Stories of Suburbs

by Andrew Wade

Music, film, and (sub)urbanism are set to collide next week in screenings of the short film Scenes from the Suburbs - a collaboration between Arcade Fire and Spike Jonze, which will run from 12-18 February at the Berlinale.

While the film, like the album, will re-present the isolation and longing of suburban life in a nostalgic and exquisitely rendered piece of art, designers are concurrently re-imagining the future meaning and spatial uses of suburbia.  Both the physical remnants of suburban infrastructure as well as the lives that depend on them must adapt to a more sustainable model of peri-urban life in order to transcend the iconography of 'Suburbs' from the mid-to-late 20th century.

In a way of circumventing the arguments of 'more density v. less density', one can instead concentrate on the creation of responsive densities - landscapes that recalibrate previously established planning models for new uses and lifestyles, as suggested in 'Retrofitting Suburbia'.  What will the next generation's 'Scenes from the Suburbs' tell us?

Credits: Image from Arcade Fire


  1. Fits well with our project on global suburbanisms:

  2. Hi,

    Your collaborative research initiative sounds very interesting, and the wide scope of dissemination methods sound great. I will certainly look for the migrating exhibition and series of documentary films!

    It seems to me that 20th century suburbanization occurred from the urban core expanding outwards in a sort of diffusion of density that promised a higher quality of life and relief from urban blight. In that sense it was planned and intended as a more permanent state of development.

    The 21st century suburbanization, however, seems to exist as an unavoidable transitory state on the way to urbanization - merely a 'growing pain' on the way to increased density and a larger urban regional footprint. In more slowly progressing developments such as the East Coast of the United States, it seems to have created, at least for now, an endless string of suburbs broken only by a few key cities. In faster developments such as in China, the planning of new cities seems to bypass this middle step altogether by simply skipping ahead to finished mega cities.

    It will be interesting to see what your research uncovers!