Many of you have probably seen Archinect's 20 Predictions for '09, which asked "a group of architects, bloggers, academics, Archinect editors, and other members of our community to provide some of their own personal insight to help visualize what we're in for in the coming year." Graciously I was asked to contribute a prediction, but I was too busy around the holidays to find the time to think about the question, much less put it down in words. Regardless I figured I'd post what my prediction would have been (now a week later and with the hindsight of digesting some of the 20 contributions), in the form of the below image:
Some explanation, of course. This is an expansion of a popular retirement community in Central Florida, a view shot from a street that is bordered on the opposite side by houses and palm trees and strolling retirees in a fairly typical composition of winding streets and cul-de-sacs. This view is expected to become the same. But given photography's ability of capturing time, stopping progress in its tracks, this shot makes me wonder if that future will happen? Will "business as usual" -- in The Villages in particular, suburbia in general -- continue, or will it stop in its tracks due to the recession? Will the winding roads, lampposts, street signs, and underground infrastructure lie in wait for the houses much longer than anticipated, perhaps indefinitely? In this locale, it will probably happen as planned, since enough Baby Boomers have stowed away the requisite funds to make the move and bump up the population of these and other retirement communities in the Sun Belt. But for other versions of suburbia it's not as certain. Other scenarios might come to the fore (infill, brownfields, TOD's), shifting business as usual to something else entirely.
Of course this is more an idealistic hope than a carefully considered speculation on the actual unfolding of events over the next 365 days. As someone who values cities -- and still sees a strong distincton between cities and suburbia -- I'd like to see the center of gravity between the two realms shift towards the urban, the more sustainable situation. If government spending, particularly as the Obama administration takes over, does reward this type of shift remains to be seen. The cynic in me is giving the idealist of the other half a tough fight, as rewarding business as usual seems just as likely, given the extent to which unsustainable development practices (especially government subsidies for speculative developments and the excessive car use they engender) are so deeply rooted in the economic and political realms. Nevertheless I'm hoping that a reevaluation of banking practices (a HUGE part of what makes evertyhing above happen) also involves a reevaluation of land use, zoning, transportation and other policies that stand in the way of a more sustainable urbanism.