Deficiencies in Suburban Design: A Video Interview with Elizabeth Moule

By David Wann

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Elizabeth Moule, a founding member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, was interviewed by David Wann of Greening America Productions. Walking through a first-ring suburban neighborhood near Denver, Ms. Moule pointed out key environmental and social deficiencies of suburban design.

About Elizabeth Moule

Elizabeth Moule with Stefanos Polyzoides. Photo courtesy Moule & Polyzoides, Architects & Urbanists.
Elizabeth Moule with Stefanos Polyzoides.
Photo courtesy Moule & Polyzoides, Architects & Urbanists.
Elizabeth Moule received her Bachelors of Art cum laude from Smith College while also attending The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, and her Masters in Architecture from Princeton University. She is a principal of Moule & Polyzoides, Architects and Urbanists, and is a registered architect in the State of California. She was born and raised in Southern California.

She is a co-founder of the Congress for the New Urbanism and sits on the Board of Directors. CNU is a national organization aimed at integrating aesthetic, social, environmental, economic and policy aspects of urbanism. She is a co-author of the Ahwanhee Principles, the new State of California community-planning guidelines authored for the Local Government Commission and a member of SCAG’s Advisory Committee for Livable Communities. Ms. Moule is a critic and a frequently invited guest on the popular National Public Radio program Which Way LA? She teaches on a visiting basis at several institutions throughout the country and lectures on issues of architecture, campus-planning, and metropolitan urbanism.

Ms. Moule has recently contributed articles to several books and periodicals including the Los Angeles Times, The Nikkei Shimbun, The Los Angeles Forum, Academy Editions’ Schindler and Word Cities-LA. She is currently co-authoring a history of the Los Angeles region entitled The Five Los Angeleses.

Ms. Moule, along with her partner, is a Seaside Award recipient for 1998, the most prestigious award in the field of urbanism. Her recent design experience includes major design projects, such as the Colonia de la Paz Residence Hall for the University of Arizona and the St. Vibiana Reuse Study for the Los Angeles conservancy. She was in charge of the renovation of the Neff Office Project, the new offices of Moule & Polyzoides, and the adjacent Marengo Meridian Court Studios. Her urban design experience includes Playa Vista and the Highland District Master Plan for the University of Arizona. She also was the principle designer for the extension of Georgetown in the Cayman Islands. In addition, Ms. Moule’s project for Palmanova, Italy, was exhibited in a recent Venice Biennale.


The four clips below are excerpts from Greening America Productions’s full video, included here with permission:

Suburbs do not provide “public windows” and “eyes on the street” for child safety and crime prevention.


Suburban design wastes land for the sake of convention. When they’re available, people often prefer public parks to expansive lawns.


Suburban design is a particular challenge for women taking care of children. (1 of 2)

Suburban design is a particular challenge for women taking care of children. (2 of 2)



David Wann works to present images of a more sustainable American lifestyle in articles, books, and films. His most recent book is The New Normal: An Agenda for Responsible Living, which challenges us to do some heavy lifting and transform our non-sustainable culture by transforming ourselves. Simple Prosperity presents 17 forms of real wealth that meet human needs directly, providing twice the satisfaction for half the resources. He is coauthor of Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic and Superbia! 31 Ways to Create Sustainable Neighborhoods, and the author of The Zen of Gardening in the High and Arid West: Tips, Tools, and Techniques. Wann’s award-winning film Designing a Great Neighborhood was recently featured at the Princeton Film Festival. Visit his website at

Header aerial photo of suburban sprawl courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, artwork, case studies, and more since 1997.