Andrea Vesentini


On his book Indoor America: The Interior Landscape of Postwar Suburbia

Cover Interview of January 09, 2019


I hope Indoor America will speak to a wide audience that is interested in different aspects of America’s urban and cultural history. As the current state of U.S. cities makes evident, the development of a self-sufficient interior landscape in the postwar years as the setting of private and public life for most Americans (what we might call the car-garage-house-office-mall complex) did not come without consequences. The steady decline of public transportation, street life, and livable public places that are not owned and run by private companies has contributed to exacerbating and reproducing social inequalities. There is still too little attention paid to architectural preservation, to safeguarding public places from private interests, or to making cities into inclusive places whose spaces can be shared by people from all backgrounds.

There are two directions one can look to for improvement: backward and outward. Americans should be encouraged to look outside their country for examples of sound urbanism that has fostered more equal, inclusive and safe communities. To look backward, instead, is to learn from history and turn it into a powerful tool to guide future decisions. Although the book focuses on events that happened long ago and already had an impact on the country’s landscape, future urban policies should be informed by a deeper knowledge of the past and of the long-lasting effects of postwar urban visions.

I see this book as a story whose ending is still to be written. There are contrasting views among sociologists and urban analysts on whether suburbanization is still under way, or cities are making a comeback with the gentrification of some central areas. However, little progress would be made if places are still designed as defensive oases of privilege and exclusion in the future. Separation and segregation only breed further separation and segregation, ultimately bringing a city’s life to an end. I hope that readers will get a sense of where and how things might have gone differently in the past, and of how much can still be done to improve the state of America’s urban life in the years to come.