- Almost four years before the publication of this book I became more and more aware of the suburban worlds outside the kaleidoskopic city life of the Bay Area. A scholarship took me to this side of the US, kept me well fed and busy at school (CCAC, Oakland). Leaving the Bay Area one day by car, I was quite amazed how the golden Californian hills along the highway got suddenly covered with absolute order. Some kind of residential development spread here with a vast number of houses and an adjacent super-mall – all out of the same mould. Did it fall from the sky? Cows peacefully grazed upon the remaining farmland. This place had a name and I visited “Oakhill” a couple of times with my camera until I had to return to Germany.The encounter with this suburban habitat stayed in my head nevertheless. Especially since I started to realise that a similar kind of attitude shaped new settlements, malls and business-parks around Berlin, along the highways of northern France, on the island Mallorca – basically wherever new areas are developed – built with prefabricated elements, the spirit of profit and no sense of culture and history. In 1996 I decided to take a closer look at this phenomenon and returned for three months to California. My travels in this “future laboratory” took me from the Bay Area and its surroundings towards the megalopolis of Los Angeles, to the desert gardens in San Bernardino County and back. Almost everywhere I came, private residential developments popped out of the ground, neatly separated after a families financial income and aspired status. Along rolled a flood of tv commercials, newspaper ads and huge billboards, whispering promises about a better life.
Neighbourhood Watch signs, alien-offensive street designs, strict parking regulations, walls, video monitoring, gates and guards… or may be just the sterile atmospheres of the recent Californian lebensraum made me feel like a stranger, a spy or a secret agent. If there was a chance for access I had the option to pretend to be a new community aspirant, a polite white german photographer – doing a project about the future of architecture – or I was just a silent shadow who set up his camera to assemble his picture of a very constructed landscape.