12: Sprawl and Spectacle F 2000


We are constantly offered, and usually eat to satiation, the pre-digested food of electronic and built spectacle, from flashing webpages to themed environments like Planet Hollywood. And, satiated, we need and ask less of buildings, landscapes, and streets. Thus we tolerate sprawl—expanses of low density development that is, as Phil Thall’s photographs and Mitchell Schwarzer’s words so powerfully show, quintessentially blank. And that blankness in turn makes more alluring the fantasy world of spectacle, a world of environmental and psychological interiors—of shopping, watching movies, surfing the Internet, daydreaming, immersion in the waves coming from our video and stereo systems…

How architects and other designers should respond to this situation seems by no means clear. It is easy to be moralistic about the decadence of the culture of spectacle, while at the same time feeding from it with as much gusto as the next person—special effects movies like The Matrix are a kick; finding, on the Web, that one music cd that will fill the ultimate market niche of one’s quirky personal desires is a thrill. Victorian and Protestant guilt about the pursuit of pleasure has all but vanished. But the question remains: what does a life of consumption of pre-packaged fantasies leave out?

— William S. Saunders (excerpted from the introduction)

Table of Contents


A Word for Landscape Architecture

John Beardsley

Book Reviews

Andy Merrifield

Privatized Lives

James S. Russell

Retro Urbanism

Peter Hall

Seventy-Five Percent

Ellen Dunham-Jones

Spectacle and Its Discontents

Luis Fernández-Galiano

The New American Village

Bob Thall

The Second Greatest Generation

Michael Sorkin

The Spectacle of Ordinary Building

Mitchell Schwarzer

We Dig Graves – All Sizes

Daniel Naegele

When Is It Right to Be Wrong?

Tim Benton


Apartment Stories by Sharon Marcus

Barry Bergdoll

Constant’s New Babylon by Mark Wigley

Andy Merrifield

The American Lawn edited by Georges Teyssot

Julia Czerniak

The Fate of Place by Edward S. Casey

Robert A. Beauregard

The Tourist by Dean MacCannell

Daniel Naegele

You Are Here by Frances Anderton

Wouter Vanstiphout