Suburban Space: The Fabric of Dwelling

by Renee Y. Chow

Renee Y. Chow offers an alternate vision to the conventional suburban housing that characterizes much of our domestic landscape. Her integrated, original approach to design sees the residential setting as a fabric of interrelated spaces that supports cultural diversity and change, promotes sharing in a setting, and sustains a more intense use of land. With its concise, informative text and abundant illustrations—including photographs and Chow's superbly executed drawings—Suburban Space challenges architects, landscape architects, developers, and planners to reconceptualize suburban housing.

Chow has made comparative studies of neighborhoods in Boston, Charleston, San Francisco, Levittown, Radburn, and housing by Rudolf Schindler and Irving Gill, as well as other residential settings. Her argument for a fabric of dwelling is founded not on generalizations about how people live but on documented observations of the particular ways in which people organize their daily lives. This groundbreaking book demonstrates how one of the most disparaged yet common types of housing in the United States can become more environmentally and culturally viable.

Table of Contents

Part One: Seeing the Suburbs as a Fabric

01 Beginning of a Production System

02 Persistence of the Box

03 Defining Dwelling

04 Seeing Suburban Dwelling as a Fabric

Part Two: Designing Fabrics for Dwelling

05 Accommodating Choice

06 Sharing in a Setting

07 Unpacking

08 Designing Density





"Using meticulous methods of measurement to undergird her formal analyses of interior and exterior spaces, Renee Chow has created a brilliant analysis of American suburban habitats, from the tracts of Levitt to the compact projects of Schindler and Gill. Her elegant book, Suburban Spaces: The Fabric of Dwelling, belongs on the desk of every architect, landscape architect, and planner concerned about neighborhood densities in the twenty-first century."

Dolores Hayden, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism, Yale University, author of
    Redesigning the American Dream: The Future of Housing, Work, and Family Life

"An impassable gulf would seem to separate the complex urban fabric of nineteenth-century Charleston or San Francisco from the sprawl of suburban Levittown and its successors. But Renee Y. Chow has perceived that the complex relationships of density and diversity, public and private in older cities could provide vital lessons for breaking out of the boxes and cul-de-sacs of conventional suburban design. Yet Chow is no antiquarian: her brilliantly original representations of suburbia lead directly to a radical transformation in suburban design."

Robert Fishman, author of Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia

"Renee Chow advocates a new way of seeing suburban environments. She proposes a view where inside and outside space are given equal attention and interact as part of a continuous fabric."

John Habraken, author of The Structure of the Ordinary