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Suburban Sprawl: Livin’ Large in Vulgaria

When it comes to neighborhoods of McMansions and “starter castles” there’s a new word out there: Vulgaria. Coined by Paul Know dean of Architecture and Urban Studies at Virginia Tech, vulgaria accurately describes the landscape of suburban America in many regions of the US.

What the term refers to are the large over the top houses that are expressions of “look how much money I have that I can afford a giant house of 8,000 square feet” mentality. Knox takes this further by stating in the July 15, 2005 issue of Opolis that these landscapes are “...landscapes of bigness and spectacle, characterized by packaged developments, simulated settings, and conspicuous consumption, and they have naturalized an ideology of competitive consumption, moral minimalism, and disengagement from notions of social justice and civil society.”

That’s quite a statement. Unfortunately I’ve found this to be true in my own experience and seems to be typical of the “nouveau riche”. Instead of saying “Go get the car,” it’s now, “Go get the Mercedes.” You get the idea.

Usually what happens is that a home on an existing lot is bought and then the existing house, which by the way fits in with the neighborhood’s character, is torn down and replaced by an out of scale monstrosity that in no way fits into the neighborhood. To top it off, these McMansions are not for large families either. Often there are 0 to 2 kids along with the parents.

Many of these McMansion proponents think that the community is merely jealous when they try to stop these giant houses from being built in their neighborhoods by changing zoning laws. Hardly. They’re simply trying to preserve their quality of life. Something the McMansioners seem to care little about. What a shame.

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