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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Urban agency in Orange County Ridley, Bryan Scott

Abstract

The postsuburb, a population distribution common to matured suburbs and new rapid growth areas is often criticized through a simplistic lens of urban bias. As an organizational space, the postsuburb is at a developmental junction. Its horizontal population expansion is reaching a logical extent, its growth now generating from within rather than accumulating at the edges. This transitive stage in the ongoing maturation of the postsuburb provides the opportunity to consider speculative urban agency; specifically the consequence of inserting light rail transit directly into Orange County, California, the emblematic postsuburb. Southern California's Orange County is often disparaged for its horizontality and a perceived placelessness. Emblematic of suburban sprawl, Orange County has matured and coalesced into a diverse network, resulting in a multivalent polycentric blanket. It is no longer truly suburban, dependent on an urban core, yet it is not traditionally urban either, shunning age-old relationships of city growth. Existing methods of analysis and criticism of the North American suburbs are problematic and simplistic, often relying on outmoded urban referents as the prescriptive model for a purportedly lost sense of place. These methods lack instrumentality because deliberately working with the postsuburb's existing horizontal structure requires an acceptance of it not as permanent, synthetic, and immutable topography, but as a medium of operating potentials. There are opportunities at multiple scales to modify, sculpt, and interact with the broad postsuburban fabric, always mindful of the dynamic composition of this place. This concept can be developed around a composite approach to the postsuburb, using both an ecological and typological understanding of the existing constructed and tempered environment to permit the formative, underlying, and particular structure of a place to be influential in the development of an architecture that is transitive in scale, whether it be building, landscape, infrastructure, or a blend of all three. It also facilitates future development aimed at maintaining the benefits of a postsuburban region through informed layered growth, the inevitable recourse of an expanding population.

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