The Anomie of the Suburbs and Exurbs

When I wrote about the “Costco badlands” in my earlier post about having a sense of place and why it’s so difficult in the suburbs and exurbs I did try to conjure up a mental image – but maybe it was not as good as something like this.

In turn the image got me to thinking: all the spaces in that image are commercialized. It reminds me of what I’ve read about concerning the shopping mall as a public/private space. In many places it overtakes the public streetscape (visible in any small town as well as in, say, Kensington Market) and forces it indoors. On a snowy day like today, the indoors thing isn’t so bad, but it also means that one of the few places to congregate on a human scale (as opposed to an automotive one) is actually private. There is no pure public space – or at least none that anyone would want to inhabit.

If you’re not going shopping, where do you go? Moreover if you do anything to annoy the mall cops and they ban you, you’re effectively cut-off from the life of your community. At the same time as mall construction continues, municipalities are strapped for cash, don’t expect to find a community centre too close, and if you do, expect to pay more. Our public spaces are shrinking, and/or becoming less accessible. All this leads me to ask whether the growth of suburban mcmegachurches (and larger community centre-type buildings constructed by other faith communities) with their attendant gyms and coffee shops is a sort of attempt to fill a void.

If it is, I can’t help but notice that almost everyone always drives to them – again, we have a car-scale situation. More and more of these churches are springing up in industrial areas and so even if you could walk, I don’t know how you’d feel doing so alone to any service or event in the evening. Are these churches an attempt at a solution to the mallification of our public space that relies on a shopping mall mentality?