About this text

click on images for full-size:

A portion of a map of this hypertext.

How to Read this Text

How I came to write this text, David Kolb

What you will find here

This text discusses contemporary places, and suggests new ways to evaluate them, while questioning some of the common critiques leveled against them. Are contemporary new places as thin and unsatisfying as critics say? Are sprawling suburbs, shopping malls, theme parks, airports so thin and unhuman, compared to deeper thicker historical towns and homes? This text examines what makes places rich and satisfying, and finds clues for hope.

The text is large, it contains over 100,000 words and nearly a thousand images, on over 600 pages. Some of the pages are quite short, others are longer. Following the outlines you will find a step by step development, or you can browse following links and the ideas and the overall approach will gradually come into focus as you explore the landscape.

Some pages offer exposition of ideas and argument. Others offer narrative descriptions of scenes and places, more impressionistic than analytical. The left sidebar links to outlines of the argument, and to further reflections on general issues. The different kinds of pages have different color schemes. Some regions of the text proceed in straight argumentative fashion, while others work by abrupt jumps and juxtapositions.

Navigating the text

The left-hand column stays the same on each page. It offers expandable menus that provide landmarks for major sections of the text, such as outlines and reflections. Among the outlines, the most general outline leads to other outlines, and these lead you into regions where pages are linked in multiple ways. The outlines, however, do not link directly to all the varied regions of the text.

There is an index of some of the places discussed in the text. These places may also be discussed or pictured elsehwere in the text, and there are other places discussed but not included in the index..

The links in the text encourage moving around. There are many groups of linked pages, plus links that cross from one group to another.

Besides the links in the text and the navigation menus on the left, the bottom of most pages offers a links to nearby pages. These links were automatically generated and have more generic titles.


The images are shown in reduced versions; clicking on one will open a full size version in a new window. Some full size versions include areas not seen in the reduced version. Clicking on images marked with a large "URL" will lead to locations elsewhere on the web.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are by David Kolb.

References and Bibliography

Clicking on the references to books and articles will take you to the bibliography page, with the sought-for reference at the top of the page. You can return to the text by using your browser's "back" button or by using the special "return to text" buttons at each alphabetical division or in the right hand column. The bibliography page can be used on its own as a list of authors and sources.

The Book Version

There is a book version of Sprawling Places.

The book discusses some topics in more detail, with more emphasis on the politics and economics of place making. It also argues more fully against some opposing views. The book version does not contain the images or narrative scenes from this web version, nor its extended reflections on topics not treated in the book, such as virtual places, tourism, and many background philosophical issues. The book version makes some explicit references to various sections of the web version.

The book version can be ordered from Amazon and from Powells.

My purpose in writing two overlapping versions was to explore the strengths and weaknesses of different media for presenting argument and discussion. This web version contains a short discussion of its own composition, and I also wrote a separate hypertext essay about the experience of writing the two versions and the influences of each upon the other.

Thanks and acknowledgments

I owe a debt of gratitude to many people whose conversation and stimulation helped this project develop. This work received generous support from the Phillips Endowment at Bates College, and a welcoming sojourn at the School of Architecture at Lund University. I thank those who heard and reacted to presentations at the University of Kentucky, Aarhus University, the Accademia Danica in Rome, the Open University, Lund University, the Sandbjerg Conference, the University of Texas, Texas A. and M. University, and Bowdoin College.

For helpful discussions, long or short, I thank Mona Ålend, Gregers Algreen-Ussing, Shunjuku Arakawa, Michael Benedikt, Mark Bernstein, David Brent, Joan Claffey, Jane Douglas, Andres Duany, Joseph Flay, Luis Francisco-Revilla, Rick Furuta, Judy Gammelgård, Madeline Gins, Diane Greco, Andrew Hargadon, Cecilia Häggström, Jon Hicks, Martin Jay, Stephen Kemper, Harry Kolb, Mary Kolb, Patricia Kolb, Tony Koltz, Matthias Kärrholm, John Leggett, Marjorie Luesebrink, Ben Macri, Clara Mancini, Tony Meyer, Stephen Moore, Dee Mortensen, Stuart Moulthrop, Anne Niemiec, Ib Omland, Jonathan Powers, Geoff Pynn, Paul Ricoeur, William Richardson, John Sallis, Gunnar Sandin, Frank Shipman, Simon Buckingham Shum, Lars-Henik Ståhl, Cheryl Troxel, Gregory Ulmer, Thomas Tracy, Finn Werne, and Tomas Wikström. Thanks to Edward Casey for reading an early version of the book manuscript, and to Jonathann Powers, Vika Safrin, Clara Mancini, and several anonymous readers for comments on later versions of this and related texts. James Bauer and Andrew White of Bates College Information and Library Services assisted with many technical problems and implementations.

Jon Hicks created the visual design and style sheets for the pages.

Tinderbox from Eastgate Systems allowed me to compose the intricately linked content.

David Kolb