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Old 05-30-2011, 08:08 PM
 
2,365 posts, read 1,282,122 times
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...as far as the eye can see.

In a nutshell, this is what is wrong with suburbia.
From an aesthetic point of view, it is just sheer ugliness on a massive scale as far as the eye can see.














Not just suburbia, but our major cities are also overrun by crass commercialism, and heavily paved over with ugly asphalt in order to cater to the automobile, first and foremost. American cities are built for cars, not for people. It is not a very pleasant experience to walk in Times Square, for example. All the loud noises from the cars and heavy traffic congestion combined with the giant tacky, flashing neon signs everywhere is enough to give one vertigo. Things are not built on a more human scale.



http://www.ebreviews.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/times-square-knock-socks.jpg (broken link)


"If we can repair the physical fabric of our everyday world, I believe that many of the damaged and abandoned institutions of our civic life will follow into restoration. If nothing else, we stand to regain places to live and work that are worthy of our affection and our human aspirations."
-James Howard Kunstler, 'The Geography of Nowhere'

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Old 05-31-2011, 01:15 PM
 
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
11,323 posts, read 10,122,539 times
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Yikes.

Kunstler is right about our butt-ugly public space, but otherwise he is a bit wacky and never proposes solutions besides going back to 1850.

People build environments according to their cultural values/wants at the time. The modern world didn't happen on purpose, but our wasteland commerical zones, vinyl and pressboard cookie-cutter housing and overwhelming 1000 foot high glass temples to the dollar bill are a perfect reflection of today's American culture.

Next to Kunster's Geograpy of Nowhere on my bookshelf is The Fourth Turning, which would suggest that we are in the midst of a painful reevaluation of our priorities as a culture which will result in major changes. Hopefully we reject the post WWII junk that has made our world so ugly and embrace something better.
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Old 05-31-2011, 02:29 PM
 
Location: Western Massachusetts
28,580 posts, read 14,760,301 times
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Much of Times Square is now closed to cars, so it's not really catered to automobiles.

You could have found a far less commercializated and crass section of NYC than Times Square or really any American city. Times Square is meant for tourists.
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Old 05-31-2011, 04:36 PM
 
Location: East of Seattle, originally from SF Bay Area
14,787 posts, read 18,084,357 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
...as far as the eye can see.

In a nutshell, this is what is wrong with suburbia.
There's a big difference between suburbia and Times Square. For that matter none of the pictures seem suburban to me. I live in a suburban city of 55,000, with no commercial signs except at the two small strip malls.
This is the view from in front of my house - the valley below and mountains behind that. Not every suburbia is Orange County.
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The land of giant plastic signs and massive parking lots-100_0701.jpg   The land of giant plastic signs and massive parking lots-100_0727.jpg  
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:13 PM
 
2,365 posts, read 1,282,122 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bisjoe View Post
There's a big difference between suburbia and Times Square. For that matter none of the pictures seem suburban to me. I live in a suburban city of 55,000, with no commercial signs except at the two small strip malls.
This is the view from in front of my house - the valley below and mountains behind that. Not every suburbia is Orange County.
Quote:
Originally Posted by nei View Post
Much of Times Square is now closed to cars, so it's not really catered to automobiles.

You could have found a far less commercializated and crass section of NYC than Times Square or really any American city. Times Square is meant for tourists.
You could always find a few more well-designed downtown areas that are less commercial but these places tend to be few and far between. You really have go out of your way to find them or get to them unless you are lucky enough to live right in them. But most of us are not so fortunate because we have to go where our jobs take us. And when you do find them, there will always be heavy car traffic flowing through them at all hours of the day.

....because there is no place in America that you can escape from the dreaded Asphalt & Concrete Syndrome. Two of the ugliest building materials known to man, and our cities and suburbs are virtually buried in it. True, you will find asphalt roads in any country including European countries for example but over there you also see a great many streets made of brick and cobblestone everywhere, where cars aren't even allowed, only pedestrians.

It's really an amazing feeling to walk down a beautiful cobblestone avenue and see no cars just lots of beautiful people walking around, or sitting in an outdoor cafe enjoying themselves, surrounded by beautiful architecture. Just a very simple pleasure that you can't experience anywhere in the United States because every place of business, every residence in the US is overlooking a heavily trafficked road or parking area made of cold asphalt and concrete never brick or stone.

When you are sitting al fresco at a Starbucks in the United States the only view you will have is of the giant parking lot or a 2 to 3 lane asphalt boulevard with hundreds of cars whizzing by you at 30-40 miles an hour. You can hardly hear yourself talking because the automobile traffic is so loud unless you shout. The feeling is so uncomfortable that I never sit outside when I'm in a cafe or restaurant in the US. Plus I don't enjoy the taste of exhaust fumes with my morning coffee not to mention the general low-quality and tastelessness of Starbucks coffee.

Sorry for ranting just wanted to get that off my chest.

Last edited by cisco kid; 05-31-2011 at 08:33 PM..
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:45 PM
 
2,365 posts, read 1,282,122 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chango View Post
Yikes.

Kunstler is right about our butt-ugly public space, but otherwise he is a bit wacky and never proposes solutions besides going back to 1850.
Yeah, Kunstler is a bit 'wacky' in how he expresses himself but that's what makes him interesting. He makes you pay attention to what is otherwise a rather esoteric subject. And I do believe he proposes some good solutions its just a matter of implementation and a matter of changing our heavily biased pro-car culture and attitude, changing the politics because if we can't or won't then the solutions will be impossible to implement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chango View Post
Next to Kunster's Geograpy of Nowhere on my bookshelf is The Fourth Turning, which would suggest that we are in the midst of a painful reevaluation of our priorities as a culture which will result in major changes. Hopefully we reject the post WWII junk that has made our world so ugly and embrace something better.
Thank you for the book recommendation.
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:46 PM
Status: "Thinking Out Loud" (set 6 hours ago)
 
6,791 posts, read 3,132,714 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cisco kid View Post
You could always find a few more well-designed downtown areas that are less commercial but these places tend to be few and far between. You really have go out of your way to find them or get to them unless you are lucky enough to live right in them. But most of us are not so fortunate because we have to go where our jobs take us. And when you do find them, there will always be heavy car traffic flowing through them at all hours of the day.

....because there is no place in America that you can escape from the dreaded Asphalt & Concrete Syndrome. Two of the ugliest building materials known to man, and our cities and suburbs are virtually buried in it. True, you will find asphalt roads in any country including European countries for example but over there you also see a great many streets made of brick and cobblestone everywhere, where cars aren't even allowed, only pedestrians.

It's really an amazing feeling to walk down a beautiful cobblestone avenue and see no cars just lots of beautiful people walking around, or sitting in an outdoor cafe enjoying themselves, surrounded by beautiful architecture. Just a very simple pleasure that you can't experience anywhere in the United States because every place of business, every residence in the US is overlooking a heavily trafficked road or parking area made of cold asphalt and concrete never brick or stone.

When you are sitting al fresco at a Starbucks in the United States the only view you will have is of the giant parking lot or a 2 to 3 lane asphalt boulevard with hundreds of cars whizzing by you at 30-40 miles an hour. You can hardly hear yourself talking because the automobile traffic is so loud unless you shout. The feeling is so uncomfortable that I never sit outside when I'm in a cafe or restaurant in the US. Plus I don't enjoy the taste of exhaust fumes with my morning coffee not to mention the general low-quality and tastelessness of Starbucks coffee.

Sorry for ranting just wanted to get that off my chest.
I'm so in agreement with you on this; I cannot stand how ugly the landscape of America has gotten. Billboards, advertisements. pavement, abandoned strip malls. I love the point you made of sitting outside in other countries just enjoying the natural beauty ; I must get to those places, and soon
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Old 05-31-2011, 09:43 PM
Status: "60th anniversary of the polio vaccine! Hail to Pitt!" (set 9 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
70,023 posts, read 60,574,028 times
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That's a pretty old McDonald's. Is it perhaps the first one? Been a long time since a burger was 15c.
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Old 05-31-2011, 11:19 PM
 
Location: Southern California
12,573 posts, read 9,506,680 times
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I guess you won't be going to Las Vegas soon...

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Old 06-01-2011, 12:19 AM
 
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I often admire hand-painted advertising on the sides of old buildings (like the prosaic Coke ads, as well as ads for the building and its features--STEAM HEAT, RUNNING WATER IN ALL ROOMS etc.) and am definitely a fan of neon signs. Even the old McDonald's and other examples of mid-century Googie design are now old enough to seem pretty charming. I'm not sure if the mansard-roofed 1970s McDonald's will ever fall into that category (I'm hoping not) but there's nothing like time and a little sentiment to make an eyesore into a classic.

Before the advent of concrete and asphalt, most streets weren't brick or cobblestone; they were dirt. And by "dirt," I mean animal feces, raw sewage and whatever people flung into the street before the days of municipal trash collection. Personally, I'll take the asphalt over that stuff, and concrete is a very flexible material--you can do some beautiful stuff with concrete. Like advertising, it's really the design, not the intent, that seems to matter most.

In those European cities, the streets may be brick because the street hasn't been repaved in centuries, and there may be some parts where auto traffic is limited, but more often it's because the streets are too narrow for cars and too crowded with stuff already. But more often, European drivers are zipping down those charming, narrow European streets in tiny European cars, or mopeds, as well as getting around by bike and public transit and on foot. The difference is the share of modes--it's not all-or-nothing the way it is in much of the US.

If modern American landscapes are unbeautiful, it is because they are intended to be temporary--a mass-produced, disposable consumer product, no more permanent than the plastic clamshell box your take-out fast food order came in, and with no more thought put into its design. Suburbs are the ultimate disposable consumer product, intended to be eaten, digested and excreted through the great cloaca of the American highway system, with the automobile serving as the means of delivering the product to the consumer by making them pay for the right to be delivered to the product.
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