[] Mike Slattery




The concept of the suburb has its roots in the desire to combine the natural setting with the urban. The edges of the suburbs are in a state of constant flux. This sprawl has continued to creep so that if you were once on the edge you may now be in the middle.

The development of public transportation changed the shape of the city. It allowed people to spread out along transportation routes which connected city centers, populating land which was less desirable and more affordable. Tentacles of civilization began reaching into the landscape. As Henry Ford's production methods brought down the cost of the automobile, roads were subsidized and the space between these tentacles began to be filled with grid patterns or winding roads divided into spacious lots. This allowed parcels of land to be sold to private owners.

When a lumber yard in Chicago began milling wood to standard dimensions in 1833, 2x4's came into use and mass production methods were applied to the housing industry.

Patterns were developed around these standard dimensions and kits were made available through mail order. This allowed the price of housing to drop substantially both in material costs and labor costs. No longer did you have to be a skilled carpenter to construct your own house.


Attached Garage

As we arrive at our destination we must find a parking space. The idea of the garage was added onto the house in the mid 1920's as a solution to the parking problem. The garage has become a multi-functional space. It is the isolated domain of the modern handyman; the site of the terminal project, a place where invention becomes adaptation. The garage has become the main storage area for the home. Similarly, the mind acts as a storehouse of condensed experience and time. As we ramble through this 'storage unit' we recognize change. Wandering through this 'space' we save and discard our recollections of the past.



The responsibility of maintaining these new conveniences created the desire to escape to a more secluded area. People began going North to the lakes and woods for a getaway experience, leaving behind their jobs and busy lives for a place more 'primitive' and 'natural'. With this came the advent of the camping trailer; a box on wheels designed as a home away from home. Its form suggests both mobility and shelter; a traveling home that can extend boundaries. It is attractive in its efficient use of space and allows the freedom to move about without the connection to a place.


Today, many prefab materials have been created to imitate the familiar crafted materials used in the past. Man-made surfaces take on new looks appropriated from nature. They are affordable and easy in their application. We are in the second wave of streamlining. The first wave occurred in the 30's and was based on speed and Science Fiction.

Today's streamlining is based on aerodynamics, ergonomics and efficiency. The artificial has supplanted the natural. In our longing to escape the city we have taken with us all the amenities.

Technology, like time, does not remain static. As we wander, there is often nostalgia for the past. We may have grown tired of change; what is familiar becomes comfortable. We often have the desire to stay put. If we become idle will we remain in neutral?

Mike Slattery, 1996

Mike Slattery, Bibliography

Jackson J.B.
A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time Yale University Press, 1994
Jackson K.
Crabgrass Frontier Oxford University Press. 1985
Galloping Bungalows Shoestring Press. 1991
Wheel Estate Oxford University Press. 1991
Under Western Skies Oxford University Press, 1992

... longing for calm still water, not to get wet but to be in a boat wetting a line. Casting the lure disrupts the reflective surface of the isolated lake sending concentric circles across the water and triggering a consumptive interaction with nature. The technology used to interface with nature (the bait) is an attempt to trick the fish (nature) into believing that we are food; thus suggesting that we (humans) have control over other creatures and can out-smart them. We have been lured by the romance of the wilderness and of sportsmanship. The idle setting in the mind's eye is picturesque; void of 'work'. In reality, time, labor and money are all expended to earn these moments.

Surfaces appeal to us. We are often more seduced by the superficial design and slickness than the mechanics or function of the consumable. Through our desire and obsession we become both the consumer and the consumed.

Mike Slattery

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