Robert Bruegmann makes his case in the Guardian for suburban sprawl, a much maligned but misunderstood form of urbanism that was first pioneered and than pilloried in Britain. Read more.
His book, Sprawl: A Compact History, provides one of the more balanced and rigorous investigations of the democratic world’s most popular urban form. Early sprawl, an excerpt.
“After 70 years of suffering the slings and arrows of academic criticism, suburban life finally finds a compelling defender in Bruegmann. A professor of art history and urban planning at the University of Illinois“Chicago, Bruegmann demonstrates that urban sprawl is a natural process as old as the world’s oldest cities, wherein large metropolises reach a point of maturity and those with financial means escape the congestion and high prices of city life. What has changed over the past century, the author says, is that an increasing number of citizens have achieved the financial means to participate in what was once an exclusive luxury of the wealthy. Bruegmann acknowledges that the effects on cities are not always positive, but he also demonstrates that many of the criticisms of suburban sprawl—e.g., that it is culturally deficient and environmentally noxious—are greatly exaggerated and ignore the very real benefits sprawl offers in terms of privacy, mobility and choice. With his disdain for doomsday predictions and his disregard for the academic consensus, Bruegmann’s thorough analysis is sure to be controversial, but a shot of controversy ought to do the field, and public dialogue about it, some good.”—Publishers Weekly
TUESDAY 24TH MARCH 2009
1-2pm, The Forum, Spring House
Pierre d’Avoine of Pierre d’Avoine Architects
Suburbia – opportunity or prescription?
An interest in the inter-war suburb led to a project, in the early 1990s for a site in Acton in West London, which I named the Invisible House. I see it as part of the renewed interest in typology in the 1960s.
‘Typology was an attempt to address simultaneously issues of repetition and of historical continuity in architecture. It was argued that the history of architecture resembled that of other useful crafts and instruments. Thus, like “a basket or plate or cup, the architectural object could not only be repeated, but also was meant to be repeatable.” The inherent logic of repeatability denied the uniqueness of the architectural object and linked the project with reproduction.’
The Invisible House does not aim for the tabula rasa of modernist space but was designed as a model for an approach to development in suburbs, based on the principle of densification. It is located in the back garden of an existing semi-detached house and is partially buried in the ground. As a type it is modest but has subversive intent – the infiltration of suburbia by stealth increasing density without loss of garden space. We intend it as a challenge to the suburban emphasis on the single family house – its potential as both dwelling and workplace is released by organising the internal plan as a series of loose-fit, interconnected spaces around a central courtyard.
The Invisible House - stealth densification
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