Thanks Scott, I would have hated to piss off readers. I didn't think through well enough how I wrote it. In retrospect picking a concrete city as an example was a poor choice. There will always be somebody with their heart in whatever place you write about.

I agree there are plenty of bad suburbs in Europe, including my native Norway.

So this is really just a generalization. I remember from my time in the US and Canada that I could simple never find anything that looked like they used the planning and zoning I found either in my native Norway or in the Netherlands where I also lived. Well... I also spent some time in a Berlin suburb where I got a chance to look at how they did it.

And to be fair it was not really about aesthetics. I think American suburbs are generally very pretty. The suburbs I compare with in Europe are no necessarily any prettier. Far from it.

My interest was more in the lack of public spaces. I have long been fascinated by politics, history, economics, architecture etc. And I find it interesting how the values and political ideologies of a society gets reflected in the architecture and layouts of a city.

Like you can see the individualism in American suburbs. The large individual houses, the easy access with a car. Everybody has a large plot of land. Their own little domain.

I see in my own country Norway a reflection of many of the strongly held socialist and collectivist ideals as well the a Nordic emphasis on children's welfare and needs. I know this idea really developed in the 70s with a lot of idealism. We saw a lot of experimentation with school architectures, pre-schools as well as the neighbourhoods to build these little communities where children could run around safe from car traffic.

It is just something that I often come back to, to reflect on, because so often I hear people claim that Nordic social democracy is really just high taxes coupled with free health care and education. And if, as yourself, you have lived in different places. You early get a sense that there are always deeper differences than that between two socities.

Political ideals doesn't just affect something as mundane as how money is channeled into health care. It goes all the way down into how the physical reality of society gets built.

It is something of the same when I see America, and think of the cowboy riding free. It has been upgraded to these wide open spaces, wide roads where people can roam free with their cars. Route 66 and all that kind of American mystique if you will.

As European I may feel a kind of lack of space and belonging, but an American might see the ability to move through. Be free, go wherever they want.

I always wonder how Americans feel about the wide expanse. I could never really deal with it. The flatness of the prairie in North Dakota was driving me nuts. I needed my mountains. I needed my fjord to gaze at.

40% or so of Norwegian who went over to the prairie in the 1800s went crazy by it and had to go home, despite all the opportunities the new country offered.

Sorry, I am rambling.

What I wanted to do was to thank you for your mentions of Wheeler District and Deep Deuce. I will look that up. Sounds interesting.

Thanks again Scott.

Written by

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store