Posted by: martinworster | April 4, 2008


Driving around Orange County I am often reminded of that blight on the English landscape, Milton Keynes. It has that ghastly purpose built, impermanent feeling where the urban planners have tried to create a modern utopia but really it’s hell on earth.

The apex of this is Irvine. Residents live in neat condo complexes, with sprinkler fed, perfectly manicured lawns in the public spaces, and just dried stucco on the faux Spanish Hacienda style architecture. Little home pods for robots who drive to work in whistle clean cars to modern office blocks near South Coast Plaza. For lunch they work out in the glistening clean gym, like rats on the treadmill. Leisure time is spent at the mall or watching the latest Hollywood trite at the multiplex. Really no different to many parts of modern England. JG Ballard quakes.

I digress, I am meant to be talking about the sub-urban landscape and I got caught up on a stereotype of the people. Driving around the streets, I find it mind boggling how this landscape pretty much replicates itself throughout the whole of Southern California, from LA down to the Mexican border. You could slice a little cross section of it and plonk it another part and no one would know any different, the topographical identity is so completely bland. Admittedly there are anomalies – downtown Pasadena and Orange spring to mind.

Miles upon mile of cloned strip malls. Dennys, Starbucks, Baja Fresh, Burger King, mostly fast food, clogging both the inhabitants physical arteries as well as their roads. In the poorer areas it’s thrift stores, all for a $ stores, hand car washes and Mexican outlets. It never ends. Oh how I long for a High Street.

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