Coby Lefkowitz wrote an interesting essay for Medium, asking “why everywhere looks the same.” He documents the way modern housing developments have a particular homogeneity to them. He writes that this cut-and-paste method of building means you can see pretty similar apartment blocks in Tampa or in Fargo.
Lefkowitz summarizes the reasons for the trend of recycling building designs all over the country. He explains that building codes have been transcribed from one municipality to another, as the difficulty of hammering out a policy unique to your locale is more difficult. Thus national and international building codes influence all new developments.
The zoning of land means that there are less places to build and it is often well-funded developers that are best placed to buy and build. Lefkowitz argues that out-of-town investors have little incentive to create something which takes account of the climate, culture, or traditions of the places they build in.
It wasn’t always like this and Lefkowitz hopes to see a return to the olden days. “Before the rise of zoning and consolidation of development, the country was full of special places with wonderful vernacular architecture. These were cities and towns built by many hands. Cities and towns that aged gracefully through generations of stewards iteratively building from the foundations of their predecessors.” Expressed that way, it is understandable that Lefkowitz links the rise of “placeless” places to loneliness and a feeling of dislocation.
Here we see more ways for Mad Christians to stay weird. While we know that one day, it will all be rolled up as a scroll, we can joyfully seek the good of the place we are in. We can build things to last, even while we look forward to another city who’s builder and maker is God.
We may not be in a position to affect change on a huge scale, but there are ways to make our communities more like a “place”, practicing hospitality and telling people “He is risen, you are paid for, he won’t be long now.”