Solving sprawl, circa 1959

The Atlantic Cities recently posted this promotional anti-sprawl film from 1959 made by the National Association of Home Builders in partnership with the Urban Land Institute. I could not resist sharing this window into past planning theory here.

Get past the dramatic music and narration, and you see an early identification of the familiar problems associated with suburban sprawl. And while some solutions offered, like cluster design, are still out there, the overall approach is markedly different than what you’d hear from your average planner today. The film casts concerns about sprawl are as technical problems of housing and subdivision design and local policy. There is no mention of more contemporary concerns like transit-oriented development or connectivity. Perhaps saddest of all is that the city is left for dead, virtually unmentioned. But remember, this was promotion for building new homes all while using resources wisely. Think we’ve changed?

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