There was an interesting Talk of the Nation episode on NPR about a month ago that discusses how Women as consumers are becoming a greater force and how smart businesses are changing to accommodate their needs. Keeping clean restrooms in auto dealerships and pointing to the room number on a sheet instead of saying it out loud in hotels are some of the changes that Paco Underhill writes about in his books that make a huge difference in safety and return business.
In this clip however, he talks about his belief that Frank Lloyd Wright and Henry Ford were the greatest villains of the 20th century in their encouraged suburban development taking us away from the beneficial village community and pushing us to rely too heavily on automobiles and suburban development. It's an interesting listen and while we often think about Hummers as the suburban evil and now folks see them in that way, another thing is houses and their true needs. People often talk about McMansions but do people really need $30,000 Wolf Ranges as well? Likely not but I hadn't thought of these extra issues before. It makes me wonder what else we are McMansioning.
It also makes me think about the flat that my parents had in Rotterdam. It was a very nice place and livable. Everything was available close by and the fridge was smaller than most here given you could get to the store everyday. The washer and dryer were small by American standards but again very efficient. Not everyone really wants to live that way of course but again there is this need to have choices for people such that they can decide how they want their lifestyle to play out.
But even though FLW and his broad acre city plan were something that some think led to a suburban ideal, there were obviously much larger forces at work (which we've discussed in many a post before). So I don't know if I would call him a villain, just someone who saw the car and suburban lifestyle coming before its time. If you had to pick just one villain, who or what would it be? Eisenhower Freeway System? Lending Practices? Zoning Laws?