Archive of Conflict

The Suburban Conquest

📌️  Final Thesis Project, 2020
📚️  Published: Parsons Thesis 2020 Book

🖇 Abstract

Archive of Conflict is a book dedicated to the melancholy of low-income suburban neighborhoods. The experience of growing up in disadvantaged circumstances in a wealthy neighborhood informs the book’s description of the suburbs as a desolate experience. With this quality in mind, the book asks how can design elucidate this emotion. In part, this is found in the book’s form: a square, 7 x 7 inches, gives the reader an experience of being inside a box. It is also found in the content it collects: images by artist Edward Hopper, photographer Gregory Crewdson, filmmaker David Lynch and many more, the book unfolds the harsh reality many people face in the suburbs of America. It’s typography is minimal and dry.

The artists featured devote themselves to this dark Americana, to create haunting, grotesque, beautiful art that depicts a dramatic point of view of the mundane routines of ordinary American families. These works are filled with silent spaces, mysterious stillness, and abandoned scenes in order to offer a vision of the dark underbelly of suburbia. The book’s design, by introducing carefully constructed volumes of space in between these images, begins to offer a sense of distancing, loneliness, and disconnect of suburban life, an often misrepresented aspect of American urbanity.

There were sacrifices to be made in order to make the book a vivid experience. Architectural design is a substantial factor of loneliness in the suburbs. In an article on Quartz called "Why even driving through suburbia is soul crushing" written by Alex Balashov, he digs in and  formulates well detailed twelve reasons of how failures of architecture infrastructure is to blame. For example, zoning rules, building codes, and planning guidelines. With this in mind, it was clear that the book should not hold on to the rules of design like layouts and grids to transparently articulate the solitude in suburbian America.

While attempting to illustrate the problems surrounding family identity and individuality with homes that all look the same, the book also communicates how time can be distorted in these circumstances. There are spreads that use repetition in photographs to expound the monotonous everyday life. The book is perfectly squared, 7x7, to give the reader an experience of being inside a box.

Suburban Conquest

One of the sections of the book focuses on the bizarre concept of video games with the objective of “suburban conquest.” Why is there an audience of millions of people addicted to games that simulate every-day life? In a New York Time article named “Oversimulated Suburbia” written by David Brooks, he depicts this odd concept by first talking about The Sims. He asks “[what is] the object of the game? Suburban conquest in its rawest form. You've got to get the kids scrubbed and fed by the time the school bus comes around in the morning. You have to select the right coffee table to go with your love seat. You have to remember to turn off the TV if you want to take a nap, because the noise will keep you up. There's no winning and losing in the Sims. No points, no end. In the game, as in life, you just keep doing the dishes until you die.”

This publication was created as part of the Thesis 2020 course at Parsons School of Design. Concept of the book explores melancholy low income suburban neighborhoods. ® 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Editor: Ares Maia. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without permission. This book is for academic purposes only and is part of an undergraduate project at Parsons School of Design.
® All images are owned by the original artists,reproduced under Fair Use Law for educational purposes only.