July 8th, 2004

my name up in lights

A Book, A Site

God's Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America's Landscape by Peter Blake. 144 pages. New York: Holt Rinehart & Winston. 1964.

Maybe a must read for the UD keener. Blake was an architect/critic who had a deep concern for the "uglification" of the North American landscape (man made & natural) by ill-considered commercial development after WW2. A whole whack of that development is now the subject of our LJ!

At times GOJ is extremely bitter but that is part of what makes it an attractive document. Primarily it is a photo-based work. (Refuse dumps, beaches, blimps, graveyards, neon signs, tract housing). One of the most striking pages features a brand new subdivision and an automobile wrecking yard. When viewed from above they are a strikingly similair mess. It is hard to find individuals that care this much about the "Big Picture" today.

Here we are four decades letter still coping with sprawl and Blake's concerned muckraking seems almost quaint, simplistic. Much of the visual content - the commercial signage, the architecture, the cars, the bungalow 'burbs - catches the modern reader's eye not because it is assaultive but because they are nostalgic, archaic. Probably not a reaction Blake hoped for.

Nonetheless, GOJ should be worth a look from the typical UDer. While the book has an obsolete feel it's photo content is fascinating. Here we are half a century later and all this "new" development and "modern" architecture is decaying.

Out of print for some time but available in libraries and from online used bookstores.

In the same vein, this site might interest you as well. The delightfully contradictory notion of "modern" architecture requiring conservation and historical recoignition is adressed at http://www.recentpast.org/ Quite a few of the buildings on the site are decayed and you can find demolition photos as well.

Cheers!

ps: Google 'Arapahoe Acres' for the first ever 1950s suburb placed on the National Historic Register (USA).