Planned Suburbs

Mountain House, CA

Mountain House, CA

Mountain House is a planned suburb of Tracy, CA. Originally given development approval in the 1990s, the bulk of the single family houses were built in the pre-recession era, leading to a high percentage of vacancies. Though most of the land area is covered by (relatively) dense single-family housing, the development overall suffers from various zoning restrictions enacted by the Chamber of Commerce, most notably that there can be no commercial center in the development. This makes it a very vehicle-dependent suburb. Its conception as a pure suburb, with limited transit options, means that life is built at a larger spatial scale than what is otherwise be considered human-scale. Perhaps its only redeeming quality is the concentration of schools at regular intervals, which assist in forming intra-community social bonds. Mountain House raises questions on the ethical nature of the existence of purely residential suburbs. In an ideal world, demand for suburb living would be met by the right amount of development, but given the modern nature of bureaucracy and developer-capitalism, Mountain House is likely the only available housing stock for many people that would prefer another lifestyle. Thus, ideally, pure suburbs are not wrong to contemplate, but their manifested reality is usually harmful. Given that I-205 (the main road into Tracy) is almost at capacity, Mountain House is an excellent example of what not to do when planning a new suburb.

Vällingby, Stockholm (Sweden)

The plan of this city was to decentralize the population of Stockholm and solve the housing shortage. Set on agricultural land, the design was inspired by the Radburn idea and the New Towns of the United Kingdom. In its early stages of construction, small-scale suburbs had been realized in the style of Garden cities and low block apartments. High-rise buildings were placed near the metro stations, and smaller houses and green areas radiate further out.

Mountain House, United States

Mountain House is a planned suburb area near the San Francisco bay area. It is a planned city development project that which initial plans were made in 1996. The plan consists of a 30 years construction and development plan including organized residential areas, public school and parks. The area is developed to function as a stand-alone city with all essential facilities. The development of the area was slowed down a due to the 2008 recession. Since then development have speed up with a population of 50,000 people as of 2020.

Medina, Washington, United States of America

Medina, Washington is a residential suburb that houses affluent executives in Fortune 500 companies and their families. Medina reflects how the ideas of the bourgeois can translate into segregated suburbia – this area rose to prosperity in the 1980s when technology brought big money to the area and large mansions were set up for executives, which hiked up the price in this area, and moved out immigrants and farmers living in low-density areas. The area currently has 24/7 surveillance by the police, and with a median home price of 2.5 million, it is socially and economically separated from Seattle. This suburb reflects the ideas of the ultra-rich in the country, separated from the urban city and technoburbs they have created for the working-class and middle-class. The more ideal setting for the rich should be intertwined with the lives of those whom they employ – there should be more social interaction between classes, and a neighborhood should have some aspect of self-sufficiency by its residents.

Pripyat’

Pripyat’ is a planned town in the middle of Ukrainian forests. It was built next to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, as a suburb to serve the power plant and supply housing for the power plant workers. It is now a ghost-city due to the Chernobyl accident, but it has successfully operated as a town in 1973-1786. It was planned and inhabited efficiently – the center of the city contained cultural and commercial units, while the housing was surrounded by numerous parks. The streets were wide and had fast communication with the power plant. In the first few years, the population grew from 0 to 40 thousand, as people willing to live there were given free accommodation. As a lot of government resources were spent on Pripyat’, its former inhabitants report that the town was extremely comfortable and navigable, full of opportunities hardly found in other places.

Flemingdon Park, Toronto, Canada

Flemingdon Park is a planned suburb in Toronto. It was developed from farmland into an Canada’s first completely planned “apartment city” in the post-WW2 planning and population boom. Like several of the “tower in the park” developments in Toronto, the community suffers from crime and violence. Flemingdon Park was largely settled by immigrants (my parents!) and refugees because of its affordability and publicly-subsidized housing. Bordered by two ravines and a freeway, the community is relatively secluded, and is difficult to leave without a car. There is little intermixing of commerce and residential areas, with much of the stores restricted to a single mega-shopping plaza, preventing vibrant street life and entrepreneurial jobs from growing to absorb the community. The high density has caused an overcrowding in schools (with Canada’s most populous high school), and a lack of opportunities to keep young adults occupied, driving more of them into gangs and making the plentiful green space feel dangerous. Ironically, a golf course, the provincial science museum, and several white-collar office buildings are located in the community, showing that placing nice amenities without meeting the actual needs of local residents is ineffective.

Flemingdon Park is a good example of a well-intentioned suburb focused on exclusion – of the community from the city, and of the residents from community commerce – can leave residents disadvantaged.

Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States

Shaker Heights is an example of the suburb as a physical manifestation of the bourgeois rejection of the metropolis. Where Cleveland was polluted and crowded, Shaker Heights featured ample green space and carefully spaced lots. It was developed by O.P. and M.J. Sweringen, the owners of a railroad and real estate empire, who envisaged Shaker Heights as an exclusive community that was both socially and physically distanced from the big city ills of Cleveland. To that end, development was highly restricted by the “Shaker Village Standards,” which not only denoted acceptable architectural styles, but also “desirable” vs. “undesirable” residents.

Llewellyn Park, New Jersey

Llewellyn Park, NJ was a forerunner of the 19th-century shift towards suburbanization in the US. A perimeter city to New York City, and it has many properties conducive to family life that defines suburbs tradition for Robert Fishman: substantial houses set in open, tree-shaded lots with a blend of property and union with nature. In classic 19th-century suburban fashion, the city was restricted to the bourgeois elites alone. However, it diverges from Fishman’s concept of a natural development or creation of a suburb, as it was the one of the first planned suburbs in the United States. Instead of an initial, natural progression of suburbs unfolding naturally in a movement of housing, industry, and commercial development in a perimeter city, Llewellyn Park was carefully planned, even for details like the landscaping, which was designed to mimic New York City’s Central Park.

St. Kilda West, Melbourne, Australia

St. Kilda West was established as a suburb of Melbourne Australia in 1879. The area that St. Kilda West exists on was once a swamp that was drained in the 1870s to accommodate urban expansion. It is an almost exclusively residential suburb home to a diverse group of people including young professionals, singles, retirees, and families. Like most Australian suburbs, St. Kilda West also has a number of parks and vegetated areas that contribute positively to the surrounding area. However, given that St. Kilda West is exclusively residential, most of its commercial facilities (ie. Supermarkets and schools) are located in other suburbs, and it has been criticized for this in recent years as residents have to drive or take public transport for their basic necessities.

Cheremushki, Moscow, Russia

Cheremushki is a planned Soviet suburb of Moscow, Russia. Developed in the 1950s as a Soviet suburb for working-class Muscovites, it was the first of what would later become Khrushchevki, or block-panel suburbs across the Soviet Union. These five-storey apartments were highly desirable, especially in comparison to shared apartments or wooden barracks. Although Cheremushki has some Garden City ideas, such as open spaces and the superblock, it is firmly suburban – workers were expected to commute to Moscow proper for work or entertainment, and the area was planned from the beginning as an extension of Moscow. Originally intended for egalitarian living, the apartment buildings’ large plots of land and general lack of public transportation have today turned Cheremushki into a car-dependent bedroom suburb.

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