A Thousand Roads To Nowhere

One Stem

This has been making the rounds recently, an article on how America is all infrastructure, and no people. It’s trite, but the old line about the difference between European and North American cities is that European cities were built for people; the cars got there later. In North America it’s the other way around.

So, cities are built for cars and the people get there later, but what if the people never get there? Turns out, we have an answer for that now. Take a look at this.

Google’s street view of this is fantastic, particularly if you slide back up from it to an overhead view of what’s around you. There’s nothing there, nothing but sand and old road.

The same thing has happened here; a city laid out for cars where the people never showed up. It’s incredibly bleak, and of all the things you can read into this I think what strikes me most is the utter disdain for organic growth and the incredible confidence in the planned-out city being the inevitable future. Why else would you put down that much asphalt? But then nothing happened. And ultimately, it wouldn’t really matter if it had – the organic, human aspect always wins eventually. You wouldn’t think so – it’s a big, planned coherent thing, it looks like it should work! – but it never does.

It occurs to me that this is a judgement on the citizenry, carved into the landscape; these are cities that fundamentally don’t trust their own residents with the reins of the future. I really hope we can add that to the pile of the last century’s bad ideas and walk away from it.


  1. Posted November 26, 2009 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    This puts me in mind of Dubai, and the power of central planning to recreate a world that no one ever uses.

    When we built our pond, we later found that we’d done it where a deer run used to be. Instead of going around, for years later you could see deer swimming across. The organic is stubborn that way.

  2. Posted November 27, 2009 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve driven through the empty wastelands of the Mojave between Palmdale and Edwards AFB, and I always wondered why there’s a big empty grid of streets in the middle of the desert. Now I know. The church from the opening scene of Kill Bill is in that grid. The roads are long, straight, and empty…you could do 150mph down them and no one would notice or care.