Editor's Note: Please be advised that the photos Patrice cites in her post below have been taken off the New York Times website "after questions were raised about whether they had been digitally altered."
The New York Times ran a photo essay in their magazine this weekend entitled "Ruins of the Second Gilded Age." The photos are the work of photographer Edward Martins, who set out to capture "the physical evidence of the real estate bust in the United States." Check out these eerie images of abandoned projects throughout the country.
We already had a spectacular inventory of buildings -- even entire cities -- left for dead before the boom ever started, many of them relics of the First Gilded Age. (Think Philadelphia, Buffalo, Pittsburgh. The list of Rust Belt cities goes on and on.) Now we add to our collection of vacant and abandoned properties a whole new swath of unfinished cookie-cutter subdivision homes, McMansions, and over-sized hotels in the Sun Belt.
Most of these photos are of buildings in sprawl locations, except for those of buildings in super-sized desert cities (Phoenix, Vegas.) I have a special sort of contempt for these places -- sprawling suburbia and mega cities in deserts. Both are examples of terrifically irresponsible land use which took place in a time when, quite simply, we knew better. That makes it hard to be sad for any of the developers whose dreams went "poof."
My favorite photo is of the New Urbanist multi-million dollar town homes in Phoenix that went under. Right design idea (compact development), wrong price point (millions per home) in the wrong city (one without a sufficient water supply).
Our buildings from the first Gilded Age, on the other hand, were built to last, and designed in cities that were more environmentally sustainable because they were built before the car. (And I might add, these older cities typically have an adequate water supply.) Even after years of deterioration, many of these places can be revived. That's the benefit of good bones.
It's tough to imagine a future for any of the places in Martins' photos. Except for the city landfill, maybe. And that is an expensive lesson to learn. Economically and environmentally.
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