Kaid Benfield Archive


Suburbs imagined but not necessarily far-fetched . . .

Kaid Benfield

Posted September 11, 2009 at 1:45PM

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  "Highland Farms" (by" Ross Racine, creative commons license)

These amazing images are not photographs but drawings, and not of real places but of imagined ones.  What is especially striking to me about Ross Racine's work is how real they seem, and that's not just because of the precision of his gift for drawing.  It's also because in many ways the subdivisions he depicts are different, but not all that different, from the familiar.

Take "Highland Farms," shown at the top of this post.  The lot sizes look right; the location in the middle of farmland looks right; the complete absence of walkable destinations looks right; the name of the subdivision certainly seems real.  It's really only the circular configuration that makes us think of fiction rather than fact and, given some configurations we've seen in the Arizona desert, Texas, or Dubai, it's hard to be sure of even that.

  "Cedar Valley" (by: Ross Racine, creative commons license) 

I might still have some doubt, if it were not for seeing some of the other images.  Above is what we might think of, I suppose, as the ultimate disconnected cul-de-sac.  It's called "Cedar Valley."

  "Aspen Grove & Sunrise Park" (by: Ross Racine, creative commons license)  

"Aspen Grove and Sunshine Park" look very real to me, only their symmetry giving them away.  (Compare the geometry of a subdivision in Florida.)  As Racine himself puts it, his work is "a comment on the fears as well as the dreams expressed in suburban culture."  The works are drawn freehand on a computer and printed on a high-end inkjet printer.  Racine stresses that there are no photos or scanned material in the process.

As the Infrastructuralist put it about an image called "Walnut Village," the viewer is seeing "a community that's both absurd and believable. One has the sense that, if we haven't built a place like that yet, we will very soon."  To see more of Racine's artwork, go here.

On another subject entirely, I am now off to a faraway, undisclosed location for two weeks of vacation.  But due to the magic of NRDC's blogging software, I have scheduled posts to appear in my absence!  You won't even notice the difference.  Enjoy.