Saying goodbye, slowly, to the suburban experiment
Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) was an interesting guy. Among many other things, we was a fan of cities and good urban planning. He also gave a warning voice against the rise of car-centric suburbia as it was happening in the 20th century. Here’s a quote from him, emphasis from me:
In the suburb one might live and die without marring the image of an innocent world, except when some shadow of evil fell over a column in the newspaper. Thus the suburb served as an asylum for the preservation of illusion. Here domesticity could prosper, oblivious of the pervasive regimentation beyond. This was not merely a child-centered environment; it was based on a childish view of the world, in which reality was sacrificed to the pleasure principle.
Perspective: car-centric, suburban sprawl is a construct of the 20th century that clashes with the way human settlements developed and thrived for millennia. It reconstructed our living spaces on a scale meant for cars, making our neighborhoods inhospitable to the kind of pedestrian connectivity that we need for healthy interactivity with our environments and with each other.
Some day that sprawl will be fully retro-fitted as the kind of walkable, compact environment that puts people in face-to-face contact more so than what happens now via windshield perspectives; respecting both basic human needs and also the land-space needs of nature. This is happening now slowly, in our lifetimes, but the damage is significant and the repair will take many years.
Future generations will look back on the suburban experiment of the 20th century as the bizarre, unnatural thing that it was. Knowing that makes me feel a bit better about how slow the process is of undoing the physical and psychological detritus of the experiment.