I am an illustrator, artist, and product designer with a background in architecture. I want to make that clear from the start because I am planning to post here from the art/illustration perspective, not the architectural perspective. These viewpoints, however, are, of course, related. My background in architecture informs my art and art can (should) inform architecture.
This column, then, will range outside typical “architectural” writing, but I’ll try to keep it applicable.
My focus will be on “Suburban Archaeology:” The examination and understanding of the social, economic, and aesthetic richness that forever changed the dynamic of Americana starting at the end of World War II (see, not so far afield).
Celebrated, attacked, and/or embraced in these contemporary times by thinkers, doers, and critics ranging from Andres Duany to William Howard Kunstler to Robert Beauregard to so many others, American suburbia has seen a crazed and unpredictable series of changes since its infancy. What began as a promise and a trumpet call of prosperity – of how we were faring as a society and a superpower – the creative and happy-go-lucky landscape of white-picket-fence suburbia has slowly morphed into something perhaps unintended: a mish-mash of old decrepit pockets and scattered attempts at fresh and creative languages juxtaposed against uninteresting new development.
I don’t plan on looking at suburbia with beaten-dead scathing complaints about how things are and how much better they were back in grandpa’s time. Rather, I will make simple observations and tell small stories, using few words and plenty of colorful visual wit crafted from found images culled from the forgotten dirt of “Suburban Archaeology:” photos, advertisements, mementos and such from a different time juxtaposed against similar images from our own time.
Much like Billy Pilgrim’s view of life in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five,” we’ll take a look at suburbia via, let’s say, museum vignettes, as a way to simply value where we’ve been, where we’re at, and where we’re going. Enjoy.
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