Different ways of designing suburbs (images by photographerYann Arthus-Bertrand).

First, the typical American suburb of maze-like curving streets, a design aesthetic I personally loathe.

Second, a suburb of Copenhagen, Denmark. I’m not sure what to think, other than that it makes a stunning image from the air. Would this be a more desirable community to live in than the American style suburb? Why or why not? Is it a better or worse use of land and space?

It’s an intriguing comparison, because it’s easy to promote one or the other approach via public policy. Which is not an argument that particular types of suburbs should be encouraged via public policy, just an expectation that–whether wise or not–it will continue to happen.

(Hat tip to Jeff at


About J@m3z Aitch

J@m3z Aitch is a two-bit college professor who'd rather be canoeing.
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8 Responses to Suburbia

  1. Mark Boggs says:

    As a former newspaper delivery boy, I’d say the Denmark suburb is preferable. You could just stand in the center of each cul de sac and spin like a lawn sprinkler and have the paper at the foot of their driveways. Then, you’d get a brief rest while you rode to the next cul de sac.

    There should be a law.

  2. The push seems to be away from suburbs and urban sprawl to “walkable” urban communities. I have already seen the suburbanites moving back into the city in D.C. Or that is the new young people from out of town that used to go to the suburbs are now settling in the city.

  3. My personal preference is for something like King of Ireland describes, with additional access to mass transit. I don’t own a car and find owning one prohibitively expensive, both in terms of money and in terms of worrying that I might hurt someone while I’m driving (I’m not the best driver in the world). To me, the “independence” that cars offer is largely a chimera (if I’m using that word correctly). I’d also prefer to be close to shopping, at least for the basic necessities, like groceries.

    Your mileage, of course, may vary especially if you own a car!

    As for Mr. Hanley’s actual question. I don’t see any functional differences between the two different suburb designs, although there very well may be some that I don’t catch on to. The Danish one seems a bit more aesthetic (with greener spaces), although I’d like to know if the two designs support approximately the same number of residents.

  4. Heidegger says:

    My vote goes to the Denmark suburb. It’s just stunning, gorgeous, really. I’ve never seen anything like it–great find there, Mr. Hanley! I think it’s so aesthetically superior to the American design that what ever drawbacks there are, are easily made up for in the beautiful appearance of this circular concept. Obviously, not as efficient use of space compared to the American design, but who cares when you can live in something that is just so remarkably beautiful? Denmark, hands down!

  5. Scott Hanley says:

    Surely we can’t discuss housing developments without mentioning this one?

    I like the way the Danish ‘burb minimizes the amount of asphalt and leaves so much greenery, even if it might result in fewer houses/hectare. I also wonder about how much access the residents have to all that space between the clusters?

  6. James Hanley says:

    I also wonder about how much access the residents have to all that space between the clusters?

    I wondered that, too. For, there’d be a big difference between merely being able to see that it’s there and my kids being able to run wildly all over it.

  7. Matty says:

    My first thought was that the difference was purely aesthetic but looking again.

    -The suburb from capitalist America is almost entirely divided into private lots with only the roads left open.
    -The suburb from a Scandanavian social democracy has large areas of space that don’t seem to be part of any one houses’ private land and could easily be publicly owned parkland.

    Yes I’m reading too much into this but it is odd that based on my assumptions about the two countries I could probably have matched up the pictures if you had asked us to guess which was America and which was Denmark.

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