Articles, Events, Thoughts and Resources on Sprawl Repair
Cataloged by Galina Tachieva


2012 December 13

Ivory Press Roundtable Discussion

Madrid, Spain

Galina Tachieva wrote an essay for Robert Harding Pittman’s book Anonymization, just published in Europe and in the US. With a forward by Bill McKibben, the book is a photographic critique of the globalization of sprawl. Galina’s essay presents some optimistic ideas on how to deal with this phenomenon by reusing and repairing the already built.

Anonymization: The Global Proliferation of Urban Sprawl

Solving Sprawl

What meaning are we to take from Christoph Gielen’s photographs of sprawl? Tract homes and supporting infrastructure are visually enticing from his 10,000-foot view, appearing as intricate, maze like patters. But on the ground, the relentless schemata of wide streets and lawns produce a host of problems. Galina Tachieva p. 49

2012 October 18

The Old Urbanism, New Urbanism, and the Future of Urbanism

Costa do Sauipe, Bahia, Brazil

Rotunda owners right to turn the mall inside-out

While I greatly respect the views of the city officials who think otherwise, their position in favor of a more traditional, inward-facing mall are not in sync with well established community development best-practices.

2012 August 29

A Short History of the Future

Stockholm, Sweden

James Howard Kunstler, writer and expert, and Galina Tachieva, partner and Director of Town Planning at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, discussed “A short history of the future” in Stockholm.

Transect for Sprawl Repair

Human settlements are resilient and successional in nature. They change, going through cycles of regression, deterioration and advancement. Even the most cosmopolitan cities started as meager hamlets on crossroads, but then grew and matured, while regenerating their physical environment multiple times throughout their histories. Today’s image of American urbanism is inseparable from the image of sprawl: endless, soulless, wasteful, but most importantly, malfunctioning. This predicament may signal a pivotal point, as has happened in previous civilizations, when quantitative and qualitative changes converge and the paradigm shifts towards better human habitats.

The Sprawl Repair Method – How to Transform Sprawl into Complete, Balanced Communities

In 1963 Constantinos Doxiadis published the book Architecture in Transition. No mere contemplation on architecture, the book boldly called for a transition from traditional urbanism to new settlement patterns that would accommodate the car, its movement, and its speed. Doxiadis recognized the contrast between human-scaled and automobile-scaled development.

2012 May 10

The Importance of The Sprawl Repair Initiative

West Palm Beach, Florida

Can we heal our sprawling communities through retrofit, repair and redevelopment? This working group will review new ideas in sprawl retrofit design, regulation, and implementation to achieve healthier communities. Attendees will discuss approaches to incremental sprawl repair, corridor retrofits, regional strategies and financial approaches building on work completed during the March Retreat in Miami. The session will start with four speed presentations selected through a competition process. Following the speed presentations, initiative members will report on a series of practical Toolkits, newly formed partnerships and an overall strategic plan and next steps for the upcoming year.

2012 July 20

Sprawl Repair in Florida: From Auto Scale to Human Scale

West Palm Beach, Florida

No Other Choice But Repair

The reconstruction of sprawl is inevitable. To continue building greenfield sprawl will be disastrous. To abandon existing sprawl will not be possible either, as the expanse of sprawl represents a vast investment of money, infrastructure, time, human energy, and dreams. The only valid option is to repair sprawl by finding ways to reuse and reorganize as much of it as possible into complete, livable, robust communities. However, sprawl repair will not be the instant and total overhaul of communities as promoted so destructively in American cities half a century ago. Sprawl repair will be the incremental and opportunistic improvement of our suburban landscapes and will happen first in places where economic potential, political will, and community vision converge.

The opportunity that Apple is missing to build a better neighborhood

I never intended to become so knowledgeable about Apple, Inc.’s new “spaceship” headquarters being developed in Cupertino, California. Really, I didn’t. But the design seemed to me to be way overscaled for humans and particularly wrong for a classic slice of California sprawl that is begging to be retrofitted into a more walkable and people-oriented environment. Apple is already a world leader in consumer technology; this was its chance to be a world leader also for community-oriented sustainability.

Aging in Place on a Cul-de-Sac

This is the second installment on the topic of cul-de-sacs, the quintessential elements of sprawl. The first installment proposed a Micro Sprawl Repair using the Complete-the-Neighborhood Module. The Complete-the-Neighborhood Module could be applied to any two or three lots on a cul-de-sac in any subdivision where blighted or foreclosed properties exist, or where the community has decided to upgrade their quality of life by introducing new amenities. This post discusses the use of the Supportive Living Module to create opportunities for senior living within a single-family subdivision. Aging in place – growing old and retiring in the community where a…

My big fat New Urbanism conference rundown

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) – probably the most significant urban design movement in North America since Levittown and the rise of suburbia – turned 20 in West Palm Beach last week. CNU20 was my first congress, and it was by turns amazing, amusing and a bit dull, and overall it’s probably the most important conference I’ve attended since this convergence-of-climate-change-and-energy-scarcity thing I went to in 2006. Let me explain why.

2012 May 11

Sprawl Retrofit Initiative – The Economic Benefit of Good Urbanism

West Palm Beach, Florida

Urbanism has been engaged by most municipalities as an apologetic or alternative form of development, to the perceived “market driven” sprawl that most communities face. Yet innovative financial and policy analysis has demonstrated that mixed-use development is not only more beneficial for the environment, but also the fiscally responsible form of growth. This session explores analytic tools, property policy, as well as design strategies that can repair the larger urban fabric. The panel will explain and de-mystify tax policy, as well as a walk through of the communication tools that will help planners and decision makers understand urban design alternatives. We not only focus on solutions to repair our built environment, but to steal a line from the movie Jerry Maguire, we are going to “Show you the money!”

First Suburbs Coalition

The First Suburbs Coalition has formed a partnership with KC Communities for All Ages, a regional initiative to help communities prepare for the large increase in older adults that will occur over the next two decades achat 10 viagra. The partnership hosted a kickoff for the regional initiative with a focus on what local governments can do to start preparing for the aging boom. News media around town has been reporting on the initiative:
Mission preparing for surge of aging citizens
Gladstone, other suburbs examine what’s needed to be a community for all ages

2012 April 12

Retrofitting Sprawl

Arizona State University, Phoenix, Arizona

Suburban retrofitting (also known as sprawl repair) is the retrofitting of abandoned chain stores, dead malls, disconnected apartment complexes, and segregated housing pods. The endgame of suburban retrofitting— walkable, mixed use, sustainable neighborhoods — is not substantially different from what planners have been trying to do for decades. The problem is the development pattern that has defined so much of our built environment: wide arterials, separation of uses, huge parking lots, and complete car dependency.

The push for repair goes beyond the need to stimulate new forms of investment. Sprawl repair aims to reduce energy use, reuse existing infrastructure rather than building anew, and provide denser, more walkable housing options in response to demographic change. Unlike green building or technological approaches to sustainability, however, sprawl repair can require substantial behavioral change — the prioritization of walking, an acceptance of more compact living, and tolerance for social diversity and land use heterogeneity. This transformation is going to require big thinking and political moxy.

This Initiative will provide an opportunity to fully explore how planners and designers might use their skills to transform “a thousand-square-mile oasis of ranch homes, back yards, shopping centers, and dispersed employment based on personal mobility” — as sprawl in Phoenix was recently described (Gammage, 2008) — into something more sustainable. In suburban retrofit, failed malls are converted to main streets, McMansions become apartment buildings, and big box stores are re-envisioned as agricultural land. The projects can be small, like “pulse development” along a corridor, or they can be much larger. The Phoenix Urban Research Lab Initiative will explore these possibilities for the Phoenix region from multiple perspectives.

Gated Communities, Civility and Crime

Among Florida cities, Sanford has a remarkable amount of green space. As WMFE reporter Matthew Peddie noted for WNYC’s Transportation Nation blog, Sanford has spent more than $20 million in the last two decades creating more than 30 parks and green spaces. However, Sanford is also notable for being home to numerous gated communities — like The Retreat at Twin Lakes, the neighborhood where 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed as he walked back from 7-Eleven.
One of the questions that Trayvon’s death has raised is the issue of who or what makes a community or a neighborhood seem “safe” or “unsafe.” Elijah Anderson, professor of sociology at Yale and the author of “The Cosmopolitan Canopy: Race and Civility in Everyday Life” writes about the kind of spaces where civil, harmonious interactions between people can emerge. Galina Tachieva, an expert in sustainable planning and community development, is the author of the “Sprawl Repair Manual.”

Sprawling is Tough for Strolling

My mother recently reminded me of an interesting phenomenon happening in many Bulgarian towns in the 1950s and ‘60. It was called “dvizhenie,” which literally translates into “movement,” but means strolling or walking back and forth along a street or other public space. She remembers the main street in the small town she was born in, and how during “dvizhenie” traffic always gave way to the movement of pedestrians. There’s nothing complicated about people strolling in a leisurely fashion, but what is impressive is that “dvizhenie” was a community ritual of special importance. This was the occasion for socializing; everyone…

If you care about cities, return that new iPad

If you care about cities, about walkable communities, about healing the crappy environment thrust upon us for the last four decades in the form of suburban sprawl, then get a refund on that new iPad 3. Take your iPhone back, too. Because its manufacturer, oh-so-hip Apple, Inc., is betting that the company is cool enough to get away with violating even the most basic tenets of smart growth and walkability in the sprawling, car-dependent design of its new headquarters. Don’t let them collect on that bet.

2012 January 20

Keynote Lecture

Orange County Planning Division, Orlando, FL

Why do we need sprawl repair? Exurban is too expensive to build and not sustainable environmentally.
Must rethink the model for health and well-being. We’ve been deprived of the simple and natural activity of walking due to the way we have built our communities. We’ve built in a grand scale since the introduction of the car, but we need to build on a human scale.
More urban environments are being sought by younger generations. (a recurring theme)
Think of long-term – how will the next generation benefit?
Higher density desired by younger actually performs better – more in municipal taxes, environmentally, well-being
Most foreclosures in the exurbs. Affordability is wiped out by the long commute.
Wall Street is using walkscore.com as an underwriting tool.
Streets and thoroughfares have a social function, and we have forgotten this.
Arterials to be adapted when go they through certain areas. Fast traffic kills real estate. (Harping on it, but think CR 535 through Lakeside Village). Repair slowly. Start with landscaping and expand sidewalk.

Red Fields to Green Fields is a research effort

Red Fields to Green Fields is a research effort analyzing the effects of acquiring financially distressed properties (real estate “in the red”) in major U.S. cities, converting them into green space, public parks and adjacent land “banked” for future sustainable development.

Fixing suburbs with green streets that accommodate everyone

We’ve made such a mess of the suburbs we constructed in the last fifty or so years that one wonders whether they can ever be made into something more sustainable. Strip malls, traffic jams, cookie-cutter subdivisions, diminished nature, almost no sense of outdoor community. We all know the drill: there are nice places to be in America’s recently built suburbs, but we have to know where they are and drive to them through a visual and environmental mess to get there.
One of the most challenging aspects of suburbs, and of the prescriptions for improving them, is the character of their roadways. Most of us take the poor design of our streets – the most visible part of most suburban communities, if you think about it – so much for granted that it never occurs to us that they actually could be made better for the community and for the environment. Consider, for example, main “arterial” streets so wide that pedestrians can’t cross them, even if there is a reason to; little if any greenery to absorb water, heat, or provide a calming influence; or residential streets with no sidewalks.

The Unbearable Cost of Sprawl – How planners can correct some of the worst excesses of the exurbs

It’s no secret that America’s sprawling, car-dependent exurbs were Ground Zero for the economic meltdown. These “drive ’til you qualify” communities were built on risky decisions and over-leveraged debt—buyers betting that the price of gasoline for commuting wouldn’t go up too much, or that they’d be able to sell their pricey McMansions before their artificially low mortgages reset. Millions of homeowners lost that bet, and the entire world paid the economic price.
But we haven’t gotten rid of the danger. In fact, the worst might be yet to come. Energy costs continue to skyrocket, making travel and heating exorbitant. New research suggests sprawl is hurting our health. For example, rates of obesity in unwalkable suburbs are near epidemic levels. And local municipalities that tried to grow their tax base through sprawl may soon be overwhelmed by the extra costs of maintenance.

The High Line: Does Magic Happen Only in New York?

Even when a topic has been extensively analyzed and evaluated, it is always tempting to add one’s own perspective. The High Line in New York is such a topic. Praised by design critics and most of the media, the High Line has not been favored by many of my New Urbanist friends, which made my inclination to comment on it even stronger. Having visited the High Line for the first time last weekend, I couldn’t resist, and so yielded to the temptation, as Oscar Wilde once wisely recommended. Influenced by enthusiastic media and not-so-enthusiastic friends’ opinions, I expected an over-designed,…

Occupy the Cul-de-Sac: Micro Sprawl Repair for a Better Day

As a quintessential element of sprawl, the cul-de-sac has become a predictable target for critique and attack. Loved by suburbanites for its presumed safety, privacy, and even exclusivity, the cul-de-sac has been blamed, deservingly, for many of the ills of sprawl: disconnected street networks, over-loading of suburban thoroughfares, lack of walkable block structure, residual open space, only a single building type and only a single use, to name a few. Prevalent within single-family subdivisions, of which we have hundreds of thousands in the US, the cul-de-sac has become in the past 60 years one of the most widely spread planning…

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part II: Retrofitting Levittown!

Yesterday I posted the story of my dream urban pilgrimage—a journey I recently made to the first post–World War II American sprawl suburb, Levittown.
I wrote that I was caught off guard by how benevolent the residential sections of Levittown seemed when compared with the modern sprawling suburban neighborhoods that were modeled after it.
It cannot be ignored, however, that the commercial strips within and surrounding Levittown nonetheless suffer from the same problem that sprawling suburban outposts do—the hollow lifelessness of a car-oriented landscape.
Levittown was the first town built entirely upon the assumption of individual automobile use, and the main thoroughfare leading into it presents a harsh, impossible landscape of vast parking lots, distant megastores, and four, six, eight-lane ropes of traffic.

A Suburban Pilgrimage, Part I: Learning to Like Levittown

Almost everyone has a secret pilgrimage destination tucked somewhere in their own personal book of dreams. For many these are, as Ryszard Kapuściński once wrote, “certain magical names with seductive, colorful associations—Timbuktu, Lalibela, Casablanca.”
They are places to which we attach wonder, mystique, and fascination; places that we dream of one day exploring, with the subliminal hope of finding an exotic understanding of ourselves, the world, and our place within it.
My secret place is Levittown. I have always wanted to go to Levittown.

Galina Tachieva: Occupy Wall Street? Occupy the Unoccupied . . . Occupy Sprawl!

As thousands cram into the winding streets and public spaces of lower Manhattan in a revolt against the “corporate forces of the world,” Galina Tachieva would really prefer protesters take over an abandoned Walmart parking lot instead.
She’d really prefer we occupy sprawl viagra paypal.
One of my personal heroes, Tachieva is a partner at Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company, Architects and Town Planners (DPZ), Miami, and author of the Sprawl Repair Manual. She specializes in suburban retrofits—revamping automobile-oriented, sprawling regions into more lively, sustainable, and compact communities.

2011 October 8

Sprawl: Past, Present, Future

BMW Guggenheim Lab, New York, New York

Sprawl: the uncontrolled spread of urban development into neighboring regions. Explore this multifaceted concept with June Williamson, author of Retrofitting Suburbia, as she moderates a discussion on the history, development, and future of sprawl with panelists Rachel Heiman, an urban anthropologist at the New School specializing in the comforts and anxieties of the American middle class; Galina Tachieva, an urban planner and author of The Sprawl Repair Manual; and Christoph Gielen, a photographer exploring sprawl and the intersection of art and environmental politics through photographic aerial studies of infrastructure.