Year 1959

Get a glass of wine. Then click on this link, which plays a video called Community Growth, created in 1959.

Once you've seen the video, read on…

You're probably sitting with a puzzled look – 1959? Aren’t these the exact same issues that are plaguing us today? Don’t those 1959 developments look like many of today’s latest developments? Even the way they bulldozed through the land and stick-built the homes looks just like the methods used today!

When I was 7 year old, my mother bought a new white 1959 Chevrolet Impala convertible with a red vinyl interior. This was one of the best designs with those wonderful curved wing-like fins and oblong tail lights. I remember sitting in the front when my mother slammed on the brakes as a child ran in front of the car. Since they did not have seat belts back then, my head flew into the steel dashboard (your probably thinking; ah ha! so that’s why he writes for New Geography). That beautiful Chevy was a coffin in a crash, as witnessed by the following video showing 50 years of safety advances between the 1959 Chevy vs. 2009 Chevy.

Back then, a 1959 Chevy with 50,000 miles on it was on its last legs, just about broken down, whereas today, a 2009 Chevy with 50,000 miles would be considered just about broken in.

If a 1959 land development subdivision layout were to crash into (OK, be overlayed upon) a 2009 land development subdivision layout there would be little difference.

We have written about this in the past, but it bears repeating: Designers look to the ordinances for guidance, and these regulations have been stagnant for about 5 decades (1959. Developers hire designers assuming they will get the best possible layout. Designers look to the six decade old ordinances and assume the minimum dimensions are the optimum ones to maximize density (their clients profits). The layout by minimums will result in cookie cutter monotonous designs. The council and planning commissions admonish the developer for submitting plans that lack character and imagination, yet the developer just followed the regulations that promote such development. And the cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats for generations upon generations.

You are reading this article on a computer that is more powerful than any that existed in 1959, or 1969, or possibly even in 1979. If you are older than 60 years old, chances are if this was 1959, you would be dead by now. Advances in health as well as an awareness of what we eat and how we live allow us to live longer happier and more productive lives.

Technological advancements have touched virtually every product and aspect of our lives – except the neighborhoods we live, work and play within.

There is something very wrong with this situation, and solving these problems through over densification and forcing a nation into public transportation is taking giant leaps backwards, not towards 1959, but more towards 1859. We posses innovation and technology for the design and building of sustainable future cities without sacrificing the desire for space and personal transportation freedom. This however takes more effort. But isn’t about time we leave 1959 behind?

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