The Fascinating Transformation of Suburban Architecture

The metamorphoses of suburban commercial buildings reflect a story of the urban landscape waiting to be told.
March 25, 2019, 5am PDT | Camille Fink
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Michael Rivera

Addison Del Mastro writes about the repurposing of suburban architecture, which changes buildings but also often leaves their former identities recognizable:

Uncovering the history of a building or commercial strip is like a mix of archaeology and detective work. The remnants of these old buildings are like fossils, revealing the geographic reach of shuttered chains, and the history of the buildings themselves. Sometimes, that history is preserved rather tackily, and is therefore easy to identify.

His article includes many images of these sites: the Dairy Queen that is now a pizza restaurant, a car loan office claiming the Arby’s cowboy hat sign, the Roy Rogers converted into an Enterprise Rent-A-Car branch.

Del Mastro points out that many of these buildings are found in less upscale parts of suburbs. "Most chains purchasing an existing building can afford to demolish it or revamp it to at least resemble their own trademark decor and architecture. Most small businesses in depressed neighborhoods cannot."

These places have histories and cultures of their own that deserve recognition, argues Del Mastro. "In some ways, a repurposed McDonald’s or leftover supermarket signage is about as boring, mundane, and ultimately meaningless a thing as one can ponder. Yet it is also an immediate and highly visible example of vibrant, churning culture-making taking place right under our noses."

Full Story:
Published on Friday, March 8, 2019 in The American Conservative
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