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Posted 10.20.11 | PERMALINK | ESSAY

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



Secured Outlook
This security booth guards the entrance to a condominium in Phoenix, Arizona. A pane of seamless black glass divides the building, severing the base from the heavy cornice above. Reminiscent of the tinted windows of a passing SUV, this glass contrasts sharply with the brick and tile of the domestic environment. Moreover, the absence of mullions or any form of vertical connection ensures that the panoramic view from within remains unobscured. Only the Palo Verde tree (whose twin trunks bisect the elevation) appears to be tolerated because it does not interfere with oblique views of cars approaching and leaving the development. Nothing else is allowed to interrupt the view or indeed the uncompromising approach towards residential security declared by this glazed wall. The black glass serves a dual function, protecting the booth’s occupants from the harsh desert sunlight while providing a one-way screen through which to observe people entering the development. Approaching the booth on foot (an unusual scenario in the first place), it becomes apparent that the interior contains nothing except a small strip of carpet and some disconnected cables. The camera and entry phone on the side only seem to affirm its hidden redundancy; today, residents act as their own security guards. This black glass panopticon, meanwhile, serves up a forbidding and yet ultimately empty gesture — a sphinx-like monolith of dark austerity set before a bed of cheerful red geraniums.

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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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