Making a Middle Landscape

Today's suburban metropolitan development of single-family homes, shopping centers, corporate offices, and roadway systems constitutes what Peter Rowe calls a “middle landscape” between the city and the countryside. While others have written about this phenomenon from the point of view of sociology or cultural geography, Rowe looks closely at suburban America in terms of design and physical planning. He builds a case for a new way of seeing and building suburbia, complete with theoretical underpinnings and a basis for design.
The directions Rowe pursues are threefold: what has actually been built since 1920, as simple arrangements of land, buildings, and infrastructure have been transformed into complete multi-use centers; the mythic themes, metaphors, and attitudes driving the production of important cultural artifacts like the home and the workplace; and the definition of design principles for this new landscape.
Rowe looks first at how suburban expansion has altered the land, at the new spatio-cultural mosaic that has emerged and taken the place of the traditional city. He then examines four cultural artifacts-the house and its garden; the retail realm of roadside franchises and commercial strips, shopping villages and malls; the modern workplace of office parks and corporate estates; and the roadway that has become an essential link to all of these. Running throughout, he notes, is a story of technical planning and mass production where, paradoxically, rational excesses are often cloaked in romantic imagery. He concludes by proposing, and illustrating with numerous examples, a symbolic construct of “modern pastoralism” that juxtaposes the idea arcadian simplicity and value against the modern technical temperament.
Contents
PART ONE       Sub-Urbs in Rure 
1. Territorial Transformations 

          From City to Suburb

 

 

          A Tale of Two Towns

 

 

          From Suburb to Urban Metropolis

 

2. Changing Attitudes 

          Monolith or Diverse Social Entity?

 

 

          Wasteful Fragmentation or Pure Democracy?

 

 

          Private Commodity or Public Good?

 

 

          Monotonous Conformity or Individual Comfort?

 

 

          Placelessness or Place?

 

 

          A Metropolitan Spatial Synthesis

 

 

     

    PART TWO       Cultural Artifacts 
    3. Houses in Gardens 

            Housing Types

     

     

            Spatial Trends and Variations

     

     

            Form, Figure, and Future Function

     

    4. Retail Realms 

            Types of Retail Center

     

     

            Spatial, Formal, and Functional Trends

     

     

            Future Variations

     

    5. Corporate Estates 

            Types of Corporate Office

     

     

            Design Themes and Trends

     

     

            Society and the Corporate Image

     

    6. Highways and Byways 

            Highways

     

     

            Subdivision Street Forms

     

     

            Spatial Developments and Variations

     
    PART THREE       Poetics and Making

    7. Myths and Masks 

            The Pastoral Perspective

     

     

            The Modern Technical Orientation

     

     

            Modern Pastoralism

     

     

            Historicism and Utopianism

     

     

            Critical Reality

     

     

            Symbolic Function

     

     

            Paradise and Pandemonium

     

    8. Places and Poetics 

                A Poetic of the Middle Landscape

     

     

                Poetic Design

     

     

                Poetic Expression

     

     

                Poetic Operations

     

     

              Making a Middle Landscape

     

    MIT Press, 1991