Suburban Form: An International Perspective

Suburban Form: An International Perspective

Suburban Form: An International Perspective

Suburban Form: An International Perspective


Based upon the International Seminar on Urban Form (ISUF) held in Cincinnati in September 2001, Suburban Form, examines and documents the remarkable development and transformation of suburban form worldwide in the twentieth century.


In September 2001, the co-editors of this book convened the bi-annual conference of the International Seminar on Urban Form (ISUF) in Cincinnati, which attracted some 150 academics, practitioners, and public officials from 14 countries. They represented an interesting interdisciplinary mix of geographers, archeologists, architects, historians, and city planners.

ISUF is an active organization of about 300 researchers in a variety of disciplinary fields who are engaged in studying the form of cities and the transformation of these forms over time. The study of urban form is called “urban morphology.” Several different approaches or paradigms of urban morphology arose during the first half of the twentieth century. Working in parallel, but without much knowledge of each other at first, were research groups in England, France, and Italy. Over a period of years, these groups were brought together.

Since its formation in 1994, the greatest task of ISUF has always been to conquer the boundaries between these disparate research groups so that their knowledge and insights and methods can be shared. This is no small task, made especially difficult by acutely different disciplinary perspectives, seminal texts in at least four different languages, and methods arising from analyzing the divergent urban forms of, say, small English villages and Japanese castle towns. We often communicate in maps and diagrams and photos as much as in texts, which is why this book is heavily illustrated. Like academics do everywhere, we argue over the definitions of words and terms - tissues, organic form, districts, typology. We use our different perspectives to challenge each other and to offer completely different interpretations of the same data.

In the richness of this debate, the entire field of urban morphology is slowly becoming more precise, more engaging, and more relevant on a global scale. Now, we are able to compare the hill towns of Italy with hill towns everywhere, using similar theories, points of comparison, and methods.

This book is a compilation of eleven essays prepared for the ISUF 2001 conference in Cincinnati and selected by the editors for their important global perspectives on suburban development. All share the perspective of an urban morphologist as that definition is being evolved - all are looking at the transformation of urban form over time. What makes this especially interesting though is that urban morphologists until recently have not paid much attention to the suburbs, as the field essentially began with

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