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WPS No.02 | Nijman, J. & Clery, T. (2013) Suburban Imaginaries and Metropolitan Realities in North America

North America may be considered the ‘birthplace’ of the prototypical 20th century suburb. From there, common usage of the terms suburb and suburbanization spread to the rest of the Western world, and then across the globe. It has become commonplace to say that the world is experiencing an urban revolution but one could well argue that, more precisely, most of the present-day growth of urban populations occurs in suburbs or other peri-urban areas.

In more highly urbanized societies such as North America, large urban regions have formed in part through amalgamation of previously distinct cities, with major parts of these  regions generally considered as suburbs of one sort or the other. It is important to reassess the notion of suburb and suburbanization in North America; to question the historical evolution of suburbs; and to debate whether the archetypal suburb ever really existed.

This is important with regard to our understanding of the configuration of North American cities in their own right but also in terms of the application of suburban concepts elsewhere in the world.


This working paper is no longer available. The published version of the book chapter is available at: