Thursday, January 15, 2015

What is Sonia A. Hirt reading?

Featured at Writers Read: Sonia A. Hirt, author of Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation.

Her entry begins:
I love reading history books, mostly European history ranging from ancient to modern. Because of my specialization in urban history, I am always reading something on this topic. However, I often learn more about the history of cities from books that are technically not on cities because they usually provide a wider context that specialists are missing. I love books that surprise me and also those that make me laugh.

Recently, I finished a delightful monograph by the young scholar Brigitte Le Normand called Designing Tito's: Capital: Urban Planning: Modernism, and Socialism in Belgrade. As anyone can tell from the title, the book is about architecture and modernity and the complex intellectual currents that flowed between East and West during the Cold War, especially in Yugoslavia. Having grown up in an Eastern-bloc country, I have always been rather skeptical as to whether the Iron Curtain, to use Churchill’s expression, ever existed (this did not prevent me from using it as a book title). From what I could tell, intellectual exchanges never got really interrupted and the Iron Curtain was more of...[read on]
About Zoned in the USA, from the publisher:
Why are American cities, suburbs, and towns so distinct? Compared to European cities, those in the United States are characterized by lower densities and greater distances; neat, geometric layouts; an abundance of green space; a greater level of social segregation reflected in space; and—perhaps most noticeably—a greater share of individual, single-family detached housing. In Zoned in the USA, Sonia A. Hirt argues that zoning laws are among the important but understudied reasons for the cross-continental differences.

Hirt shows that rather than being imported from Europe, U.S. municipal zoning law was in fact an institution that quickly developed its own, distinctly American profile. A distinct spatial culture of individualism—founded on an ideal of separate, single-family residences apart from the dirt and turmoil of industrial and agricultural production—has driven much of municipal regulation, defined land-use, and, ultimately, shaped American life. Hirt explores municipal zoning from a comparative and international perspective, drawing on archival resources and contemporary land-use laws from England, Germany, France, Australia, Russia, Canada, and Japan to challenge assumptions about American cities and the laws that guide them.
Learn more about Zoned in the USA at the Cornell University Press website.

Writers Read: Sonia A. Hirt.

--Marshal Zeringue