Amanda Kolson Hurley at The American Scholar:
When the first suburbs were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was architects and landscape architects who shaped them. The English architects Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin designed proto-suburban “garden cities” in the Arts and Crafts style, on the utopian model set forth by the reformist thinker Ebenezer Howard. In America, Frederick Law Olmsted planned the early suburb of Riverside, Illinois, its curving, leafy streets becoming a defining suburban feature. When it comes to buildings themselves, arguably the most influential house of the 20th century, Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, is in Poissy, a suburb of Paris. The largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright houses is in Oak Park, Illinois, just outside Chicago. Wright also dreamed up Broadacre City, a suburban Jeffersonian paradise where every man could have a car and a whole acre to himself—the better to avoid his fellow Americans.
After the Second World War, U.S. government housing subsidies for returning veterans combined with new highway construction to fuel a massive wave of suburban sprawl. But architects were left out of the building boom. Commercial homebuilders shaped the new suburbs instead, bulldozing large tracts of land and framing up house after house with assembly-line speed, rarely deviating from the same few floor plans. To make sure their buyers could get government mortgages, the builders followed strict guidelines from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Established vernacular styles such as Cape Cod and colonial revival were favored; the FHA frowned on modern design as too novel for the home-buying public and a risky investment.