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Indoor America

The Interior Landscape of Postwar Suburbia
Andrea Vesentini


BUY Cloth · 320 pp. · 7 × 8 · ISBN 9780813941585 · $49.50 · Nov 2018
BUY Ebook · 320 pp. · ISBN 9780813941806 · $49.50 · Nov 2018

Cars, single-family houses, fallout shelters, air-conditioned malls—these are only some of the many interiors making up the landscape of American suburbia. Indoor America explores the history of suburbanization through the emergence of such spaces in the postwar years, examining their design, use, and representation. By drawing on a wealth of examples ranging from the built environment to popular culture and film, Andrea Vesentini shows how suburban interiors were devised as a continuous cultural landscape of interconnected and self-sufficient escape capsules. The relocation of most everyday practices into indoor spaces has often been overlooked by suburban historiography; Indoor America uncovers this latent history and contrasts it with the dominant reading of suburbanization as pursuit of open space. Americans did not just flee the city by getting out of it—they did so also by getting inside.

Vesentini chronicles this inner-directed flight by describing three separate stages. The encapsulation of the automobile fostered the nuclear segregation of the family from the social fabric and served as a blueprint for all other interiors. Introverted design increasingly turned the focus of the house inward. Finally, through interiorization, the exterior was incorporated into the all-encompassing interior landscape of enclosed malls and projects for indoor cities. In a journey that features tailfin cars and World’s Fair model homes, Richard Neutra’s glass walls and sitcom picture windows, Victor Gruen’s Southdale Center and the Minnesota Experimental City, Indoor America takes the reader into the heart and viscera of America’s urban sprawl.

Reviews:


Extraordinarily creative and thoughtful, well written and lively. With great originality, Indoor America sets the stage for important conversations about contemporary design, urban planning, and American values. Many scholars have written about suburban houses, landscapes, and shopping malls, but this is the only book I have encountered that examines them as a group within the broad context of cultural politics and social hierarchies in postwar America.

Alice T. Friedman, Wellesley College, author of American Glamour and the Evolution of Modern Architecture

About the Author: 

Andrea Vesentini holds a Ph.D. in Humanities and Cultural Studies from Birkbeck College, University of London, and currently works for the Architecture, Visual Arts, and Film departments of La Biennale di Venezia.

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