I lived in suburbs until I was 22. The suburbs of Houston, of San Francisco, and of Chicago.
And from when I was 11 years old to about 15 years old I drew a municipality called “Vanceville” (and “Vancin” at one point) on 13 adjoining panels, each a standard size grade school poster. I started in fifth grade, within a couple of months of moving to Batavia, Illinois.
The first panel was drawn on the backside of a poster that displayed my study for class that counted cars on my street categorized by their manufacturer.
The suburban pattern of development was all I knew – and it really shows. I didn’t make it into the respective city centers that often, and when I did it was mostly by car. I think I drew the ultimate suburb of NIMBYs.
I don’t support this kind of development. Back then I thought I was designing the best city. I had no idea that what I was drawing wasn’t a sustainable way to develop places where people live.
I mean, just look at all the massive parking lots I drew. I seriously thought that that was how cities should be designed. I didn’t know that they paved over natural areas and caused dirty water to run off into the river I drew.
There are no multi-unit buildings. In fact, each single-family house is built on a huge lot. I gave each house a big garage, writing explicitly “2 + 1” and “2 + 1/2”.
I drew townhomes, a denser housing style than single-family, because I had a few friends who lived in them. This panel has my house in the lower-left corner.
Sidewalks are rare, but they become more prevalent in later design phases. You can forget bike lanes, but you may be lucky and find a bike path, again, in a later design phase. Those phases are also distinguished by smoother lines, fewer stray markings, and a lighter touch of the pencil.
People have to drive to the parks. Strip malls abound. Many of the shops are named for real businesses in Batavia.
Oh, wait, I drew in light rail tracks and stations. But I didn’t draw them because I knew or thought transit was a good thing. None of the places I lived had it. I drew the light rail because I loved trains.
Vanceville was so oriented to driving that some of the road lanes had “ATM” imprinted where a right-turn arrow would be, to signify that there was an upcoming turn off for a bank drive-through, with two lanes that had only ATMs. Even “Steve Vance Enterprises – Western Region” was connected to a 5-level car park.
There are just so many roads. I drew what appear to be interchanges between two “connector” roads within a residential neighborhood! That same panel seems to have as much asphalt as any other surface, be it developed or grass or water.
I’m not surprised this is the kind of city I drew.
If I still drew, the outcome would be completely different. It would probably look like a mix of Rotterdam, Madrid, and Houten.
What else do you see in the drawings? View the full album.