« Things to do before I die: | Main | MDG Project PDFs »

Grand Old Suburbia

The built environment is everything that is not natural. The built environment is a reorganization of the world by human consciousness. I live and am immersed almost completely in the built environment. How can it not affect who I am?
Of course an environment can have a plethora of different meanings. Man has built many things: houses, societies, civilizations.

build bɪld - Show Spelled Pronunciation[bild] Pronunciation Key - Show IPA Pronunciation verb, built or (Archaic ) build•ed; build•ing; noun
–verb (used with object)
1. to construct (esp. something complex) by assembling and joining parts or materials: to build a house.
2. to establish, increase, or strengthen (often fol. by up): to build a business; to build up one's hopes.
3. to mold, form, or create: to build boys into men.
4. to base; found: a relationship built on trust.

Is the environment physical, as in the buildings around me? Does it include the metaphysical, as in the society in which I live?


I think the built environment tends to detract from my character, my self.
To say something is “built? has a very different connotation from something that is “made.? “Built? things have structure, a distinct purpose; they are clearly organized and sturdy, if not rigid. The focus of the verb “to build? is very much on the end product, the finalized, finished piece and carries with it some idea of permanence. “Making? something, on the other hand, is much more focused on the process, caries with it a much more fluid concept of creation, and altogether seems more forgiving.

suburbia_sm.jpg


I grew up in the suburbs and most of the buildings there were built to be as cheap and efficient as possible, in that order. All the roads are perpendicular; all the streets are named in alphabetical order. It is a place that is very easy to navigate if one understands the system under which it was built/planned, but it is also a place entirely without character. The frameworks there are all box-shaped, square. Properties are divided into grids, trees are arranged in straight lines, hills are flattened, bulldozed and carried away, to make way for flat plains. These cubic frameworks extend beyond the physical to our schedules which are organized into “blocks? of time. Our planned events and meetings start on the hour and end on the hour, regardless of whether we are finished with what we set out to do.

lawn%20lines.jpg

As suburbanites we are a strictly geometric people. We mow our lawns concentrically, don’t cut corners, and if there is a sidewalk available we will follow it and won’t cross the lawn regardless of whether it would be much faster to do so. It’s as if perpendicular lines represent some tangible image of perfection to us.
I think there is a certain, box-like mindset behind all of these phenomena that is at the very core of the driving force of American ‘progress’ that not only shapes the way we organize our space but also our time, our priorities, and our lives. This is the basis for the built world/environment that I live in. I am not a fan.

planner.jpg

Regimented processes, blocks of time, allotment, busy schedules, and productiveness leave no room for fluidity, spontaneity, or inspiration.
I like patterns, I think it is human nature to do so, but I hate rigidity. To me the nature of the un-built environment is adaptivity, which cannot exist without great fluidity, spontaneity, and inspiration. There is such a thing as too much control, and I think the current built environment is an exemplary illustration of this point.
The modern paradigm for successful living seems bent on eradicating all fun from the world, from existence.
Our clockworks are isochronal rather than cyclical.
We have wandered far from our roots.