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Old 01-16-2014, 12:58 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eskercurve View Post
So why the move to suburbia in the first place?

The answer is simple. America has until quite recently been a nation of frontiersmen. ...

Now we're coming to a turning point when we realize we just created different headaches for ourselves and that city life need not be dangerous or dreary or bleak. ...
This is a good summary. There is something crucial to the American psyche about seeking individual autonomy, with one's house quite literally being one's castle. Partially from the horrors of late 19th century tenements, partially from Manifest Destiny to expand, partially from experiences of immigrants in their home countries, and whole host of social reasons, America was a decentralized country, with people spreading out an occupying the land. The logical consequence was suburban sprawl, made possible by private automobiles.

Today we MIGHT be seeing a generational backlash against suburbia, with the new urbanism. Maybe. Or it might not be generational at all, and instead a slow but inexorable cultural shift, where America begins to look my like Europe, with large population centers, well-connected by public transportation, but with comparatively little residential settlement in between the centers.

I moved into the countryside after having gotten my fill of university dorms and of sharing cramped apartments. I wanted distance between myself and neighbors, privacy and self-determination. I found those things, by and large. But I also found deleterious effects, effects that I could not have anticipated until I implemented the theoretical ideas in practice.

One wonders if as a nation, we're gravitating towards the viewpoint that the thirst for privacy and autonomy can be self-defeating, creating new and unforeseen problems. Now that we know this, we might be more amenable to a different lifestyle, one that resembles the pre-suburban urbanism.
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Old 01-16-2014, 02:23 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohio_peasant View Post
This is a good summary. There is something crucial to the American psyche about seeking individual autonomy, with one's house quite literally being one's castle. Partially from the horrors of late 19th century tenements, partially from Manifest Destiny to expand, partially from experiences of immigrants in their home countries, and whole host of social reasons, America was a decentralized country, with people spreading out an occupying the land. The logical consequence was suburban sprawl, made possible by private automobiles.

Today we MIGHT be seeing a generational backlash against suburbia, with the new urbanism. Maybe. Or it might not be generational at all, and instead a slow but inexorable cultural shift, where America begins to look my like Europe, with large population centers, well-connected by public transportation, but with comparatively little residential settlement in between the centers.

I moved into the countryside after having gotten my fill of university dorms and of sharing cramped apartments. I wanted distance between myself and neighbors, privacy and self-determination. I found those things, by and large. But I also found deleterious effects, effects that I could not have anticipated until I implemented the theoretical ideas in practice.

One wonders if as a nation, we're gravitating towards the viewpoint that the thirst for privacy and autonomy can be self-defeating, creating new and unforeseen problems. Now that we know this, we might be more amenable to a different lifestyle, one that resembles the pre-suburban urbanism.
America's fixation on privacy from neighbors is pretty unique. If you look at how people live essentially all traditional societies, there's little of what we would call privacy. Dwellings are very small, often no more than the place you sleep, with the majority of time spent in the "commons" outside. Personal space as we understood probably didn't exist until well into the 19th century, as even during colonial days it was common to have only two rooms to your house at most, one in the front to entertain guests, eat, and work, and one in the rear to sleep.

As I see it, the root of the suburban lifestyle comes with the mentality of property ownership - in particular land ownership. There was, after all, one sort of house which was always surrounded by large tracks of land - estates. Over time these worked their way down from massive feudal holdings to yeoman farmers, but you see the same basic model - a sizable house which is some distance away from all property lines, allowing for clear defense of title against surrounding landowners. The idealized suburban house is basically constructed as an estate in miniature. Modern suburban landscaping, for example, directly grew out of a desire to have gardens which mimicked the English country estates (where large expanses of grass were kept short by grazing).
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Old 01-16-2014, 02:28 PM
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Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
America's fixation on privacy from neighbors is pretty unique. If you look at how people live essentially all traditional societies, there's little of what we would call privacy. Dwellings are very small, often no more than the place you sleep, with the majority of time spent in the "commons" outside.
Then why do European houses often have large privacy bushes?
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Old 01-16-2014, 02:33 PM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Originally Posted by nei View Post
Then why do European houses often have large privacy bushes?
Maybe I should say the need for massive amounts of space between ourselves and our neighbors.

A lot of Latin America has big concrete fences between houses so high you can't see over them. But they're still placed relatively on top of each other even in middle-class areas.
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:01 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 14 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
America's fixation on privacy from neighbors is pretty unique. If you look at how people live essentially all traditional societies, there's little of what we would call privacy. Dwellings are very small, often no more than the place you sleep, with the majority of time spent in the "commons" outside. Personal space as we understood probably didn't exist until well into the 19th century, as even during colonial days it was common to have only two rooms to your house at most, one in the front to entertain guests, eat, and work, and one in the rear to sleep.

As I see it, the root of the suburban lifestyle comes with the mentality of property ownership - in particular land ownership. There was, after all, one sort of house which was always surrounded by large tracks of land - estates. Over time these worked their way down from massive feudal holdings to yeoman farmers, but you see the same basic model - a sizable house which is some distance away from all property lines, allowing for clear defense of title against surrounding landowners. The idealized suburban house is basically constructed as an estate in miniature. Modern suburban landscaping, for example, directly grew out of a desire to have gardens which mimicked the English country estates (where large expanses of grass were kept short by grazing).
Actually, I was reading a new urbanism blog one time where a EUROPEAN said s/he didn't understand why Americans felt they always had to put themselves on display, what with their front porches, et al. Europeans have their outdoor spaces in the BACK of their homes.

People in South Africa have huge 8' high privacy fences.
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Old 01-16-2014, 05:07 PM
Status: "Summer!" (set 14 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohio_peasant View Post
This is a good summary. There is something crucial to the American psyche about seeking individual autonomy, with one's house quite literally being one's castle. Partially from the horrors of late 19th century tenements, partially from Manifest Destiny to expand, partially from experiences of immigrants in their home countries, and whole host of social reasons, America was a decentralized country, with people spreading out an occupying the land. The logical consequence was suburban sprawl, made possible by private automobiles.

Today we MIGHT be seeing a generational backlash against suburbia, with the new urbanism. Maybe. Or it might not be generational at all, and instead a slow but inexorable cultural shift, where America begins to look my like Europe, with large population centers, well-connected by public transportation, but with comparatively little residential settlement in between the centers.

I moved into the countryside after having gotten my fill of university dorms and of sharing cramped apartments. I wanted distance between myself and neighbors, privacy and self-determination. I found those things, by and large. But I also found deleterious effects, effects that I could not have anticipated until I implemented the theoretical ideas in practice.

One wonders if as a nation, we're gravitating towards the viewpoint that the thirst for privacy and autonomy can be self-defeating, creating new and unforeseen problems. Now that we know this, we might be more amenable to a different lifestyle, one that resembles the pre-suburban urbanism.
Every generation rebels against their parents. That's what a lot of the young people on this forum are doing.
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Old 01-17-2014, 06:56 AM
 
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The yearning for privacy, perhaps, arose concomitantly with the rise of individual consciousness in the 19th century; with the rise of mass notions of autonomy, liberty and the like.

I agree with eschaton's post #152, in that the American McMansion is a degenerate profanation of the English country house, where middle-class Americans yearn to be ennobled lords in miniature. But lordship is costly, and when the property comes to lord over its owner, eventually the owner reconsiders and downsizes to something more manageable.

While the desire for privacy is perhaps universal in the West, there is something unique about the American condition. Elsewhere, land ownership was limited to a privileged class. Land purchase required not only money, but official permission; one had to be of the right class, ethnicity, religion and so forth. The 19th century rejection of aristocratic privilege and of autocratic primacy perhaps retained a skepticism of residential land-ownership. In the US, anyone with money (and sometimes without) could own land. Land ownership was never really associated with narrow privilege. But if anyone could aspire to owning land, perhaps everyone should? So goes the imperative.

In the post-modern consciousness, the mere fact that we have a given liberty, does not mean that it is imperative to exercise it. Even if one can afford to buy an estate, maybe nevertheless one shouldn't, because not merely financial considerations determine the pros and cons of ownership.

Also, I am not persuaded that the recent trends are merely generational rebellion. Generation X bought suburban houses with as much appetite as the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation, perhaps more so. By that reasoning, they were less keen on rebelling than on exceeding their parents' dictum.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:24 AM
 
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Morningside)
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Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
Actually, I was reading a new urbanism blog one time where a EUROPEAN said s/he didn't understand why Americans felt they always had to put themselves on display, what with their front porches, et al. Europeans have their outdoor spaces in the BACK of their homes.
I grew up in New England, where houses for the most part didn't have front porches. While a fair amount of houses here in Pittsburgh have them, it's relatively rare I see people hanging out on them, and usually it's only elderly people.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Katiana View Post
People in South Africa have huge 8' high privacy fences.
As I said, I think it's less about privacy than it is about personal space. Although we have much more distinct ideas about privacy in the home than most other cultures. In most of the rest of the world it would be considered insane to guilt trip mothers who cosleep with their infants for example.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:36 AM
nei nei won $500 in our forum's Most Engaging Poster Contest - Thirteenth Edition (Jan-Feb 2015). 

Over $104,000 in prizes has already been given out to active posters on our forum and additional contests are planned
 
Location: Long Island / NYC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschaton View Post
I grew up in New England, where houses for the most part didn't have front porches. While a fair amount of houses here in Pittsburgh have them, it's relatively rare I see people hanging out on them, and usually it's only elderly people.
older homes generally have porches in New England, I see some get used. It helps that many don't have much private back space.

Quote:
As I said, I think it's less about privacy than it is about personal space. Although we have much more distinct ideas about privacy in the home than most other cultures. In most of the rest of the world it would be considered insane to guilt trip mothers who cosleep with their infants for example.
Though perhaps the less space between houses encourage locals to build high fences or bushes as a substitute. Though judging by views of houses of similar space in the US vs Europe, the bushes / fences difference remain, though not all European houses are fenced. The comment by some people about houses so close together being a problem "your neighbors are almost right next to you", does seem like an American thing. A detached home on say 5000-6000 sq ft lot, which some on the forum considered small, would be considered spacious or on the spread out side in much of the developed world. Note how much of what is said about American housing patterns could also be said about Canadian or Australian ones,.
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Old 01-17-2014, 08:39 AM
Status: "Summer!" (set 14 days ago)
 
Location: Foot of the Rockies
86,981 posts, read 102,527,356 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ohio_peasant View Post
The yearning for privacy, perhaps, arose concomitantly with the rise of individual consciousness in the 19th century; with the rise of mass notions of autonomy, liberty and the like.

I agree with eschaton's post #152, in that the American McMansion is a degenerate profanation of the English country house, where middle-class Americans yearn to be ennobled lords in miniature. But lordship is costly, and when the property comes to lord over its owner, eventually the owner reconsiders and downsizes to something more manageable.

While the desire for privacy is perhaps universal in the West, there is something unique about the American condition. Elsewhere, land ownership was limited to a privileged class. Land purchase required not only money, but official permission; one had to be of the right class, ethnicity, religion and so forth. The 19th century rejection of aristocratic privilege and of autocratic primacy perhaps retained a skepticism of residential land-ownership. In the US, anyone with money (and sometimes without) could own land. Land ownership was never really associated with narrow privilege. But if anyone could aspire to owning land, perhaps everyone should? So goes the imperative.

In the post-modern consciousness, the mere fact that we have a given liberty, does not mean that it is imperative to exercise it. Even if one can afford to buy an estate, maybe nevertheless one shouldn't, because not merely financial considerations determine the pros and cons of ownership.

Also, I am not persuaded that the recent trends are merely generational rebellion. Generation X bought suburban houses with as much appetite as the Baby Boomers and Silent Generation, perhaps more so. By that reasoning, they were less keen on rebelling than on exceeding their parents' dictum.
Ah, the old "that's different" explanation. This forum is starting to look like Politics and Other Controversies.

And what is wrong with "everyone" owning or at least being able to own land? Isn't that more egalitarian? I can't help but see in a lot of the NU literature a desire for land and property owning to be returned to a few, with the rest of us renting for life. You can check my posts for examples. Maybe there's something more sinister going on with these people that want all of us to rent. You can acquire great wealth by amassing land and property.

Damn right I'm going to exercise my liberty!
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