Field of Dreams
Although it is happening elsewhere in the world it is particularly striking how on the edges of towns and villages all over France the surrounding landscape is being transformed by new housing developments. This périurbanisation, or dispersive urban growth, is also known as éparpillement or the scattering of bungalows or pavillons which vary little in size or shape, aesthetically being based on the harmonious proportions of a shoe box. Every community seems to be sub-dividing and offering lotissements, or building plots to accommodate this particular style of dwelling. And so a field becomes a place where homes appear as quickly as nomads setting up camp in the desert so that residents can continue life behind tall gates and barred windows and perhaps dream, propagate families and personalize their indoor and outdoor spaces using cheap merchandise from the local DIY store.
I am aware of the pressing realities behind this trend but when a field two miles from here was ravaged in this way I felt a need to employ the destructive character of these Polaroid images as my personal wrecking ball. Similar low-cost houses have been blooming in green field sites for decades but rarely at the present rate and with such a violation of the landscape and attending cheapness of materials, meanness of design, paucity of garden space, such proximity to neighbours and emphasis on garage space to house the other crucial trapping of modern life. The end result is depressing to behold and is unlikely to promote an uplifting living experience for present and future inhabitants as the suburban myth spreads to semi-rural areas with all the negative implications of the word which describes more than just architecture. Visually and sociologically these monotonous buildings and tiny walled gardens are deliberately separated from the adjacent town, its social diversity and economic activities and represent a modern middle class vision of utopia, a mythical paradise reminiscent of the American Dream upon which these horizontally sprawling developments are based. It is sad both to identify this dream and to see the French landscape ravaged in this way.
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