a very brief history of suburbia

As humanity has developed from simple beginnings, people have been attracted to and lived in cities to be near other people to do business, buy/sell food and to socialise. The move from an agrarian lifestyle was in part facilitated by the creation of trade and allowed the possibility of specialisation - some could produce food, others could sell it and everyone else could become consultants. 

Things were going so well that business, industry and society bloomed. All was well - that is unless you lived next to a polluting industry. While planning had always been around in some form, along with strengthened governance, Town Planning then Urban planning came along to clean up the situation.  They separated areas into 'uses' - housing areas different from working and so on.

Built form of the industrialised cities of the 19th century was largely controlled by businesses and wealthy elites. Around 1900, a movement began for providing citizens, especially factory workers, with healthier environments. The concept of the garden city arose, and several model towns were built. These were small in size, typically providing for a few thousand residents.

Source : Peter Hall et al. Sociable Cities; the legacy of Ebeneezer Howard, 1998, John Wiley & Sons, New York

The suburbs as we know them today grew from this and they grew rapidly. They housed many in the post-war growth boom. At the time they represented an idyllic place that was new, clean and the right thing to do for your family.  Of course widespread use of the car blossomed hand-in-hand with the growth of the suburbs. 
Now people are increasingly living in the suburbs within cities and 2008 was the first year when more than half of the worlds population lived in an urban environment. 

As this trend continues and our living conditions increasingly urbanise, there will be growing pressure on cities to cater for more people.  Suburbia represents a built-form that was a response of those times and a response to a dramatically different set of variables than we have today.

The issue of how we live and how close we will live to each other interfaces with many issues including sustainability, affordability, community and our personal lifestyle/aspirations.

If you want to look at the attributes and implications of suburbia, then click here