Friday, July 21, 2006

Suburban Weekend

Suburban Weekend

Suburban Weekend (2000)

And the people in the houses
All go to the university,
And they all get put in boxes,
Little boxes, all the same.

--Malvina Reynolds, "Little Boxes"

From The Harvard Design Magazine -- "Ozzie and Harriet in Hell" by Mike Davis:

In other metropolitan areas, of course, the class differentiation of suburbia still corresponds to the concentric rings -- income increasing outward -- of the old Burgess Park model of urban ecology. The “hole in the donut,” as it were, is growing larger. At the same time, the new intensity of intersuburban interaction -- including commutes-to-work and flow of goods -- has dramatically weakened, if not fully displaced, the traditional solar system model of suburbs radially attracted to the center. Indeed, in some metropolises, the outlying major airport, with its office towers, warehouses, and convention facilities, has become more gravitationally important as a center of employment and exchange than the older downtown.

The have-not suburbs, moreover, have accelerated their own decline by squandering scarce tax resources in zero-sum competitions for new investment. Too many poor communities have tried to upscale themselves through a combination of draconian social engineering (restriction or even removal of low-income residents) and desperate bids for new tax resources. If a decade ago, every aging L.A. suburb from Compton to Pomona had to have its own auto mall, now the mügic bullet is believed to be a card casino (and both Compton and Pomona are scheming to build one). Redevelopment programs, which in California devour 10 to 15% of local tax revenue, have become little more than cargo cults, praying for miraculous investments that never come.

In addition to the dramatic hemorrhage of jobs and capital over the last decade, senile suburbia also suffers from premature physical obsolescence -- the architectural equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease. Much of what has been built in the postwar period (and continues to be built today) is throw-away architecture, with a thirty-year or less functional lifespan. “Dingbats” and other light-frame sunbelt apartment types are especially unsuited to support the intergenerational continuity of community and property. At best, this stucco junk was designed to be promptly recycled by perennially dynamic housing markets. But such markets have stagnated or died in much of the old suburban fringe.

So what, exactly, about the suburbs is so soul crushing? Is it the place?

Los Angeles is 72 suburbs in search of a city...--Dorothy Parker

I would sum up my fear of the future in one word: boring...The future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.
--J. G. Ballard

[Photograph: Suburb by Jeff Spirer]

Or is it what the place produces?

Did you know Jesus was a Jew?

If Jack Kerouac had set out to find a real bookstore in the suburbs, he would still be on the road, Phileas Fogg would still be in the air, the Ancient Mariner wouldn't have had time to tell anyone his story.
--Michael Winerip

[Photograph from Clerks II site]

Which came first? The ticky? Or the tack?

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Credentialed Society

Throngs of red-billed woodpeckers
tattoo their certificates
into endangered species of bark
to prevent the corps of engineers
from redirecting one channel into another,
as if passports alone guaranteed safe passage
across contested borders.

Hierarchies of patronage
determine the new social class
and rigorously elect the balance of heaven
according to plumage and scarcity of thought,
privileging diversity of species
in the arc of the university.

Dr. Mike

cruelanimal said...

Another terrific poem. It's always nice to see your work.

Neil Shakespeare said...

I remember when I was a kid and I first heard of 'suburbs' I thought they were underground...you know, under the urbs, just like submarines were under the marines. And it turned out I was right. They ARE under the urbs. And it's painful, from what I hear.

enigma4ever said...

Neil you crack me up..and about the Burbs...can't won't ...live urban..to live in the burbs would kill me...
I love this picture- it is like Georgia O'Keefe goes Contemporary...

Anonymous said...

jay and silent bob like it lol

cruelanimal said...

Thanks, E4Ever. Neil cracks me up, too. After his linguistic analysis about being under, I'll never think of the Sub-Mariner the same way again...

Miss Celaneus said...

I love that post. All of it... Including pictures, wisecracks, links, and comments.

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