• Cyburbia is a friendly big tent, where we share our experiences and thoughts about urban planning practice, planning adjacent topics, and whatever else comes to mind. No ads, no spam, no echo chambers. Create your FREE Cyburbia ID, and join us today! You can also register through your Reddit, Facebook, Google, Twitter, or Microsoft account.

The Happy Death of Contemporary Suburbia

Cardinal

Cyburbian
Messages
10,080
Points
34
The failure of Contemporary Suburbia has nothing to do with being un-American. It has failed for three reasons:

1) Almost of the "Contemporary Suburban" developments are characterized by very high-end units in very suburban and exurban areas. People who can afford to pay very high prices for housing tend to be very social. It's all about sipping coffee and chatting with your neighbor across the way or participating in the vibrant community life of a real downtown. They don't want to be dependent on their car for everything. It simply has to be urban!

2) People with money are looking for uniques housing, not the bland vinyl "HcHomes" that dominate the suburban landscape of the last forty years, and

3) It was a dumb idea to begin with, an attempt to make a city seem like the rural countryside.

Thanks god it's dead! Our local suburban proponent is an over-paid lawyer who lives in a big historic house in the city center... Get Real!
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Very Good!

The lawyer part was particularly good.

On a related note: Isn't it interesting that the most doctrinaire modernist architects always have their offices in historic buildings downtown?
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Architects

HOW IRONIC !!!!

Do fast food chains, gas stations and/or big boxes hire architects? If so, are the architects happy with their contributions to our countries architectural legacy? "Design life" in buildings is my biggest pet peeve.

I guess planning as a field is no better.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
Re: Architects

Budgie said:
HOW IRONIC !!!!

Do fast food chains, gas stations and/or big boxes hire architects? If so, are the architects happy with their contributions to our countries architectural legacy? "Design life" in buildings is my biggest pet peeve.

I guess planning as a field is no better.
Yes they hire architects, but not very good ones. Lets face it, they all want to have a signature. Some express it as one grande building, others express it by seeing their work repeated 5,000 times.

My favorite Plan Commission moment was when I criticized an Arby's restaurant architect for giving us the plain-jane corporate crap. I presented the Commission with photos of enhances Arbys in neighboring affluent communities. The architect snort, "Yeah but your town isn't them" Next thing I heard was "Motion to defer"..."Second"... and 7 "Ayes".
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Chain Architects are GOOD, actually

Actually, bturk, I somewhat disagree with you.

The "architecture" firms that design fast food restaurants and gas stations are very good at what they do-pumping out at the lowest possible cost a generic product that can support a national advertising campaign and brand image. The accountants and marketeing "experts" would never hire a "bad" architect-bad from THEIR perspective, that is.

Frankly, we get the architecture we deserve as a culture. Chain design is THE American way-it's efficient, it's profitable, it plays to the cartoon images that dominates our visual culture, it is easily visible and recognizable from the passing car. Community character? Community character IS the strip. That's what dominates most American cities and towns. Old fashioned city centers are the past.

Gosh, am I gloomy? I am sounding like Mugbub.

I love your story, by the way. Kudos!
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,624
Points
34
OK BKM, I guess I can see your point...

Good to me = sustainable design and enduring quality with timelesscurb side apeal. Not one of these

Good to the corporate analyst = cost effective robust commerce solutions for the conventional operating life cycle of the enterprise.
 

Howard Roark

Cyburbian
Messages
276
Points
10
Architects really do not have a lot of say in the outcome of burger pits, spec office buildings or big box stores. The initial designs are put together by owners real estate reps and marketing people who have little or no training in the profession.

Most Architects abhor the contemporary state of the physical environment, but are powerless over it. The profession gets weaker every year and pays well only at the top positions. Most architects who take the chain work (I did it for 2 years) do so to take a paycheck.

Architects are almost (not always) excluded from the programming phase of the design. These early meetings are where a lot of what gets built in form gets decided, the site plan is laid out by civil engineers, the architects role are to make sure it meets code (especially life safety), translate the owners desires onto paper and add a few design trappings that may or may not soften the raw design and take it through CD’s so that it can be submitted to the city for code review and permits.

The image of the architect as the egotist designer of my online nameske really exists only amongst the top 5 or 10% of the profession, most of us would be happy just to do average work. Architects may not have stood up to those forces that create bad built environments, but they certainly are not the cause.

Howard Roark AIA
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Inside perspecitve

Thanks for the inside perspective, HR.

I didn't mean that architects are totally RESPONSIBLE for the design of fast food strips (see my remarks on marketing "experts.").

I imagine most persons who choose a visual "artistic" field like architecture are apalled at the average environment. (Although, some of the great intellectual visions of the architecture world are evn more appalling, imo. Corbu's Plan Voisin for Paris, anyone). I imagine it is extremely frustrating-I know planning as a profession certainly can be.

At the same time, the assembly line firms that crank out the construction drawings are architects-that was the focus of my response to bturk.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Planner and Architects in the same boat

There are planning firms that put out generic run of the mill comprehensive plans and development codes. The common thread is that you get what you pay for. We as a society aren't willing to invest in "communities". This goes for businesses, governments, and Joe 6-pack with his trailer and expensive car.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,464
Points
29
Budgie:.

I think ONE reason for that is because the American middle and upper middle class are so mobile. The poor guy in the trailer is not the real reason why American towns look so generic and provisional.

We NEED generic houses that are easy to sell when we move onto our next job. To a certain extent, a deep sense of community demands that one stay put for a while.

Brian-who is nowhere near the midwester city he grew up in :)
 

green22

Cyburbian
Messages
101
Points
6
BKM- Why do modernist architechts have their homes int the historic home city? After the visionary proposals for the world trade center were given, I wondered how many of those planners would want to live in a neighborhood they created, or even work on the 150th floor. YEt they deride traditional city architecture as outdated. Perhaps if architects had to live in these towers in the park, they would create buildings that fit in with their surroundings and encouraged personal interaction. It is hard to imagine a place more isolated than being on the 150th floor of a building you can ony enter with a metal detector and other checks. Then having to go through an underground chain store mall, (enlarged from 600,000 to now 1,000,000 sq feet due to insurance contract), just to enter the normal world of Manhattan again. Why would you put "pulic" parks on the 10th and 20th floors of a building that is so hard to access? I think I would rather have a cartoonist design my apartment than have a world class visionary architect plan for a new Manhattan.
 

Wannaplan?

Galactic Superstar
Messages
3,144
Points
27
I know I'm not BKM, but I'll give a response, if that's okay.

Architects work for clients, and the clients give the architects a program to follow. The architects have to follow that program. If you want to place blame on anyone, blame the decision makers who choose the so-called butt-ugly designs submitted by the architects. The seven designs presented earlier this week were selected by the lower Manhattan officals, or whoever, from a pool of hundreds of submissions. It would certainly be interesting to see the designs that got passed over.
 

green22

Cyburbian
Messages
101
Points
6
My understanding of the process was that the public was bored over the initial designs, as being uninspired and too commercial. They decided to have the highest profile architects come up with their ideas of how the memorial and buildings should be positioned on the site. The LMDC also hired their own firm, Littenberg-Peterson, who came up with the only realistic model of the 7 proposals. I think that if the goal of the exercise was to plan the buildings, streets and memorial space for the site, that urban planners should have been involved. Only the L-P firm mentioned anything about connecting with the rest of the city, or pedestrians on the festive store laden streets. The other architects talked about architectural matters. The relation of this point to the sun, the broken shards and bathtub wall representing x. The skyline will represent this and the buildings will grow that.
 

Howard Roark

Cyburbian
Messages
276
Points
10
Green22 wrote:

“BKM- Why do modernist architechts have their homes int the historic home city? After the visionary proposals for the world trade center were given, I wondered how many of those planners would want to live in a neighborhood they created, or even work on the 150th floor. YEt they deride traditional city architecture as outdated. Perhaps if architects had to live in these towers in the park, they would create buildings that fit in with their surroundings and encouraged personal interaction”

Don’t exactly know who you are talking about Green22, Corbu’s towers in the park theories died with Pruitt Igo in 1973. Nothing resembling towers in a park (in its true form) has been built since then. Certainly the new designs for the ground 0 do not reflect those ideals. There are designs that are close to modernist theories, but modernism in and of it’s self does not dehumanize in the way that NU fear, Corbu himself designed some great perimeter block buildings, all people remember him for is the awful tower concept. Being on the 150 floor has no more the potential for dehumanization than being on the 10th floor, and probably most important, high rises that make today’s cities are born in the minds and egos of developers, not architects, and global business likes tall buildings.

The “park in the sky” concept is not necessarily for daily public consumption. In Frankfurt Foster’s Commerzbank tower has a park in the sky, it is part of a green building concept (air cleaning, and thermal reasons) It also provides a place for office workers to enjoy themselves (street level plaza’s alone would become overcrowded and inhospitable if swapped by everyone at peak times)

Architects live and work in all kinds of places, I have been to Rodgers office in London and it is in an old warehouse. I worked for a major firm that was on the 20th floor of a high rise they designed. The profession is not made of mad egotistical geniuses who are all plotting the be the next great designer or wanting to shock the public. They are well aware of the “livable city” a la Jane Jacobs, and few to none would disagree with her basic premise, this includes the Frank Ghery’s and Daniel Liebskin’s of the world. Heck, Fosters plan for the Trafalgar Sq. in London is a page right out Hussman’s plan for Paris and undoes some serious mistakes made during the 19th century city beautiful movement when architects were supposedly “more enlightened”
 

Howard Roark

Cyburbian
Messages
276
Points
10
BKM wrote:

I didn't mean that architects are totally RESPONSIBLE for the design of fast food strips (see my remarks on marketing "experts.").

BKM, understood, I think that your insight into these firms was accurate, Architects do draw them. The only ones who have the power to change the look and layout are local municipalities. Speaking from experience, if you put a good design out that is different from the stock "Payless Shoe Source" or "Eddie Bauer" store, you, as an architect, will be cut down fast, maybe even jeprodizing the relationship with the client. The only time I see them bend is when the city demanded extras or a new design. Even then they only bend when the sales off that store would justify the change. As stated in my last post, the big crank firms are good for a paycheck for those who have no desire to rock the boat.
 

Quail64

Cyburbian
Messages
55
Points
4
Re: Planner and Architects in the same boat

Budgie said:
We as a society aren't willing to invest in "communities".
Why is this such a difficult thing for people to imagine? Why is it so difficult to get people to invest in buidling a community rather than a single building? Is it that it won't be profitable? Too big a risk? I'm just in high school now, but I find this stuff fascinating. I want to do something in this business later on in life, hopefully developing, so I'm really wondering about stuff like this. Well any thoughts are appreciated.
 
Top