Friday, August 21, 2009

The Decline Of Suburbia

The Suburbs has only been a recent phenomenon, only a hundred years or so. For Thousands of years cities were compact. This was because they needed to squeeze every single bit of space inside the defensive walls, which kept invaders at bay. And people traveled on foot, which was slow. So naturally you needed a nice small area to roam around. The advent of the auto-boom brought us the wonderous alternate universe known as the suburbs. Here all the lawns are mowed at least once a week, and everyone is friendly. A far cry from the grumpy people in the cities, rushing like ants for their daily activities. Thus the monster known as the suburbs overtook our lives.

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Isnt it lovely? All the neat houses with lawns and miles upon miles of asphalt. I bet everyone would want to live in such a place. The problem isn't with the idyllic nature of suburbia, but its cost. Im sure the economic climate of the future would be far less suburb-friendly. You see, it takes a great deal of resources to build and maintain them roads and lawns. Even for the average suburbanite the cost of transport is all too great. We all know that $100 nowadays can barely fill up an SUV for a week. Not to mention the water costs to maintaining your lawn. Wouldnt it be nicer if you could just walk or take a short train ride to work rather than spending 2 hours on gridlock, inhaling exhaust from the driver in front of you as she forgets to move forward because she is more concerned with applying the right eyeliner.
Factor all those costs together, the gas, mortgage, time lost sitting on the freeway, then basically the suburbs nowadays are more a liability. Still people are drawn to the burbs. Thats still fine and dandy if thats your sweet spot. There are alot of alternatives though.

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Unless you like living in a Soviet Bloc style setup, High density housing isnt really the best option for anyone. These large cookie cutter buildings eventualy fall into disrepair because of owner neglect and a lack of sense of community. Although this is the most efficient design, nowadays we look after well being before efficiency. Fire hazard is also a major issue, alot of these things become death traps especially if the emergency systems fall into disrepair.

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This is one of my model urban settings, a part of Amsterdam. With compact footprints and a high density, you can basically weave a good mass transit system around it, may it be rail or bus. Personally I prefer rail. People living here will likely have more of a sense of community than apartment style houses, since land is still subdivided like the suburbs albeit less generous portions hence why maximization is essensial. With up to 7 times the density of todays suburb, it is still a far cry from super high density, but with planning of vital infrastructure like schools and hospitals. City decentralization can be more of a possibility. This setting has a greater fire hazard than the suburbs but can be kept in check by firewalls and a faster response by emergency teams compared to the suburbs.

I hope in the future more cities will be like this, with strict zoning and land allocating, this will be more of a possibility. Which means less commutes and greater automobile-independent accesibility.

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