Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Landscapes of Everyday Life

A months worth of blogging on Colonel Glenn Highway, just a corner of the Dayton region. Four blog posts on New Germany, the proverbial wide spot in the road.

That there is this much to say, that there is this much backstory to what at first glance is a banal, everyday landscape is proof of the viability of a suburban studies approach to place blogging. In-depth inquiry and anayses brings out the details of how places came to be, how they developed and why they look like they do, as well as their economics and sociology. Suburbia is as rich an enviroment for inquiry as traditional cities.

There is enough history to suburbia that one can trace the evolution and development of suburban vernaculars, opening the door to a typological analyses of buildings and developments as well as entire suburbs, not to mention uncovering places like New Germany that have been subsumed the great wave of postwar development.

In one sense there is a forest and trees problem in doing microgeography. Colonel Glenn Highway and New Germany have been investigated in detail. Yet the relationship between this area and the larger Fairfield Commons edge city has yet to be addressed. And there has been only brief mentions of the influene of Wright State Unversity. Also, discussion was mostly on offices and commercial things. The apartment and condominium development in this area makes this one of the most densley populated suburban communities in the region, worth it's own series of blog posts.

In fact, one could dedicate an entire blog to just this one corner of the Dayton region.

But there are other local landscapes of everyday life, so perhaps a detour eslewhere in the near future.

5 comments:

metromark said...

I agree that there's a wealth of research to be done on the development of suburbs, and you've been pointing this out very well. The problem in our urban/suburban planning in this country is that we've lost the network that holds the city and its suburbs together. This is a national problem, not just a local Dayton concern. In the late 19th/early 20th centuries, there was a push to establish suburbs as a healthy form of lifestyle free of the soot and business activities of the city. But even then, there was a desire to remain connected to the city center as a community gathering space. Locally, Patterson believed this as did Olmsted, whose firm did a lot of business in this area. Olmsted believed in developing and maintaining "communitiveness" through the development of parks and parkways that kept the individual connected to the community. Somewhere along the way, we've lost that. What has become priority is mindless development, fueled by the automobile and the insatiable desire for newness. Old is bad; cities are dangerous; the farther we build away from our traditional cities the better. And the state legislature and legal system promote this ridiculous culture. There is nothing wrong with suburbs, as long as they can be justified by population growth and don't empty our cities that eventually fall into decay because of disinvestment. Olmsted had it right: we need to stay connected; and one of the things we need to do to strengthen that connection is to strengthen the city center.

Joe said...

^Nice post Metromark!

Jefferey, have you though of blogging about North Dayton suburbs like Vandalia, Englewood, Huber Heights, or Clayton? I think there is a wealth of history up there (thats where i grew up), and alot of current/recent events (Airport Expansion aka Not In My Backyard, zoning, sprawl, townships/small village-like areas dissappearing with incorporation, conservancy districts with 2 major dams located within miles of each other). I also think N. Dixie is a strange place, coming from the city and into N.Dayton. I think Northridge is interesting with it's postwar expansion, mixed in are some old General Stores (Formerly the Wicks General Store on Dixie & Frederick) and churches.

Your recent posts about suburbia helped me place a that strange, timeless, almost lifeless feeling when I visit the 'burbs. It's a place without a history in the sense that I regularly define it, or at first just seems that way.

Jefferey said...

Jefferey, have you though of blogging about North Dayton suburbs like Vandalia, Englewood, Huber Heights, or Clayton?

Funny you should mention that as I am in the middle of setting up some blog posts for the Dixie Drive/I-75 area, which I guess is Northridge, Butler Twp, and Vandalia...the land between the Stillwater and Great Miami rivers.

@@@

Olmsted believed in developing and maintaining "communitiveness" through the development of parks and parkways that kept the individual connected to the community.

This was the missed opportunity. To use features of the regional landscape as a connecting feature uniting city and suburb.

Seth said...

So what can we do to connect city and suburb like Olmsted planned?

What features of the regional landscape should be use to reconnect the two?

Jefferey said...

What features of the regional landscape should be use to reconnect the two?

Watersheds. River and creek valleys and woodlots.

Olmsted concepts are an early version of this thinking. In more modern times there was the concept of ecologicl planning and greenways.

Since suburbia operates at a very large regional scale the connective features need to be of this scale, too, which would be watersheds and valleys.

As for ecological planning, there was an aborted attempt to do this here, back in the early 1970s. More on that later.