A Field Guide to Sprawl

The cover image for A Field Guide to Sprawl by Dolores Hayden gives you an idea of the book’s contents: we look at various ways that human settlement has blighted the environment. Hayden has compiled 51 colloquial terms such as zoomburb, as depicted on the cover, which designates an extremely rapidly growing urban-sized place in the suburbs, such as in Sun City, Arizona. All aerial photographs are by Jim Wark, who captures the urban waste that the ground-level eye cannot see.

Hayden introduces terms such as snout house, designating houses whose protruding garages take up most of their street frontage; LULU, an acronym for “locally unwanted land use”, which could apply to anything from a parking lot, prison, garbage incinerator or nuclear facility; leapfrog, where developers do not build in contiguous areas because of local zoning regulations and TOAD, designating a temporary, obsolete, abandoned or derelict site.

The pages were very thick and I always felt that I was turning over two at a time. I checked the pagination to make sure I didn’t do this. I had to laugh at a quote she cited from Joel Garreau in his book Edge City, because what he wrote can apply to my city of Mississauga:

“name a place for what is no longer there as a result of your actions. So one has Foxcrest Farms, for example, where no fox will ever again hunt and no plow ever make a furrow worth the name.”

Mississauga has Meadowvale, Erin Meadows and Churchill Meadows (yet no meadows), Woodlands (yet no forest), and Erin Mills (yet no longer any mill).

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