Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trash Inside the Walls

A carpenter-friend recently told me that something disturbing happened while he was putting in cabinets in a new tract house. "All the workers threw their trash, including lunch remains, under the stairs or inside the walls," he told me. "Afterward they simply slapped up the wallboard over the trash and left it there where no one could see."

He went on to tell me another story about discovering that the frame of a house he was working on was "stapled" rather than nailed together. "It would have only taken a gust of wind to knock it down," he said. "They threw that vinyl siding over it though, which held it together for the time being, but there's really nothing underneath." He's convinced that in a few years many of these developments will look like "ghettos."

This carelessness in putting together these "assembly-line properties" is a consequence of building Non-Place, or places that are meant to be quickly consumed and not built to last, places that the construction crew doesn't necessarily care about and eventual residents don't have any passion for. Everyone knows the ratty Route One's in their town, the weedy cracked parking lots of aging shopping centers, the wind-damaged vinyl siding of tract homes. These "disposable" places reflect a poverty of spirit connected with building things we cannot be proud of and living in places we cannot love.


Anonymous said...

I think that some of these homes that are supposedly carelessly built, might be homes for the less fortunate of the society. Perhaps at the time of building, the emphasis is to give such people, at the very least, a roof over their heads, not necessary one that they can live in for generations or truly create a HOME in?

Perhaps, you could better explain what you meant by "assembly-line properties"?


Our Founders said...

The homes I'm speaking of in Loudoun are not for the less fortunate -- they're for the middle to upper-middle classes, who are paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. One of my concerns is that we're impoverishing our middle-class, not just in spirit, but in actuality because their biggest investment (one often that serves as the foundation for a comfortable retirement) may in fact depreciate because of careless construction or cost them so much to maintain that they never build wealth.

It's certainly a worthy goal to provide low-cost housing for the less fortunate of our society (and assembly-line homes are better than none)-- in this blog, I'm more concerned about the "assembly-line nature" of an entire building industry that builds boxes rather than homes, as just one small examples of how "place" is diminishing in our society, and what that might be doing to our collective soul.

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