Sunday, April 19, 2009

Suburban Experiments

Through the years there’ve been attempts to do suburbia different. Concerns about sprawl and sustainability and aesthetics are not unique to our time, but have surfaced time and time again during the era of the automobile suburb.

Suburban development in Dayton reflected these national trends in various ways, large and small. In some cases, like the planned unit development concept, which became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, the new approach was quite successful locally as well as nationally. Wright Executive Center was a good example of a planned unit development. In others cases the experiment was an abject failure. And in others, like Greenmont, a dual experiment in mutual housing and garden suburb planning there was an isolated success that was not repeated.

Starting with the New Deal era of the 1930s, here is a brief list of some suburban experiments in the Dayton area.

1. Subsistence homesteads

2. Mutual housing

3. Garden city planning concepts,

4. New Towns/ecological planning & land use suitability.

5. Cluster housing

6. Planned unit development.

7. Neotraditional town planning

There are at least three neotraditional town planning developments in the area (including The Greene, which incorporates a few neotraditional concepts). Daytonology will investigate a very recent project that hews closest to the principles of the movement.

Next, an investigation of a massive failed New Town project based on ecological planning and land use suitability design principles. This project also incorporated the cluster housing planning concept. There was a sociological subtext to this project, and it foreshadowed the current interest in sustainable development.

Finally, going back to the early days of automobile suburbia in the 1930s, a quick look at a New Deal era experiment in subsistence homesteading, which incorporated elements of socio-economic planning.

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