Slouching suburbs

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Suburban construction outside Madison, Wisconsin

Sprawl houses outside Washington, DC

The suburbs don't just spread, they slouch and slump as they drape themselves formlessly over the landscape. Not only are they formless, the suburbs are criticized as too tame, too sterile, too middle-class, too auto-dependent, too uniform, too separatist, too un-ecological, and so on. I don't want to argue that suburbia is good architecture or planning, but I will argue that it shows the birth of a new kind of place with new unities and possibilities that need to be engaged on their own terms.

If we insist on construing the new epoch in terms of the forms of order in its predecessor we see mere confusion. Whitehead1938, 119

Many criticisms of sprawl presuppose that real places should be complete, enclosed, self-sufficient and well formed. But there are new kinds of unity in the sprawl, which are not based on local enclosure and centering.

In fact, if a contemporary place is neatly bordered and centered it may well be on its way to becoming a museum, or a theme park.