Meet St Barbara. Until Rome demoted her a few years ago she was the patron saint of architecture …and also those who work with explosives. Kind of an exciting job description. We hope she’s looking out for us in these precarious times. Given the built environment and economic uncertainty many are stuck with we are gonna need all the wisdom with architecture and explosives we can get our hands on.
Who doesn’t idealize the artist, the architect, the engineer, the designer their ability to go from nothing to something, that is to create, to bring a thing into existence? It makes sense then that in attempting to comprehened suburbia we turn to the creative class? Almost since they were invented suburbia has provoked a diversity of critique and brought forth those with a desire in their hearts for something better. Is it possible that even the growing social difficulty facing suburbia is a design problem?
Allison Arieff thinks so. She has been professionally involved in design and architecture in America and last year gathered some of her thoughts in the opinion piece linked in this posting, making it dynamite to read. Ms. Arieff sees people with very low expectations of houses. People willing to accept boring, unimaginative, sometimes downright shoddy, drywall boxes cranked out and marketed by an innovation-resisting industry that produces something like half of all solid waste in the country. Acording to Ms. Arieff the commercial building industry is capable of producing a better product than the residential construction industry. This all seems like a disservice to American consumers and their communities.
Unfortunately the American suburban paradigm is not going to be changed any time soon because it will be too busy being dead. A couple of postings back we learned that the number of unwanted monster homes in America is in the tens of millions. Kinda tough to think the industry that produced that is going to set aside its hucksterism and conservatism for a design-ey new approach to everything. Still, just as the dinosaurs were replaced so too will the homebuilders of America be replaced. Ms Arieff provides a survey of several builders going in the right direction in terms of energy efficiency, construction methods and cultural value in homes. Hers is a call for change and action, that of a new Saint Barbara?
Shifting the Suburban Paradigm NYT Opinionator
This article has nearly 170 comments at the time of this posting, including some very thoughtful ones.