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Posted 10.20.11 | PERMALINK | ESSAY

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



Car-Free Community
As an integral part of the house-buying process, suburban model homes aim to present potential buyers with the perfect living experience. Sometimes this goes too far. The two-car garage shown here appears in the Windgate Ranch development in Scottsdale, Arizona, where it adorns a model home in a cul-de-sac alongside other similar properties. The tree, shrubs and barrel cactus in the foreground demonstrate the type of landscaping that may be purchased as an optional extra. In common with most model homes, however, there is a distinct sense that the perfection to which it aspires has been achieved at the cost of some basic practicalities. Here, the temptation to portray a verdant, impeccably manicured home has produced a garage rendered unusable by decorative landscaping (in another part of the cul-de-sac, a fence encircles the entrance, making it impassable by car). When this house is eventually sold and absorbed into the rest of the community, the planting will be removed and the garage restored to its rightful function. In the meantime, however, it suggests a dystopian vision of the resurgent desert landscape invading suburbia after the cars have gone — a seemingly normal suburban house turned, with Piranesian caprice, into a deteriorated edifice of suburban perfection.

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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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