Monday, March 9, 2009

Daytonology Returns to Suburbia

We've been on a lengthy detour into Dayton stuff over the past few months. But enough is enought. Only 20% or less of the population lives in the city, and nearly all the local blogosphere focus is on the city, really just a handful of city places: Downtown/Oregon/South Park/UD. Over and over again. Like there is nothing else in this metropolitian area.

Not what this blog was ever intended to be. Well, parochial, yes, but in the greater sense of "Dayton", not the narrow cool-kids version of the city.

Andrew Blauvelt has an excellent piece at Design Observer on suburbia: City and Suburb, Worlds Away.

Whether in art or architecture, the suburbs seem to lack cultural authorship and a “back story” — the suburban landscape simply unfolds ex nihilo — out of nowhere and out of nothing. This lack of identity also represents a lack of history. Suburban time is strangely suspended, literally an arrested development frozen in its initial phases of construction: no wonder most people conjure an image of suburbia as a series of new housing starts and barren landscapes. From William Garnett’s photos of Lakewood Park in California to Robert Adams’ pictures of suburban Denver, there is a long tradition of using photography to record these processes of transformation, and because they are focused on an early moment in the life cycle of suburbia, they do not typically provide any evidence of human settlement, aspiration, or inhabitation. Most suburbs are now old enough to have a history, and enough inhabitants over time to establish an identity....

.....The inability to situate a suburban aesthetics or to develop a language and theory to assess suburban forms as anything but an aberrant urbanism is clearly one of the crucial hurdles in constructing a more objective and less judgmental approach.

Daytonology aims to return to developing the backstory for Dayton suburbia, an objective inquiry, though one can't sometimes resist an occasional ironic spin to the tale.

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