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Posted 10.20.11 | PERMALINK | ESSAY

Jason Griffiths: Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing



The First House
Suburban structures occasionally call to mind their roots in the frontier experience — a pioneering spirit crystallized in the image of a small house standing at the edge of a vast and savage landscape. Confronting the wilderness, this cabin provides a place of refuge for the men and women who work the land in advance of the settlement yet to come. Today the legacy of the pioneer’s cabin can be encountered at the fringes of suburbia like a portent of the vast expanses of housing that will follow in its wake. In true pioneering fashion, the structure shown here lays claim to the landscape simply by virtue of being there first. The homespun elements of pitched roof and white timber siding, fetishistically pristine against the churned soil of the building site, are the formal embodiment of the myth of Manifest Destiny — a symbol of enterprise, resourcefulness and ultimate triumph in the face of an unknown and threatening world. Like Abbe Laugier’s own primitive hut, both natural and affected, this cabin stands as the proud primogenitor of suburbia.

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ABOUT THE ESSAY

Manifest Destiny: A Guide to the Essential Indifference of American Suburban Housing
On Places, British architect Jason Griffiths offers a close reading of modern American suburbia, where mass production meets the myth of the arcadian frontier.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jason Griffiths is an assistant professor of architecture at the Design School at Arizona State University.
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