Can we fix sprawl? Architect Galina Tachieva would say yes—with caveats. Her proscriptive guide proposes specific design solutions to retrofit existing conditions—not simple, not inexpensive, but feasible and practical. We’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where we can’t start from scratch. We’ve got to work with what we’ve got, unsustainable as that often is. Accordingly, Tachieva offers guidance and wisdom gleaned from her years as principal of Duany Plater-Zyberk, one of the country’s more innovative architectural and planning firms. Her aggressive and forward-thinking strategies aim to transform America’s multitude of fragmented, isolated, and car-dependent developments into complete communities.
The book’s proposed design interventions include transforming abandoned or struggling malls into denser, more sustainable communities designed around a Main Street, increasing green space and walkable areas, improving economic vitality, and encouraging human interaction rather than vehicular dependency. A McMansion on a large lot might take on new life by being gutted from the inside and reconfigured into multi-family housing or senior living centers. Underutilized backyards could be used to create more housing like granny flats or in-law units, which would result in greater density and its attendant effects of less driving, more walking, and more support of local business.
With the housing market showing little sign of ever returning to its former inflated self and the full spectrum from Gen Yers to aging boomers expressing a desire for smaller homes, fewer cars, and more access to local shopping, amenities, and green space, those intent on old ways of thinking about creating community would do well to follow Tachieva’s lead.