Amanda Kolson Hurley at Architect Magazine:
A quick detour for context: Among the few designers who focus on the suburbs today, most fall into a camp that I’ll call the Reformers. Led by the New Urbanists, this group believes that suburban development seriously imperils the climate, and that typical suburban living patterns are bad for public health, community spirit, and individual well-being. You can probably guess what the solution is: Make suburbs more like cities. Suburban Nation, by Andrés Duany, FAIA, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, FAIA, and Jeff Speck (North Point Press, 2001), is a manifesto in this mold, while Retrofitting Suburbia(Wiley, 2011), by Ellen Dunham-Jones and June Williamson, gathers practical case studies of sprawling zones that, like caterpillars into butterflies, have morphed into urban districts.
MIT’s CAU, on the other hand, seems to be rallying its own troops around a very different agenda. Let’s call them the Validators. They believe that suburbia is fundamentally OK. They maintain that when people have options, they will usually choose to live in a single-family home in the suburbs, and for intellectuals to resist this is classist and perverse. Validators point out (correctly) that the much-hyped urban revival we keep reading about is mostly limited to affluent white Gen Xers and Millennials. At the conference, economist Jed Kolko analyzed recent census data to show that on the whole, America continues to suburbanize.