Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dark Vision of Sprawl

In his book The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape, Howard Kuntzler makes some profound, though depressing observations about sprawl. A lover of Place, Kuntzler believes that suburbia has virtually "wrecked the human habitat," and that "more and more we appear to be a nation of overfed clowns living in a hostile cartoon environment."

"Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built in the last fifty years," Kuntzler writes, "and most of it is depressing, brutal, ugly, unhealthy and spiritually degrading -- the jive-plastic commuter tract-home wastelands, the Potemkin village shopping plazas with their vast parking lagoons, the Lego-block hotel complexes . . . the Orwellian office 'parks' featuring buildings sheathed in the same reflective glass as sunglasses worn by chain-gang guards, the particle board garden apartments rising up in every meadow and cornfield, the freeway loops around every big and little city . . . the whole destructive, wasteful, toxic, agoraphobia-inducing spectacle that politicians proudly call 'growth.'"

His vision is dark, but Kuntzler certainly gives readers a great deal to chew on, and he creates a unique vocabulary around the "geography of nowhere." (Marilyn Finnemore)

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