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On the spatial horror of the suburbs, which is born of the mental laziness of our local government officials

Paweł Mrozek
15 of December '22

Hello, today I invite you on an unusually bleak but not distant journey into the land of architecture scattered with pitchforks across fields straight from a dung wagon, the so-called doe settlements. There is probably no other sight that is more thought-provoking about the futility of human civilization than the sight of just such a mindlessly joyous commassification of such settlements under the city. The phenomenon of so-called slamming of residential development along narrow plots is a true pearl of Polish urban planning thought, combining the most sophisticated shortcomings of pathological settlements from all over the world. A magnificent concert in the form of a truly American monoculture of funky suburbs, in which a person is tethered to a car, with the Chinese monotony of working-class housing estates, emphasizing the anonymity and powerlessness of the individual in the face of authority, all mollified by our native realities of hopeless random infrastructure, whose development does not step in front of, beside, or even long behind the residents.

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens

© Norbi Zarabisty

We are creating for ourselves, ladies and gentlemen, a phenomenal spatial neoplasm around our cities that chops and eats up the rural landscape, destroying villages rather than creating cities. What we get instead is a cruelly bland grandfathered area, the kind of unknowable thing that gradually grows along roads, in the pattern of the dederons, like mold tightly isolating all our corridors of movement through this country from the view of the natural landscape and making our lives sicker.

Despite all those laudable programs of sustainable development, eco-strategies of cities growing inward, boisterous slogans and manifestos about the need to protect the landscape and rational management of space and its resources, which have been coming to us from the televised parallel dimension for many years, thisin the dimension of influence on spatial policy, there is not even a homeopathic trace of interaction between these studies of dull heads and the crappy coarse reality sprayed from the sloop on the zoning forms to color themselves. For the past thirty-odd years, this country and its legislation has been riding the same inertia of the coal wagon all the time, where one dead-end law after another is introduced in the hope that it will catch on, and if it doesn't, tough luck. And so it somehow strangely happens that where it is critical to our survival, they just don't get adopted. Because for a Pole the space of our country is worth nothing, we do not see the connection between space and our lives.

Let me put it bluntly, the economic mechanism of a country that bases its development on free American construction must sooner or later collapse. Already, for these illusory low-cost housing units for a portion of the population, we are all paying a huge cost in the form of hidden fees in taxes to maintain a bloated andincreasingly ineffective byleinfrastructure that tries to pin this down, infrastructure that may be grandfathered in today, but is still new, but whose maintenance costs will only increase as it begins to fall apart, because it will be grandfathered in and old.

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens

© Norbi Zarabisty

These estates no longer even try to pretend that they fulfill someone's dream of a beautiful house outside the city. Here, no more marketing or fairy-telling can cover up the sad fact that this is simply an agricultural industrialized breeding of caged humans, to which the pipes, cables and nothing else needed for the growth of these agricultural crops have been fed. Unlike chickens, however, it has the advantage that when raising chickens, you have to ensure that there is always adequate feed in the tube that is inserted into their throats, while in caged human farming our broilers have to feed themselves.

After the fall of communism, we thought that the big slab was a depressing place to live, which awaits the fate of a human ghetto of pathology like in American movies, while today, compared tothis cultural and service desert of modern suburbs, the large housing cooperatives of the communist era appear to us as real idylls bathed in greenery immersed in the comforts of a city of short distances. Poland is one of the few countries where such housing estates have not been socially degraded, and we praise them for this, but this is not because they were somehow significantly better than competing examples from the 1970s in other countries, but mainly because Poland has since failed to create a convincing and more contemporary alternative to this social dystopia of the communist era. Instead, we have taken a whole series of civilizational steps backward, in a direction unknown to anyone, and we pretend that this is progress.

Obszarowa uprawa Homo Sapiens - Okolice Warszawy

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens, near Warsaw.

© Google Maps

However, while in the larger cities one can find in large numbers investments that even sensibly fill the space, pursuing the idea of development inward, trying to sustain the social infrastructure already functioning in its vicinity, and this is good, the rest of the development of residential structures in this country is a picture of a wild succession of alien species in a space that does not support this development. The coarse grains of the sieve of spatial policy do not in any way interfere with the quality of space that accompanies residential development, and local plans either never keep up with this development, or are mere bags of wishful thinking designed to accommodate whatever the soul desires, in the hope that it will desire beauty and goodness, which unfortunately somehow never happens.

And so spit by spit, step by step, there are more dead-end neighborhoods of dead-end streets, full of residents who often do not yet know that they have just crossed the event horizon of social exclusion, from behind which there is no return, watching only in amazement the process of spaghettification of the costs of this cheap life. Thus, instead of fifteen-minute cities, we are building 24-hour residential amoebae, in which the basic contact with civilization is determined by the daily rhythm of a carillon of atrophy winning a hymn to the tune of Zabka, Netflix and parcel machines.

Obszarowa uprawa Homo Sapiens

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens, Warsaw area

© Norbi Zarabisty

And it's all still new, still cacy and inflated by years of prosperity, but already economically leveraged to the extreme so that it's barely possible to live there even under conditions of economic idyll. And come to think of it, all those houses made of nothing, hooked up to civilization's drip feed of plastic Chinese quick disconnects, will begin to age at the same time as the population shrinks, aging and access to comforts and conveniences retreats. All it takes is for civilization to experience a slight drain on its strength, for it to run out of breath for a while, and all at once these places will become unbearable to live in, death traps, geriatric wards isolated from the view of the people, which even immigrants cannot get rid of. If it already looks like a "miserable fate" five minutes after the ribbon-cutting today, it is very likely to be hell in the future. A lonely place for old people whose children will only visit on Zoom or Skype.

Obszarowa uprawa Homo Sapiens - Okolice Warszawy

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens, Warsaw area

© Google Maps

And the most grotesque thing in all of this is that good urban planning, which could be the grates for building a good city and public space, does not have to cost even a zloty more than the bad and ghastly one that we are repeatedly creating solely because of mental laziness. All it would take is for anyone in these local authorities to simply care. Even if we don't build all the accompanying residential services and public spaces right away, space can be planned and left for them in a thoughtful composition. Residential development can be organized into structures other than, resulting from the layout of fields, shuffles and amoebae, consuming much less land and better managing the possibilities of building the networks or road infrastructure themselves. Only as far as the farthest and brightest horizons of action and plans for all these mustachioed local government officials are from the upcoming elections, none of them care about this most simply because everyone in the circle is growing on their own. Why, as an authority, impose ourselves on investors with terribly unpleasant changes to geodetic divisions, when you can just stub your toe and not expose yourself to anyone? Some more investor will be offended and what will happen? Admittedly, when you need to traverse fields somewhere with a highway, geodetic division is no problem, but when it comes to planning settlements that would not overlap ribbons of agricultural land twenty by a thousand meters, it normally becomes a mission impossibie. Oh lord, what would it take? Everyone would have to buy a piece of field from everyone. One would have to exchange land with one's neighbor, and after all, it is well known that the Polish savage businessman, accustomed to combining and putting others to the wind, such a prospect, involving civilized cooperation with others, is simply intellectually frightening and overwhelming.

Obszarowa uprawa Homo Sapiens - Gdańsk

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens, Gdansk.

© Krzysztof Koprowski |

However, I would be naïve if I were to take vengeance here only on all those local government officials, who hide in dugouts in their "front yards" from the glare of the torch of enlightenment and progress. If we would still like to salvage some images of our landscape from this burning palace and hit their consciousness with the cure for all evil, we can't be counted on to accomplish this through organic work. Being so 500 years behind in building up the bourgeois class, we could already fall behind with such tactics with such sudden and large-scale transformations taking place in our environment. To stop the murder of suburban space, we need top-down Metropolitan Associations imposed yesterday, with the authority to legislate local spatial policy. Only by basing spatial planning on structures that are mentally and intellectually prepared to do so creates at least theoretical hope that we could still control at least part of this stable of Augias, and that too, in principle, only if we simultaneously change the law on spatial planning and reset the counter of imaginary residential areas pumped up for two decades. Through unconscious planning, we have inflated them in this country in "development direction studies" and "local plans" to a virtual potential several hundred million additional residents who will never be here. All because in our country literally the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. If we want to, say, prepare for winter and buy warm clothes for it, we go to the store and try them on to see if they fit each of our limbs and make a decision in the interest of the whole body, meanwhile, if one were to relate thisto the laws that govern space policy in our metropolitan areas, we have a situation where each leg and arm goes off to buy one glove or shoe each on its own, and then we struggle against the elements in this resultant clana disguise. This needs to stop, but will it? Will we go for reason? I sincerely doubt it. For the central government, the decision to take out of the hands of smaller, suburban and parasitic local governments the power to pound the board with a hammer andto transfer them from larger, more competent structures, is to expose themselves to the voters of these smaller local governments, even if, instead of banging that hammer on the board, they can only shell themselves in the skull with it.

Such a state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely anyway.However, it is impossible to create urban organisms four times more spatially dilapidated than American agglomerations, with four times more mediocre incomes than in America, and hope that we can handle it all with social infrastructure, baa, any infrastructure at all. We are going to butcher this country like a boom-bust. Today, this is still at the expense of the quality of life of people trying to lead a traditional model of life in the countryside, or those who lead a life in real cities, a life of frugality that does not burden the country's budget and resources. However, it is impossible to indefinitely batter this mule of self-sufficient farmers or the urban conscious middle class and count on it to indefinitely credit this sick model of development, development that steals our lives.

Obszarowa uprawa Homo Sapiens - Pomorze

Area cultivation of Homo Sapiens, Pomerania

© Mariusz Waras

Every day when I segregate my trash or give up driving, I think I'm doing it for nothing, that my efforts and the efforts of people who think alike are just to remove myself from life to the side and make more room for this idiotic dance of death and development, which acts as if there will be no tomorrow. Do you understand this? If you ride a bicycle, think about your carbon footprint, care about the common good and try to pick water out of that sinking boat with a cup, you're only producing civilization's reserves, which all the rest of those cracked jugs inyour boat, who sit with drills in their hands and drill holes in the side, will unreflectively consume and fart merrily spend, while still laughing in your face.

And here I am slowly beginning to come to the conclusion that maybe we are doing it wrong. Maybe our sacrifices are pointless and we just need to slaughter this planet to stop this contented boomer development that is taking place at our expense? The collapse is inevitable in my opinion, but maybe there is a recipe to get up from our knees faster after it. As long as we get up at all? In the countryside it will be possible to hide, in the cities maybe some will manage to survive, but no matter how I calculate it, no matter what scenarios I come up with, in each of them our suburban horror is always a death zone and ground zero. The most unsustainable and unsustainable piece of spatial development that has no right to sustain itself and feed itself when we come to dive into the darkness of history. I'm telling you, we need the Seldon Plan yesterday.

Well... That's right, I hope you're enjoying the fact that I've teleported you some of the medieval turpist atmosphere of Lent from the period of the great plague as part of the pre-Christmas joyous busyness. So, so that's that. You're welcome. "Jingylbels" and onward.

Paweł Mrozek

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