Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City



America's suburbs are not the homogenous places we sometimes take them for. Today's suburbs are racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, with as many Democratic as Republican voters, a growing population of renters, and rising poverty. The cliche of white picket fences is well past its expiration date.

The history of suburbia is equally surprising: American suburbs were once fertile ground for utopian planning, communal living, socially-conscious design, and integrated housing. We have forgotten that we built suburbs like these, such as the co-housing commune of Old Economy, Pennsylvania; a tiny-house anarchist community in Piscataway, New Jersey; a government-planned garden city in Greenbelt, Maryland; a racially integrated subdivision (before the Fair Housing Act) in Trevose, Pennsylvania; experimental Modernist enclaves in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the mixed-use, architecturally daring Reston, Virginia.

Inside Radical Suburbs you will find blueprints for affordable, walkable, and integrated communities, filled with a range of environmentally sound residential options. Radical Suburbs is a history that will help us remake the future and rethink our assumptions of suburbia.

Product Details

$16.95  $15.59
Belt Publishing
Publish Date
April 09, 2019
4.9 X 0.6 X 7.2 inches | 0.4 pounds
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About the Author

Amanda Kolson Hurley is a writer who specializes in architecture and urban planning and a senior editor at CityLab. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Architect magazine, The American Scholar, and many other publications. She lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.


"A kind of Invisible Cities of urban planning--a short, concise collection of American dreams about what leaving the city and building a new community could mean, and what changed those dreams over time. [Radical Suburbs] is a glimpse into sometime even more exciting--a future that is, as yet, unwritten." --Heather Smith, Sierra
"The overall history of housing in America isn't about the unfettered human spirit at its best; it's about greed and fear and short-sightedness . . . [but] that makes this little book all the more necessary. The communities Kolson Hurley chronicles are welcome reminders that any place, even a suburb, can be radical if you approach it the right way." --NPR
"While contemporary issues of segregation, inequity, and climate change seem to call for a wholesale abandonment of suburban values, Radical Suburbs insists that history can provide surprising insight into these national issues." -- Tanner Howard, Metropolis
"A hopeful chronicle of experiments that mostly went awry. Hurley, a child of suburban Maryland and an astute writer on urbanism at CityLab, reminds us that the ill-defined realm between downtown and countryside has long attracted idealists, do-gooders, preachers, and cranks." -- Justin Davidson, New York Magazine
"In six well-researched and informative--yet fast-paced--chapters, Hurley introduces us to a tapestry of suburban social experimentation, from communal living in celibacy to a community of working couples inspired by the Bauhaus. It is a rich collection of projects, most of which have been overlooked by standard urban surveys. ... Much-needed fuel for the imagination." -- The Architect's Newspaper
"In her slim, highly accessible volume, Hurley, who lives in a Maryland suburb outside of Washington, D.C., offers six intriguing case studies of Northeastern suburbs whose development was based on more than commercial real estate interests." -- Carolina Miranda, Los Angeles Times