Anti-sprawl as boomer nostalgia | Bleader

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Anti-sprawl as boomer nostalgia

Posted By on 09.12.06 at 10:40 AM

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

click to enlarge 137.jpg

My friend Jim Krohe leaves no subdivision behind as he reviews UIC architectural historian Robert Bruegmann's contrarian Sprawl: A Compact History in the current Illinois Issues (review not online):

"Sprawl is nearly universally blamed on the post-World War II prosperity and its evils, such as expressways and general automobile ownership. This analysis certainly isn't buttressed by history; as Bruegmann notes,

"'Postwar suburbanization and sprawl were different in scale but not really different in kind from what had gone before . . . in American cities for more than a century, particularly in the boom periods of the 1880s and 1920s.'

"In Mayer and Wade's Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis is a photograph of the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's far west side--new houses here and there in a landscape festooned with scrawny trees and new streets as yet uncluttered by houses--is the very image of sprawl. It was taken around 1890.

"Why then this peculiar focus on the past 50 years? Because that was when the baby boomers were growing up. A generation who grew up in those postwar subdivisions preaching the need for change now recoil with dismay at seeing change invade the sacred precincts of their childhoods. [For example, Eben Fodor in his book Better Not Bigger.]  Thus the weirdly anachronistic cast of their criticisms. They castigate 'Ozzie and Harriet' suburbs as if it was still the 50s, notes Bruegmann . . . .

"Sure, the dispersed city causes problems--pollution, energy dependence, social exclusion, the built ugliness of the public realm--that merit attention. . . . However, if people of influence refuse to engage our new kind of city, thus never coming to understand it, they are unlikely to be able to solve its new kind of problems."

Tags: , , ,

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Harold Henderson

  • The Recyclable House

    The Recyclable House

    If Ken Ortiz has his way, no one in Chicago will ever simply "demolish" a building again.
    • Jul 24, 2008
  • Sympathy for the Devil?

    Sympathy for the Devil?

    Progressive scribe Rick Perlstein made his reputation finding the good in conservatives. Then they really started screwing up the country.
    • Jan 24, 2008
  • Dynamic Flash for Democrats

    Dynamic Flash for Democrats

    Wanna raise funds to run for office? Nag Schwarzenegger about health care? Or just make fun of Bush? Call Articulated Man.
    • Jan 10, 2008
  • More »

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
The Great Leap Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Upstairs Theatre
September 05
Performing Arts
Bernhardt/Hamlet Goodman Theatre
September 14

Tabbed Event Search

The Bleader Archive

Popular Stories