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What is Privacy? and "Good Suburbia"

"What is Privacy? and 'Good Suburbia'"

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Written by Daniel Reed
August 21, 2003
My first essay on suburbia.

Using my own home as an example, a form of suburbia which provides privacy can be easily illustrated. My home is a 1986 split-level in Silver Spring, Maryland. It is not truly special in design nor is its lot anything special. Its charm and quality of life lie in its environment. The lot, a pentagon-shaped parcel of about 7,000 square feet, features thick evergreen and deciduous trees on its two rear sides which block views of neighboring homes. Even one lone crabapple tree in the front yard creats a charming but sedated exterior protecting the home from curious onlookers. From my rear deck is a panoramic view of mature treetops with bits of a neighboring house less than forty feet away peeking through. This privacy is due to a neighborhood initative to replace man-made barriers such as fences with more natural products. On the opposite end of this development, large homes back to a small pond surrounded by trees and a jogging path. These homes have very small rear yards but retain a beautiful view. Another example of the privacy which many say suburbs lack can be found in an awkward double-lot situation. The builder, Coscan (now Brookfield) Homes had a small, irregularly-shaped lot with little street frontage. However, Coscan was able to build two 2,500 square foot single-family homes on this land by placing them along the widest parallel of the lot facing the street. This leaves two small but intimate rear yards.

This argument may leave you with a mixed opinion of suburbia, but a well-planned suburb can feature the proper public and private spaces for human interaction. Most homes in my neighborhood feature covered porches and front to beautiful tree-lined streets. Exteriors have influences ranging from Farmhouse to Colonial to stately Georgians, along with more transitional designs such as the house I live in. Parks and open spaces serve as focal points, while even the middle of a cul-de-sac becomes "the place to be" for neighborhood gatherings. Facilities such as schools and shopping malls are all within walking distance. This attributes can be easily linked to New Urbanist communities, which are said to create friendly communities with homes that look older and a center for shopping. So is my neighborhood "Good Suburbia?" It can be compared to New Urbanism in that they are both considered to be sprawl. At least this is a "more benevolent form of sprawl," as architectural critic Alex Marshall has called it. But what about privacy? I believe Fairland Greens has done well enough with that.

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Last Updated: September 1, 2003
Pictures for all communities with the exception of Fairland Greens and Tanglewood were taken without permission. All other pictures are the property of Daniel Reed.