Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Big Box Banter & Book Review-Part 2

The subject of empty Big Boxes is one of many touched on in John Wasik's 2009 book, "The CUL-DE-SAC Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream." View his blog, the Cul-de-Sac Syndrome.

Among the many interesting stats in the book, Wasik states that in 2008, there were 4,000 abandoned (I would say "empty," as obviously someone owns them) stores, and that before the bust there was about 20 SF of shopping space for every person in America (the number is 2 SF in Great Britain). Decay of central (or even just older) shopping centers "fell prey to the American obsession with newness and giantism."

The first few chapters are informative but somewhat painful, with generalizations, assumptions, and too many "we's". ("We" did not all decide to buy huge houses we could not afford and buy cars with the equity line of credit). And the negative role that government, codes, and zoning have played in the landscape of America, the dominance of the car and affordablity is barely mentioned in the multiple chapters that cover the subject.
I enjoyed the case studies towards the end of the book, but as much as I love to read, as a designer I would like to see more color photos and maps of areas he is referring to.

Overall, the book is good, in-depth overview of what has happened to the "American Dream."

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