Urban Sights: Urban History and Visual Culture

4. Conclusion

Ending with the suburban city does not mean that distinctions between these categories have been entirely effaced. Rather, it reveals the categories to be more historically continuous than often presumed, particularly in the realm of residential designs. Some take this as grim sign of ubiquitous standardization, a pandemic of row houses destined to cover every habitable space. There are also those who mourn the quintessential suburb of yesteryear, as evidenced by the elegiac tone found in recent suburban literature. 
The ultimate of these works is perhaps Waldie's memoir, Holy Land. Waldie's sparsely poetic prose grasps the rootedness of suburban generations and the rituals that intermingle the profound and the everyday. Waldie is likewise attuned to the significance of suburban visual tropes; he observes how Garnett's photographs of Lakewood's architectural regularity came to signify suburbia itself: 
The photographs were images of the developers' crude pride. They report that the grid, briefly empty of associations, is just a pattern predicting itself. 
The theorists and critics did not look again, forty years later, to see the intersections or calculate in them the joining of interests, limited but attainable, like the leasing of chain stores in a shopping mall. 
The images reveal not that the grid remains simply a 'pattern predicting itself', as many viewers still presume, but rather, as Waldie asserts, a 'joining of interests', fundamental to the physical and ideological shaping of the post-war experience. The fear of placelessness and complete homogenization associated with suburbia will likely never subside, but Bechtle's paintings communicate how touches of that residential impulse permeate a very broad swath of American development and effect even quintessentially urban environments like the city of San Francisco.

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