This chapter will focus on suburbia as a type of residential landscape because that is where most Americans live as we enter the twenty-first
century. The growth of suburbia has been inexorable throughout the twentieth century. The 1992 federal election was the first in which suburbanites constituted the majority of the voters. America has become, in the words of William Schneider (1992:33), “a suburban nation with an urban fringe and a rural fringe.” Kasinitz (1995) concurs, arguing that for most middle-class Americans suburbia is the norm and the city is thought of as the locus of the poor and of social breakdown. Such images, however, are far from new. One can trace them back beyond the writings of the Chicago School of urban sociology in the 1 920s and 1 930s. But they seem to resonate even more strongly at present as more and more Americans distance themselves both resi dential^ and occupationally from cities. Today the image of the city as a “ frontier” to be resettled in certain gentrifying zones by “urban pioneers” is a familiar one. Smith (1996) argues that such gentrification does not mark a major turning away from the suburbs. Rather it supplements it and is driven by the same aestheticizing mind set.