The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States

The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States

The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States

The Suburban Environment: Sweden and the United States

Excerpt

The suburb--a community which lies apart from the city but is adjacent to and dependent on it--is not a latecomer in world history. Its origins go back almost as far as the city itself. Traces of suburban development can be found at the sites of the earliest Mesopotamian cities, where scattered buildings were unearthed outside the main city boundaries. There is substantial knowledge about suburbs in the Middle Ages. The wealthiest city dwellers then were able to establish small settlements of country homes in the urban hinterland; their work tied them to the city, but they were able to avoid the city's ills in much of their residential life. As Lewis Mumford has put it, "one might say that the modern suburb began as a sort of rural isolation ward"; it became in time "the collective urban form of the country house."

So long as means of transportation remained primitive, suburbs were limited to the wealthy-- the ordinary urban worker had to live within walking distance of his place of employment. The city began to decentralize in earnest with the coming of the first vehicles of mass transportation, and the process of suburbanization intensified with the advent of the steam locomotive and later the suburban trolley line. These means of transportation were expensive, however, and relatively inflexible. The nineteenth- and early twentieth- century suburbs were well beyond the means of even the middle-class worker, and suburban devel-

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