The Geography of Nowhere
Research paper can use books such as Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere to examine the decline of natural landscapes. Have our writers custom write your research paper.
In The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler sketches a dismal American topography of the following:
- Sprawling freeways
- Outsized shopping malls
- Faceless corporate fortresses
- Inner-city dereliction
Evolving from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, Kunstler views many American cities as dead zones and eyes the countryside as a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lots. Kunstler traces this dissolution to our modern "car culture."
Suburbs, he contends, became a pastoral escape from the tenements and factories of early Twentieth Century cities. But small suburban communities -- serviced primarily by train -- once verdant refuges from dirty and overcrowded cities, were changed by the effects of two major government policies. During the Great Depression, government sought to spur economic growth by investing in new highways. Along with job creation, this policy secondarily boosted new car sales, essentially subsidizing the auto industry at the expense of the railroads and other modes of public transportation.
Another government action detrimental to the landscape, according to Kunstler, was the introduction of guaranteed home loan programs. While the effect of increased new home demand was salutary, subventing new building came at a cost. With more people moving to artificially inexpensive new homes on the outskirts of town, downtowns, starved of money for repairs and upgrades, deteriorated.
New suburban developments, claims Kunstler, were planned solely for automobiles, often without regard for other modes of transport. Wide streets, designed for ease of evacuation during a nuclear attack, made pedestrian traffic a nuisance and a danger to the safe and efficient movement of cars. So hostile have some modern suburbs become to pedestrians, writes Kunstler, that "any adult between eighteen and sixty-five walking ... would instantly fall under the suspicion of being less than a good citizen."
Modern shopping centers and restaurants are Kunstler's exemplars of design favoring automobiles over people. Quite unlike downtowns of old, these buildings are set away from the road, providing large expanses for parking. Traditional (read: old) downtown construction usually proceeded right up to the sidewalk, providing a sense of security and visual appeal now considered "quaint" in modern design terms.
Zoning regulations, too, encouraged sprawl instead of clustered development by preventing mixed residential/business use.
Kunstler rails against the utopian social engineering promoted by Gropius, Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright and other Modernists, throwing this design school into the blame pot, along with automobiles and suburban development, for the destruction of cities, countryside, and community coherence.