True West

Millions of Americans are moving west, attracted by big skies, majestic scenery, abundant wildlife, and a romantic past. Many developments built to accommodate these newcomers flout the landscape and ignore local traditions, threatening or destroying the very qualities that make the West beautiful and unique. But it is not too late. In True West, veteran Western planners Chris Duerksen and James van Hemert use patterns from the past to show planners and government officials in America’s fastest-growing region how to preserve the best of the West for future generations.

The authors explore Native American, Spanish colonial, and early American settlements and find characteristics in each that typify authentic Western architectural styles, site layouts, landscaping and vegetation, fences, and roads. From these shared characteristics, they develop a “pattern language” for regional development, towns, dispersed rural settlements, architecture and design, culture and community, site design, and other elements. Seven comprehensive case studies from six states describe successful developments that fit the Western landscape. Complementing them are 17 shorter examples that focus on a particular regulatory process or aspect of development.

True West is the first of its kind—a guide to shaping development that is authentically Western. It offers understaffed or inexperienced local governments in small towns and rural areas an innovative and useful framework for identifying and realizing growth and new development that complements, not degrades, the irreplaceable Western landscape.

Praise for True West

“Western states have been struggling to deal with the impact of population growth while maintaining the striking beauty, vast open spaces, and unique environments that draw people to these arid lands. True West is a valuable tool to learn from past successes and develop future approaches that will enhance the quality of life for Western communities while they continue to thrive and prosper.” Representative Mark Udall (Colorado 2nd District)

“True West provides a pattern language for small towns and rural areas in the arid,
rugged, and treeless landscape west of the 100th meridian. Its detailed case studies will be an invaluable resource for professional and lay planners for years to come.” Randall Arendt Author, Rural by Design

“Recent land development patterns in the American West are remorselessly strangling biodiversity and human quality of life. True West argues that merely scrutinizing Western history might simplify the daunting task of how to best settle what remains of our wide open spaces. This is a practical planning tool for communities throughout the West.” John Fielder Photographer and Author Colorado 1870-2000, Then & Now