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SLIDESHOW: Image 10/10
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Posted 10.20.11 | PERMALINK | ESSAY

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

Manifest Destiny: slide 10

Buckeye Oasis
This fragment of landscaping stands in sharp contrast to the barren surroundings of the Blue Horizons development in Buckeye, Arizona. Although from this perspective it appears as a lone outbreak of vegetation, it actually forms part of a continuous strip of greenery that lines the development’s primary roads and links with the neighborhood via a series of entry points and openings. At this particular point the landscaping turns inwards towards the residential zone and then halts suddenly in the face of a vast expanse of undeveloped lots. A pleasant winding promenade through the greenery abruptly terminates in a stark vista of approximately 600 undeveloped subdivisions extending almost as far as the eye can see. Local municipalities require landscaping like this to be in place before any houses are built, but in this case there seems to be an additional motivation behind this lavish gesture. The hostility of the terrain combined with the (as yet) revenueless development would seem to make the maintenance of such planting prohibitively expensive, but all the evidence points to a team of workers whose efforts echo the optimistic trajectory of the landscaping itself. Curiously, the spectacle of this planting against such a forlorn backdrop only seems to reaffirm the conviction of this project, evoking not fragility but tenacity. Elsewhere, the landscaping is adjoined by baseball fields and play areas, also in prime condition and yet also largely unused. Deployed in this manner, landscaping takes on a new significance — not merely a benign backdrop but the primary agent in the establishment of suburbia, advancing across the inhospitable terrain of the Arizona desert in unwavering affirmation of the Arcadian principles of endless suburban propagation.

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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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