Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

can we ever get away from the sprawl?

I’ve been thinking about ‘the sprawl’ lately. There’s a wealth of inspiration to be taken from houses that are built wide and far apart, with room enough to park two cars in the garage and another on the drive, room for a garden shed and flower beds, a deck with a hot tub, four bedrooms for three family members.

We rewatched Edward Scissorhands last night. It’s the dictionary definition of the Uncanny; a pastel world of mid-American sprawl with a ridiculous European baroque castle just beyond!

Arcade Fire’s new album ‘The Suburbs’ has two songs about the sprawl. They are very different, but both present the sprawl as somewhere to get out of, a place where everything is the same and only people who ‘fit in’ are accepted. My favourite song on the album is Sprawl II, sung by Regine, about ‘dead shopping malls rising like mountains upon mountains’.

On a visit to Tranent to see a recently completed scheme handed over to the Housing Association client, my boss took me on a drive around the village. Tranent is commuter-ville – some of  it looks like this;

But wait, there’s more! Some of it looks like this;

Maybe you have to drop breadcrumbs on your way to the shops.

We did see some of the more original dwellings in Tranent, including this street of timber clad houses, locally known as the Swiss Cottages.

There are examples of well designed exteriors in smaller numbers. This scheme had a pleasing mix of smooth render and brick at the corners. Small front gardens were planted with grasses, a very architectural touch!

Reserving the right to perform a U-turn when I want to own a car and grow some veg, I’d rather live in the city than in the sprawl. The impracticality of living so far from the library, the shop and the workplace makes me feel a bit uneasy. I find it difficult to get used to all that space and uniformity, although I can understand the benefits of course.

Our project is just behind the high street, and is a development of twelve cottage flats. More on cottage flats soon!


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This entry was posted on October 18, 2010 by in architecture.
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