Several people have asked me to respond to landscape architect Alan Berger’s NYTimes piece on “The Suburb of the Future.” The piece invites us to imagine a series of technologies that will allow all of us to live on large plots of land spreading out across the landscape. It’s worth reading, because it captures a lot of what goes wrong when architects posit a purely aesthetic notion of urbanism without running the numbers or discussing the full impacts.
(It also contains that self-ridiculing term “what Millennials want,” which in the absence of data means “what I want Millennials to want.” Most people can’t predict what they’ll want later in life, and their parents and grandparents can only do this by assuming, perilously, that their children are copies of themselves who will follow the same life trajectory that they did.)
My own city, Portland, has achieved its desirability largely through it’s urban growth boundary constraining sprawl. If Alan had had his way 40 years ago, the magnificent and relatively new vineyard region just outside of our city, and Oregon’s best agricultural land, would all be covered with houses by now.