In October of 2008, Worlds Away: New Suburban Landscapes opened in the Heinz Architectural Center at Carnegie Museum of Art. Organized by Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, this exhibition examined the mythology of the American suburbs as a place of homogeneity and conformity. In his preface to the exhibition catalogue, Andrew Blauvelt, Senior Curator, Architecture and Design at Walker Art Center, detailed the dramatic transformation of the suburbs over the last three decades. As part of On This Day, our ongoing series that examines artworks, exhibitions, and events from the archives at Carnegie Museum of Art, we are pleased to present Blauvelt’s essay in its entirety. —Matthew Newton, Associate Editor
Sometime during the past fifty years, the United States became a suburban nation. Although the 2000 census confirmed that more Americans live in suburbs than in central cities or rural areas combined, the increasing isolation of the city became glaringly obvious in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential campaigns when maps charting the voting results county by county revealed a cascade of red flowing from the urban periphery into the surrounding countryside. The assumption that urban cores voted Democratic (blue) and suburban areas Republican (red) was evident in the last presidential election where ninety-seven of the one hundred fastest-growing counties voted for the GOP candidate. However, it’s not only the quantitative but also the qualitative measures that prove the suburb no longer lives in the shadow of the city. Long dominated by the city as its normative measure, today’s suburbia marches on, trying to leave the polis in its wake.