Nature and the Suburbs

As we’ve learned, the visual character of the 20th-century American suburb, with its single-family houses surrounded by lawns and specimen trees, and arrayed along curving streets, was profoundly influenced by the aesthetics of 18th century picturesque gardens.  While such gardens were limited to the English elite, American suburbs were designed for the middle classes, which had expanded greatly following the Industrial Revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries.  By the 1960s, these suburbs seemed to many to be a kind of illusion of gracious living but were, in reality, numbingly conformist, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t3_ug-IGBJY as caricatured in the 1962 song “Little Boxes.”  (Links to an external site.)  (you’ll easily recognize the picturesque elements that we’ve discussed in class). For a review of the Picturesque Garden, have a look at this article  (Links to an external site.) . (https://www.theenglishgarden.co.uk/expert-advice/design-solutions/design_the_english_landscape_garden_/) American suburb became popular for a variety of reasons.  One was that they promised easy access to open spaces nature for child-rearing.  But the desire for low-density housing led to suburban sprawl and the degradation of many environments.  Sprawl appears both horrific and oddly lyrical in this article on aerial photographs of suburbs  (Links to an external site.) .(https://www.fastcompany.com/3029637/americas-oddly-beautiful-suburban-sprawl-photographed-from-the-sky) In addition, American suburbs often turned out to be racially segregated.  With the single-family house being the most valuable asset for most American families, this sort of segregation proved devastating to Black and other minority communities.  Here’s an article on the relationship between suburbs and systemic racism  (Links to an external site.) .(https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/how-federal-government-intentionally-racially-segregated-american-cities-180963494/)  (Links to an external site.) As a result, many people today are reconsidering how the suburbs should change, whether in terms of design or financing policy or a host of other factors.  Here’s one example  (Links to an external site.) .(https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/16/realestate/suburbs-are-changing.html) There’s a lot here to think about here, but what’s your opinion?   Since the suburbs are so ubiquitous in the United States, you should be able to respond to this question without much research.  But you are also welcome to grapple with one (or more!) of the articles linked to above, to address issues that bear on any discussion of the suburbs: low-density, single-family neighborhoods; reliance on automobiles and suburban sprawl; questions of environmental effects; schools; racial and ethnic segregation; ideals of domestic life; and much more.  Don’t go overboard, though, these are enormous topics and you only have a paragraph in which to develop your thoughts about one or another aspect of the American suburb, its history, its present or its future.

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