Topic: A Dissection of Suburbia
America's suburbs have been a subject of
ridicule since they began their takeover of the national landscape after WWII. No critics are more vocal than " new urbanists," who believe in dense, lively, walkable, sustainable urban environments. New urbanist James Howard Kunstler calls suburbs " the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world."
The biggest criticism of suburban sprawl is that it forces us to drive instead of walking or taking public transit.
NewUrbanism.org enumerates the costs of all this time behind the wheel: Social Costs: Isolation (we don't stop and talk to people in the street) Time stuck in traffic means less time for civic activities Economic Costs: Wasted time Wasted money (we spend nearly 30% our income on car payments) Wasted public funds (endless civic spending on road upkeep) Environmental Costs: Pollution from car exhaust Loss of environment that's paved over Health Costs: Toll of stress from road rage Inactivity-related illnesses Environmental diseases from pollution
Over the past three decades, the length of “rush hours” per day in major U.S. cities has continued to climb, according to government stats.
This is happening as cities have gotten more populated but less dense–i.e.,
Warning: The following may contain ennui.
Berkeley, CA, and its sister-cities, San Francisco and Oakland,
rank among the Top 10 most sustainable cities in the country. They get especially high marks for their public transit and their citizen engagement.
We wondered if Berkeley-ites had hit sustainability fatigue, or if they’d be willing to go even further. Is Berkeley an endpoint on the road to sustainability, or just a mile marker? So we asked people on the street:
What would it take to make your life more sustainable?
Clusterfuck Nation – New urbanist Howard Kunstler’s blog
Ecocity Views – Richard Register on rebuilding a healthy relationship between cities and nature
How We Drive – Blog on traffic and driving by Tom Vanderbilt, author Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us)
Inhabitat – Blog on all things green design, urban and otherwise
New Colonist: Vox Civitatis – News on sustainable urban design
Re:Vision Dallas – Updates on a sustainable design contest for a plot of land in downtown Dallas
The City Fix – Site on sustainable urban transport with local blogs in Mumbai; Washington, D.C.; and Mexico City
Into the mid-2000s, suburbia looked like it was going to keep growing forever. When Forbes released this 2007 list of the top 100 fastest-growing suburbs, based on census data, some had as much as doubled in size in six years. Click on the red markers to see the rank and growth rate.
Then the recession hit. Now suburbs have emptied so fast that the U.S. government is considering
razing them. A pilot program in Flint, Michigan has already started knocking down vacant houses.
Presenting at the 2004
TED conference, passionate “ new urbanist” Howard Kunstler had some choice words for dreary American suburban landscapes.
Kunstler calls this suburban intersection two miles north of his town an “
asteroid belt of architectural garbage.”
Boston City Hall? “
A public place so dismal that the winos don’t even want to go there.”
Any way to improve this, the back side of Boston City Hall? “
This, in fact, would be a better building if we put mosaic portraits of Josef Stalin, Pol Pot, Saddam Hussein, and all the other great despots of the 20th century on the side of the building, because then we’d honestly be saying what the building is really communicating to us. You know, that it’s a despotic building; it wants us to feel like termites.”
Public space, Kunstler says, conveys a message about who we are. This public building in his hometown?
“ This is a building designed like a DVD player. Audio jack, power supply. …. The message of this form of architecture … is: We don’t give a fuck!“