Levittown Turns 60

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Or what’s left of it anyways. Its hard to imagine that the US suburb has only existed for such a short amount of time, yet it has so drastically changed the way we think, act, and interact with one another. Thanks Mr. Levit, and Levittown, for inventing the middle class ghetto.

For those of you unfamiliar with Levittown’s history – its the first planned suburb. To be clear, it was far from being the ‘first suburb’, as people seem to be fond of saying, but was instead the first to be planned in the manner that has become the American standard for suburban living. Namely, a crap-load [thats a technical architecture term – I swear] of houses that look alike, are cheaply built, allow for maximum visibility of the family car [that shit better be American made, my ninja!], and provide a rectangle of grass to be watered and mowed [or you’ll be ridiculed by the neighbors, and your invite to the block party will get ‘lost’].

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Long story short, Levit bought some old potato farms on Long Island, turned developer, and constructed something like 2,000 cookie-cutter low-cost homes. Each had a yard and all that, and they were lined up on winding streets that were meant to be reminiscent of [one would assume] the ‘natural’ suburbs that were inaccessible to so much of the population [I call them ‘natural’ suburbs for lack of a better word – but I’m referring to those that were unplanned]. The houses were then placed on the market, and sold at fairly low costs [especially compared to the traditional suburb], in particular to veterans [WWII and Korean?] and their families – basically creating the image of the ‘American Dream’, in terms of quality of living [house with a garage, family car, 2.5 children, etc, etc].

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TH6g61VEjWs[/youtube]

[I love that the singer names the colors of the houses, but the video is in black and white – because they’re still all the f#$*in’ same]

And so now Levittown is 60 years old [October 2007 marks 60 years since the first residents moved in] – and things have changed. Now there are Levittowns all over the country – not in name, but definitely in appearance. But what’s become of the original? Well it’s apparently gone through the changes one would expect, becoming home to McMansions [and wannabees] created by people expanding and adding to the existing original homes until they were unrecognizable. This has brought up a discussion in the original Levittown about whether or not the last remaining ‘original’ homes should remain preserved – but I would like to propose a better question: was Levittown successful? Is it worth preserving? In the US we’re obsessed with creating history, as ours is a young country and an even younger culture – but should we really cling to ‘American’ things just because they’re of this country, regardless of their actual merit? While this is obviously a broad question, I believe it applies particularly to architecture and the U.S.’s acceptance of mediocrity as tradition. Is the suburb still relevant? Is it still a legitimate way to plan communities? Is it good?

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Posted: October 15th, 2007
at 12:54am by orangemenace


Categories: architecture,housing,urban/master planning

Comments: 1 comment



 

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