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The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape

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The Geography of Nowhere traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

The Land of Denny's

Kunstler is not too happy with how we've built our cities, our suburbs, and our society. And I can't blame him. This is an important consideration of how the landscapes of America have changed, and not for the best. The decline of American cities, the rise of the never-ending suburban sprawls, the addiction to cars and to oil and highways, all contribute to the decay of social fabric. It all sounds deep, but Kunstler is clearly onto something. Himself transplanted to the suburbs of Long Island, Kuntsler is angry at what he sees as an America that is less and less concerned with maintaining any lasting community, anywhere. All you have to do in this country is go to a few different cities and look around. First off, you can hardly distinguish most big cities from each other in the US--you have a downtown (in some cases among the worst part of a particular city, and often deserted and bland) and you have the endless suburban sprawl. What you find is isolation, isolation, isolation. Pick a big city, and you see the problems still being faced decades after population shifts, demographic changes, cultural changes etc: Detroit, Atlanta, St Louis, Miami, etc, etc. Architecture is in the dumps, as short-term profit is the motivating factor behind flat, faceless and featureless buildings. Suburbia has long been the answer for many: miles of designed streets with identical houses, cut off from undesirables by miles of highway, encouraging an inefficient life where everything is separated, the car has replaced the PERSON as the unit we build for, to say nothing of the cultural wasteland half of America becomes with the influx of 100 fast food chains, a Walmart, a mall, an 'entertainment complex', etc, destroying anything that once gave a place character. The notion of public space is different in America than elsewhere. Here, we don't seem to think much of it. While it may enrage some folks to compare ourselves to Europe and its cities, Kunstler points out that European cities are built to last, so to speak. Public space is respected and cherished, cities are built around people and for people, and so what if you don't have a Chili's, an Outback Steakhouse, a Radioshack, a Best Buy, a Wal Mart, etc, etc everywhere. Even in New York you see the chains have moved in to stay, the blandness extends to every facet of life. At least you can walk out the buildings here and walk on a street and see people, unless of course, you don't want to see anyone except those who are exactly like you. Important stuff, and God-forbid, thought-provoking.


Geography of Nowhere is a wonderful, life-changing book. I wish I could make every developer, every SUV owner and every town council read this book. Its main topic is the physical environments that Americans live in, in contrast to our historical environments and to overseas. Kunstler shows how the advent of the automobile has changed the face of cities, small-towns and birthed the suburb. The choice to live without an automobile is now a very difficult one for most people, and also comes with certain social assumptions. Yet, after reading Geography of Nowhere, I am seeking ever more ways to take public transportation and reduce my reliance on a vehicle that both pollutes the natural environment and despoils the man-made environment.Some chapters in the book focus on cities gone wrong, such as Detroit. Others discuss the ideal community, involving mixed-use neighborhoods (both purpose - commercial, residential, industrial - and class - working, professional, wealthy). Kunstler makes the case that prior to the development of suburbia and the reign of automobiles as our primary form of transportation, we had a kinder, cleaner, and happier world. Disney World's Main Street was used as an example of how car-free neighborhoods have become an American dream, and at the same time, few people understand why cars have had such a negative effect. Geography of Nowhere has confirmed my choice to live in a city with public transportation, in a mixed-use neighborhood, within walking distance of most of my needs. It may be more expensive and it may be unconventional, but I now have the evidence to back up my convictions.

It all comes into focus!

If you grew up in a suburban tract house, you may have hated it. I know *I* did. I wasn't sure why, I just knew that something was *wrong*, something was *missing*. This was truly one of the most important books I have read (and I read *a lot*) because it provided immediate insight into what really *is* all wrong with those tract houses and the "neighborhoods" where they stand. Granted, some may criticize Kunstler because he is not an architect or city planner. On the other hand, his outsider status gives him the insight to proclaim "The Emperor has no clothes!"

why America is so GoshDarn ugly

This book is a treat. It's one of those books that helps give you words for what you've always felt, but haven't articulated. Kunstler approaches the topic of why America is so GoshDarn ugly from many different perspectives. The parts of the book that focus on the histories of human habitats are not as thigh-slappinlgly funny as the parts in which he describes (with a dead-on accuracy that might make you cry) our own late-twentieth century American (ridiculous) landscape, but are compelling nonetheless for the sheer volume of information. Certain passages in the book are so elegantly written you will read them out loud to friends. Others are so funny you will laugh to yourself. Read this book with a pen to underline all the good stuff. It will no doubt change your perspective.

Why bad design makes our towns so depressing; how to fix it!

I am so glad I read this book. Kunstler has identified and explained why strip malls, cars, and vast paved areas can never compete with more traditional (i.e., high density) town design. Why are Paris and San Francisco, or even the traditional American small town, so much more appealing and human than where you live now? Because they are designed for people, based on well-understood, time-tested principles, instead of being designed for cars! This book explains things that have been nagging at us for years but have been hard to quantify or nail down
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