Monthly Archives: August 2010

Class presents ideas that could make strip mall sustainable


Perhaps there’s no type of building that better signifies suburban sprawl than the strip mall. Well, maybe a McMansion would do, but the strip mall has been with us longer and its very form and purpose transmits the essence of sprawl. The buildings are low and long, surrounded by parking lots and, in most cases, reachable safely only by car. Whitemarsh Plaza is a smaller specimen, but it’s location along a multi-lane high speed roadway is common for this variety of commercial development.

Whitemarsh Plaza became the focus of SCAD graduate students. And things continued from there, as SCAD professor Scott Boylston describes on the Emergent Structures blog:

Almost 10 weeks ago, a graduate Sustainable Practices in Design class at SCAD visited a generic strip mall on Whitemarsh Island. We went to visit Wendy Armstrong of Thrive Take Out Cafe to talk about the possibility of creating an outdoor eating area made from building materials reclaimed from Savannah Gardens. You could say that conversation…and those that followed it…wandered a bit.

What began as an idea to create outdoor seating from reclaimed materials expanded to include other ideas, such as green roofs. Mary Landers describes some of the possibilities in her Savannah Morning News story, which features this excellent quote from Boylston:

“You go to this generic mall in suburbia and try to start showing people who are skeptical or unaware that this sustainability idea is not this hippie dippie thing,” he said. “It can be a strong, pragmatic set of solutions.”

Today from 3 until 7 p.m., a reception will feature live music, food and presentations framing the students’ ideas for the shopping center. A vacant storefront will house “videos, conceptual drawings, interactive displays” that provide a vision of what Whitemarsh Plaza could be. Click here to download a flier for the event.

Deadly epidemic rages on, right before our eyes and windshields


The image above reflects the Savannah Morning News website as it appeared yesterday morning. Look at the headlines on the right side. Is there a common thread?

The individual descriptions of death and injury just wash over us as we read journalists’ accounts of automobile “accidents.” But consider how we would react to these stories if they reported the spread of a deadly infectious disease, which could be prevented in many cases. I imagine there would be public outcry and demand for swift and comprehensive action to reduce and death and suffering.

Yet, we accept the stream of awful news from our streets and roadways as the price of doing business, the cost of maintaining our freedom to drive everywhere we go and get there as fast as we can. This freedom is of course illusory. We are trapped behind the wheel, numbed to the tremendous sacrifices our automobile-centric lifestyles demand. We seem resigned to the kind of human suffering that makes headlines. And we are often completely unaware of the kind that takes its toll over time. Some of us are suspicious of the very things that would help us escape from our rolling cages and into communities that are healthier, safer, more livable, more sustainable and more economically vibrant.

Yesterday’s news wasn’t all bad, though. Here’s the story behind the headline, “No texting while driving law making impact.”