Suburban Innovations

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Commentary | Open Access

Suburban Innovations

  • Pierre Filion School of Planning, University of Waterloo, Canada

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Abstract:  This commentary addresses the evolution of the North American suburb over the last 70 years, a period over which it adopted a development pattern marking a radical break from prior forms of urban settlement. Early in this period, the emerging suburban form constituted perhaps the sharpest transition in the history of urbanism in terms of urban form and transportation. This suburban form rapidly came to dominate North American metropolitan regions and spread to other parts of the world. In this commentary, I propose a brief history of the North American suburb since the late 1940s seen through the lens of the contributions it made to the evolution of urbanism across the continent. I contend that while suburbs are often associated with urban stasis, because perceived as an impediment to the emergence of new environmentally sensitive and socially and functionally integrated urban formulas relying on public transit and walking, they have played a major transformative role in the past and may be the source of further urban transitions in the future. North American suburbs have also undergone deep social changes over the last decades. However, I question the claim, made by some researchers, that we are entering a post-suburban era; but at the same time, I acknowledge the possibility of major future innovations within present suburban configurations.

Keywords:  dispersion; landscape urbanism; New Urbanism; North America; post-suburbanism; recentralization; suburb; suburban innovations

Published:   11 December 2017


© Pierre Filion. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.