. This is certainly not a standard theory book, it is what it claims to be: a manual.
Profile Image for Alan Cunningham.
30 reviews2 followers
April 21, 2014
This is not so much a book as a reference work, like a dictionary. A great reference for rebuilding for walkability in many different situations

My difficulty with this is that it is written like an English dictionary that spares no opportunity to demote French.
Profile Image for David Mcphee.
21 reviews4 followers
Want to read
December 30, 2010
important book - we need to turn solutions to spawl into market choice for suburbanites already the choice of a new generation.
Profile Image for Stuart.
5 reviews26 followers
August 15, 2012
Excellent ideas and imagery, though not a very exciting read. Formulaic and repetitive. The illustrations are a highlight.
Displaying 1 - 11 of 11 reviews

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