Says little of the existing scholarship on suburbs says much about suburban corporate workplaces, but their frequent presence on the fringes of the urban core merits further investigation. They also merit further attention “because of the institutions they house” – places that have come to dominate large sectors of the national and international economy. (2)

  • “How these dominant entities configure their workplaces matters: commanding considerable power from a particular kid of place inevitably links the characteristics of that place to the expression and exercise of power.” (2)
  • How does this argument stack up against omara2005, findlay1993, stilgoe1988, fishman1987, jackson1985?

Pastoral capitalism: “The new landscape of corporate work–what I call pastoral capitalism–is an American invention of the post-World War II period. Business management workplaces were the last of the center city land uses to emerge in the suburbs after housing, manufacturing, and retail commerce. They did so during a particular moment in postwar America when corporations reconceived their management structures, the private and public governance of cities acceded to the forces of accelerated decentralization, and pastoral landscape taste triumphed as an American ideal.” (2-3)

Up until the 1950s the city center remained a “dense and diverse . . . energetic and magnetic hub of American cultural and economic life.” Postwar the balance tipped toward the “rapid decentralization of urban cores and their concentrations of commerce, industry, and residential neighborhoods.” (6) The American city was becoming “lower-density, dispersed, multifocal, auto-dependent.” (6)

The story of middle-class, nuclear families only tells part of the suburban story. Simultaneously, the rapid restructuring of metropolitan areas led to low-density peripheries around urban centers. (6-7)

To many observers in the 1950s and 1960s the center city appeared to be in decline in the face of traffic congestion, vacancies, abandoned property, and political patronage. Urban renewal attempted to overcome such challenges through the eviction of tenants, the destruction of aging buildings, the rezoning of land, the construction of new freeways, the creation of large parking lots, new corporate lots, and the segregation of poorer citizens to low-income housing. The center city had become undesirable – noisy, crowded, expensive, and old. The suburbs offered a sense of improvement and a brighter future. New investments by local governments, real estate developers, the construction of federal- and state-funded roads, and large swaths of land provided a low-density, affordable, and automobile-accessible location for middle-class Americans. (7-8)

The origins of the American pastoral ideal located itself in aesthetic theories in 18th century Britain: “landowners executed estate designs not of the obvious contrivances of geometry and axes, as had prevailed among elites since the Roman era, but rather as a reproduction of a various, sinuous, and undulating nature–what Raymond Williams calls ‘pleasing prospects.’ To this idealization of nature, the philosophical and political discussion of the period attached notions of morality, goodness, and social order.” (9) By the end of the 18th century, three classifications of nature emerged. Beautiful “displayed gently rolling expanses of grass interspersed with copses of trees, inducing a soothing tranquility.” Picturesque “presented the juxtaposition of rock outcrops, pitched slopes, shrub masses, and contrasts of light and shadow from dense tree groves, creating a sense of curiosity and stimulation.” Sublime “could not be made, only found in the awesome, even terrifying, drama of mountains, waterfalls, cliff faces, river gorges, and roiling ocean.” (9)

Pastoral ideals espoused by Andrew Jackson Downing, Thomas Jefferson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Frederick Law Olmsted. (9)

By the mid-twentieth century, the “correlation of greenness with goodness held sway in American culture.” Corporate landscapes introduced to the American suburb allowed the capitalist enterprise to exist alongside the suburb’s supposed moral order. (11)

The design of suburban corporate spaces came in three forms: the corporate campus, the corporate estate, and the office park. Inter-related landscapes that “materialized in the suburbs to serve a particular stratum of the corporate hierarchy. Each has a distinct layout of buildings, parking, driveways, and pastoral surround.” (12)

  • Corporate campus first appeared in the 1940s and contained office and laboratory facilities centered around a green quadrangle, surrounded by parking and an enclosing driveway. These were modeled after the American college campus, and was used by Bell Labs, General Electric, and General Motors (12).
  • Corporate estate emerged from the corporate campus in the 1950s. These contained “imposing building complexes arrived at by a coursing entry drive through a scenically designed landscape of 200 acres or more.” These were often build for company executives and their staff, such as General Foods, Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, and Deere & Company. These were often public relations tools to communicate with employees, local residents, stockholders, bankers, and competitors. (12)
  • Office park emerged in the late 1950s as a low-cost alternative to the campus and estate. The scheme provided lots for buildings “within a matrix of landscape edges, medians, and verges that provided suburban consistency.” These were occupied by multiple businesses and housed lower-level management, start-ups, and corporate service providers. (13)

Chapter 2: The Corporation in the Suburbs