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Indoor America

The Interior Landscape of Postwar Suburbia
Andrea Vesentini

BUY Cloth · 344 pp. · 7 × 8 · ISBN 9780813941585 · $49.50 · Nov 2018
BUY Ebook · 344 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.


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

Vesentini identifies three stages of suburbanization: encapsulation in the automobile, introversion of domesticspace, and interiorization of public space (as in enclosed malls or the interconnected indoors of many recent downtownhotels and convention centers). Illustrations from popular postwar magazines and movies help make his point...Chapters on fallout shelters, air conditioning, picture windows, and malls complete this readable, lookable, and thought-provoking book.

Harold Henderson · Planning

Indoor America is a delightful exploration of postwar society. Vesentini does an admirable job of drawing attention to what would be considered by many to be societal norms and the manifestation of those norms in our cities, suburbs, homes and public spaces. The notes and bibliography are a testament to Vesentini’s thoughtful research and presentation of the topic and serve as a treasure trove of sources for further exploration. Illustrations tell a complimentary visual story of the postwar decades of the 1940s through the 1970s, with a critical sociological look at American society through advertisements... that informed daily living standards and innovations.

ARLIS/NA Reviews

Vesentini’s book adds notable reasons to think that the domestic, American chapter it analyses represents something one must confront in order to construct the truly other materialist politics of the present that so desperately lacks in design-related fields today.

Journal of Architecture

[A] thoughtful analysis of the cultural significance of suburban living in the postwar popular imagination and, in particular, of the meanings of the newly important phenomenon of interiority.

Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians

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