Thursday, April 10, 2008

No More Suburbs

This has been covered all over the web - and well, it's just a good story that needed to be told. Perennial provocateur Andrew Maynard, whom appeared on L+U with his Tattoo House, has now developed an intricately woven design for 'Suburb Eating Robots'. While whimsical - there is a significant amount a truth and illumination to this exercise about suburban destruction and regeneration.

:: image via Treehugger

The reason (via Architecture.MNP), tells of Maynard: "...presenting a polemic on Australia’s suburbs and their overall impact on society + the planet. A slideshow on AMA’s website describes Maynard’s prediction for the suburb’s future: as oil prices continue rising, the suburbs will become more and more unaffordable - the dependence on the automobile and lack of public transit, coupled with the lack of money for gasoline [and/or lack of gasoline itself] will cause the collapse of the suburb’s infrastructure."

:: images via Architecture.MNP

For this task - a cute six-legged robotic suburb-chomper that all the kids will want come Christmas - named CV08 - available in a range of colors.

:: images via Architecture.MNP

The details are pretty intriguing as well, establishing a method which : "...consumes entire towns - and it even cleans up after itself. The satirical hexapod will descend upon the suburbs, gathering the abandoned homes and cars through it’s front legs [dubbed ‘demo legs’, seen below] - crushing everything in its path and packaging it neatly for recycling. The CV08 then releases new flora+fauna through the middle legs [which are kept, obviously, in carbonite freeze until deployment] - immediately populating the newly reclaimed land."

:: image via Architecture.MNP

"Lastly, the rear legs of the CV08 will serve as a means of power-collection: they pull chubby Australian suburbanite stragglers up into a liposuction chamber, which draws out all of their excess fat [which then powers the CV08]. The now trim Aussies are then shot out of the backside [read: ass] of the robot, parachuting down to safety - along with a brand new bicycle constructed from recycled suburbs." (text via Architecture.MNP - and click the link for an interview with Maynard)

:: images via Architecture.MNP

As I mentioned, this is satire, but tinged with truth. Will suburbs be around in 20 years? Will they be in the same form? Probably not... Will they be devoured by robots? Again probably not, but we still seem to develop them on a similar vein with little changes to 50 years ago, although we know there are better ways. And the intensity of reactions to life in the suburbs continues to escalate:

Via Treehugger, in an analysis of the bottom of the bag (aka, the cul-de-sac): "Isolated and insular, they become cesspools of self-absorption and pettiness that turn their backs on the wider world. "People who live in a cul-de-sac are out of touch with the rest of their community and most likely do not know much about the folks who live behind the fences of their blocked-off streets," complains a recent report from the American Planning Association."

This isolation and insularity is at the root of suburban development - dare I say the reason for it. All About Cities profiles the phenomenon and it's connection to the American identity: "The automotive era and the growth of suburbia initially reinforced this American dream. One could be close enough to the city, and yet on the edge, building a community on newly conquered territory. There could be a sense of self reliance out in the ‘burbs and now ex-urbs. With your SUV you don’t need government-run transit systems. The isolation is, or was, desired for building character."

And the pure insanity of it all, follow the link from Next American City to analysis of the suburbs-as-slums phenomenon. Also, this biting excerpt from Salon magazine, about the somewhat painful transition to suburban life:

"But then, after all your hard work and some measure of feeling deprived of the good things in life, you get a job with a big salary and someone who sells real estate puts you in her car and drives you around and some person inside you — not the careful-planning you but this other more spontaneous and sensuous you, a you who always wanted to live in a big house with a yard — sees a big, pretty house with a lawn and goes, “Wow!” And you buy it.
And as soon as you move in you feel a profound sense of loss. You can’t put your finger on it but the place you are in does not make you happy. The place you are in is big and pretty. So that makes it hard to explain. Why does big and pretty not make you happy?

It doesn’t make you happy because it’s not made for humans. It’s made for cars. These suburban houses are basically huge garages with attached living quarters for servants — meaning us. We are the servants. We work for the cars who live there. The cars have a very good life. We make sure of that. But our lives are not so good there.

I do believe that suburban living is a form of torture. If you made suspected terrorists live in big suburban houses, they would talk eventually.

Perhaps the American dream turned into a nightmare. While suburbs are hardly torture, I’m sure their isolating effect has made many formerly content people much less so. I would be curious to know whether increased rates of the diagnosis of mental illness and prescribing drugs like Prozac is possibly linked — at least in part — to the isolating affects of living in suburban sprawl."

Bring out the robots, Mr. Maynard. It's time.

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