A Flat Planet

Katy Mills mall, Houston, Texas, 1999

The unanimous suburbanization of the globe, from the hypercapitalist United States to the post-communist Russia, has a front of grass and a back of asphalt, built as it is on a tangle of motor highways that only clear out in the parking lots around malls, the laminated, friendly cores of the new scattered city. These aircraft carriers stranded in no-man’s-land are the flat symbols of an emerging urbanity that attracts vehicles as iron files in a magnetic field, haphazard and shapeless main squares for citizens on wheels. Faced with the explosion of the city, the American ‘new urbanists’ propose to increase density without eliminating the single family house, so that one moves from the unraveled fabric of the usual suburb, as the one of Kevin Spacey in American Beauty, to the dense pattern of the likes of Seaside where Jim Carrey played the lead role of The Truman Show. And confronted with the disorderly occupation of the environment, the European ‘old urbanists’ try to stop their advance with physical and legal frontiers to protect the remains of the rural arcadia. But suburbanization moves forward relentlessly, from California to Shanghai, sprinkling the land with a horizontal triviality seasoned with vertical nightmares...[+]

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