Making Sense of Twenty-First Century (Sub)Urban Landscapes: Blandscapes, Blendscapes, Brutalscapes and Brutopianscapes

Paul J. Maginn, Nicholas Phelps

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This paper makes a call for a more nuanced reading of the dynamic kaleidoscope of (sub)urban landscapes that characterize contemporary metropolitan regions. Within this metropolitan context, there is a need to move beyond perceiving the ‘suburbs’ as distinct and separate from, and, subservient to the ‘city’. If anything, the suburbs are in a deep symbiotic relationship with the ‘city’ – (sub)urban entanglements. Such entanglement means that the suburbs and the city simultaneously exhibit suburban and urban elements. Hence, the terms (sub)urban, (Sub)urban, (sub)Urban, and (SUB)URBAN are used as a framework to denote the varying degrees of intermingling and scale of suburbanity and urbanity that characterize (sub)urban areas. Although suburbia has long been framed as a fundamental facet of the ‘American dream’ and the ‘great Australian dream’ the suburbs have been the object of much criticism, and derided for their conformity, domesticity and uniformity. In short, the suburbs have been stereotyped as a blandscape. However, as metropolitan regions have grown in physical and demographic terms, an array of (sub)urbanisms have emerged, and continue to do so, thereby creating a (sub)urban blendscape in terms of housing morphologies, densities, land uses, socio-cultural diversity, and governance at the metropolitan, sub-regional, local government, and suburb level. Simultaneously, an array of (sub)urban brutalscapes have also emerged as metropolitan regions have expanded. Suburbanization, extended urbanization, gentrification and (sub)urban regeneration are all contributing processes to the (re)production of brutalscapes that
manifest at a range of scales and assume a variety of forms – e.g. infrastructural, sociocultural, housing, and environmental. Despite the criticisms of and problems with suburbia the idea(l) of the suburban dream prevails as metropolitanism expands. This points to the metropolitan region constituting a brutopianscape.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)5-22
Number of pages18
JournalBuilt Environment
Volume49
Issue number1
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023

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