This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.


Aliens and Suburbia

Recommended Posts

Found this to be an interesting read...

If aliens have been observing us develop as a species, when we got around to building suburbs, one of them must have been shaking his head(s) as he looked through his binoculars. "Zorg," he'd say to his friend. "Take a look at this: you can't believe what these idiots are doing now."

Or maybe they'd be excited for us. Suburbs are, after all, a rather alien concept for human living; a contrived and decisive system of dwellings conceived by myopic "visionaries" from the same generation of people who thought plastic was indestructible and cheeseburgers were good for you.

Perhaps here's what happen: In the beginning we had caves, which were drafty, but you couldn't beat the rent. Then we moved up to huts. Followed by groups of huts, which got pretty crowded. Eventually someone invented the elevator and the huts got really, really tall (sorry for condensing the entire history of architecture into a few glib sentences).

After decades of banging it out in Metropolis, some people came to a realization: Hey, this kind of sucks. I live right on top of my neighbors (and even worse, they are different from me - their food smells funny, and I've never heard of their god). My living room is the size of an elevator and I'm lawn-less! Where am I? Who am I?

The invention of a different kind of elevator, one that had four wheels and went sideways, enabled people to forget about the Z-axis and start thinking X/Y. People grew tired of moving up; they wanted to move out. But rather than going back to groups of huts, we put up a new kind of environment, reeking of artifice, unsophisticated in ideology.

And yet for decades, city-beaten workers would rush toward these enclaves like lemmings piling over a cliff, all in search of the good life. The idea of Suburbia was noble enough, and seems like logical civic development, squarely based on American values.

"America had always had the idea of westward expansion," says Fred Blumlein, a Long island-based environments designer. "Once you filled your tank, there was always a place to go. And 'going west' gave you that American sense of freedom, of fresh space. A fresh start in a fresh space, in a big house with a yard, sounded great. But somewhere along the line, we took a left turn (see below).

What we wanted: Our own houses

What we got: Rows of houses so similar to each other that it might one day drive the mailman crazy (Hmmm...)

What we wanted: Our own yards, our own land.

What we got: A place where you could buy, and carry home in the back of your El Camino, six-foot rolls of grass (the lawn kind; the other kind came in more manageable portions).

What we wanted: A home close to nature.

What we got: An environment where Department of Transportation manuals refer to trees as "FHOs" (Fixed and Hazardous Objects) and stress their removal in the name of automotive safety. I know this because I had an FHO-house I used to play in as a child.

What we wanted: Rustic, winding country roads.

What we got: Arbitrarily meandering streets whose contours, rather than follow natural topography, seemed to correlate more with whatever French curve was lying on top of the pile in the planner's office.

What we wanted: Freedom from the grid-locked traffic of the city.

What we got: Dead-end streets terminating in cul-de-sacs, with limited through traffic to a few overburdened expressways and "main artery" b...

What we wanted: Beautiful homes crafted with modern materials.

What we got: A place where the ghosts of Italian craftsmen would be horrified to see what we had done with their stucco technology.

What we wanted: Neighborhoods for human living.

What we got: Neighborhoods for automotive driving.

What we wanted: A solution to the sidewalk fear of being mugged.

What we got: A sidewalk fear of being mowed down be an itinerant Chevrolet whipping along an excessively wide road designed to accommodate fire trucks in a nuclear emergency while walking down the sidewalk.

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.