Huge Gated Communities
December 24, 2004 6:51 PM   Subscribe

Are these huge gated communities OUR urban future? Enormous gated communities in Latin America - complete with schools, clinics, and a wide array of recreational possibilities - are now billing themselves as Latin America's best example of New Urbanism.
posted by halekon (40 comments total)
Ah, the burbclaves. I think that is very plausibly a part of our urban future, being as it's part of our present.


That, and ever huger slums and 'Dignity Villages'.
posted by everichon at 7:02 PM on December 24, 2004

The burbclaves came first to my mind too.

I'm such a nerd.
posted by Evstar at 7:21 PM on December 24, 2004

First thing that came to my mind Battle Angel Alita, where the privilaged live in floating cities (Tiphares) tethered over slums on the ground.
posted by bobo123 at 7:28 PM on December 24, 2004

Given an unsustainable pension system, entire generations priced out of the housing market, personal debt, a job market where a family cannot survive on the minimum wage, increasingly strict requirements to gain unemployment benefits, the growing gap between rich and poor, the slow disappearance of the middle class, and finally criminalization of an increasingly wide range of activities, I would say definitely the rich and privileged would want to wall themselves off from the "lower classes" that will make up the ever increasing and vast bulk of the population. After all, the elites will increasingly become a target due to desperation and the festering dissatisfaction that is growing within the ranks of the poor and downtrodden.
posted by Meridian at 7:47 PM on December 24, 2004

the slow disappearance of the middle class

It's not that slow, Meridian. And, in the U.S. at least, it's not slow for lack of trying.
posted by spacewrench at 7:59 PM on December 24, 2004

No pictures?
posted by cmacleod at 9:28 PM on December 24, 2004

Meh. Apocalyptic visions.
posted by Doohickie at 9:41 PM on December 24, 2004

Oh MAN, I can't WAIT for the revolution...

I have food burried and EVERYTHING... More bullets for X-mas!!

Living in gated communities will not save you from your neighbors!!

Unfortunately, the revolution WILL be televised, and spun accordingly...
posted by Balisong at 10:29 PM on December 24, 2004

hell yeah. keep all the riff-raff out, and the hotties in...
posted by jimjam at 10:51 PM on December 24, 2004

jimjam -- are you sure you'll be looking at that wall from the inside?
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:14 PM on December 24, 2004

"Others again held a still more cruel opinion, which they thought would keep them safe. They said that the only medicine against the plague-stricken was to go right away from them. Men and women, convinced of this and caring about nothing but themselves, abandoned their own city, their own houses, their dwellings, their relatives, their property, and went abroad or at least to the country round Florence, as if God's wrath in punishing men's wickedness with this plague would not follow them but strike only those who remained within the walls of the city, or as if they thought nobody in the city would remain alive and that its last hour had come." giovanni boccaccio (trans. r. aldington)

lotta good a walled city did THEM.

"all the money youve made will never buy back your soul."
b. dylan

"i'll let you be in my dream if you let me be in yours."
posted by oigocosas at 11:29 PM on December 24, 2004

I live in a gated community. The last place I lived was in one too.

Didn't have anything in particular to do with keeping out the riff-raff; these were just the best apartments around for other reasons (rent, location, etc.) That's the way they build things here in Austin - the most liberal city in Texas, mind you. Probably worse in Dallas and Houston. Developers have apparently decided this is what people want, so it's what people get.
posted by ramakrishna at 12:40 AM on December 25, 2004

J.G Ballard's SUPER CANNES took place in a similar gated community. Good book.
posted by Luke Pski at 12:41 AM on December 25, 2004

In a sense, they are creating small towns. The enclosure does sound feudal though.
posted by Cranberry at 1:08 AM on December 25, 2004

the only people who don't like the gated communities are the people who live outside of the gated communities.
posted by suprfli at 2:12 AM on December 25, 2004

I guess, in a way, many of us on the blue live in a gated community.

It's called the USA.
posted by darkstar at 4:30 AM on December 25, 2004

I just read An Empire Wilderness : Travels into America's Future by Robert Kaplan, in which the gated community is much discussed (as part of a larger movement toward 'non-public public space'. This pre-9/11 look at where it seems America is heading is a very interesting book, if you're into this type of stuff.
posted by john m at 6:10 AM on December 25, 2004

I love gated communities. When the revolution comes, their denizens are easily rounded up, they burn in a prudently contained fashion, and of course there's a conveniently situated wall against which to hold the requisite executions.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 6:14 AM on December 25, 2004

Why be upset?e gated communities in some places of America now--ex: Florida. In Jamaica, gated spots for tourists who don't want to be bothered with beggars etc There has always been a gap between the Haves and Have Nots, and one thing Haves know is that they can islate themselves from troublesome Have Nots...In many cities in the US there are Inner cities--we deposit and keep the poor and minorities there. Beyond the invixible walls of these inner cities, we have the police to protect the more fortunate...Ghettos existed in Italy centures ago to wall in Jews during the evening, and of course the idea "caught on" for the Nazis.

The ones who bitch about this feel secure enough because the Have Nots are not sufficiently hungry and desperate enough to become truly a menace...they might and then the Haves will accept gated communities.
posted by Postroad at 6:16 AM on December 25, 2004

The problem with gated communities is simple: responsability. People who live in gated comunities basically take advantage of the cities around them, in terms of employment opportunities, services, law enforcement, education, domestic labor, etc., (though some of these so-called 'new-urbanism' thingies include some services) but refuse to allow this same city to enjoy their parks, avenues, etc.
If you look at the history of cities, the rich have always built nice, safe neighborhoods, and used police and other means to ensure their tranquiliy. But these neighborhoods usually enrich the entire city, at least as scenery. Bath is a good example of this.
This is just the suburb taken to extremes, and haves vs/ have-nots type caricatures don't take into account the urban, political and economical consequences of the phenomenon.
posted by signal at 6:32 AM on December 25, 2004

The only gated communities I had ever seen first hand were close to the Madison Park area of Seattle. These were nice, pristine, modestly sized homes, not exactly mansions. I found it interesting that the significantly more affluent neighborhoods there (Madrona, Laurelhurst) were not gated. Based on this one data point, I surmised that the gated community is a construct of the market taking advantage of the bourgeois fear of urban life, and not something borne of affluence or a desire for exclusivity.

It would be hard to imagine, for example, a gated community in an elite enclave like Greenwich or New Canaan, CT, towns where the cost of a home is so prohibitively expensive it makes the idea of having gated communities within a bit ridiculous.
posted by Flem Snopes at 7:32 AM on December 25, 2004

You hit the nail on the head Flem...
posted by drpynchon at 7:42 AM on December 25, 2004

Gated communities in my area are typically mid-priced clonehomes. You would mostly find two-working-parent families in there, living on the edge of disaster as regards income versus expenditure. The houses are built as cheaply as possible, all look more or less identical, fill their lots so as to leave next to no space between units, and have no trees.

It is, in my opinion, hell on earth.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 AM on December 25, 2004

Developers have apparently decided this is what people want, so it's what people get.

That is a tragedy. I used to like looking at model homes, you know, just for the fun of it. I haven't seen a model home I actually like in years.

In a sense, they are creating small towns. The enclosure does sound feudal though.

Yeah, ruled with iron fists by tyrannical neighborhood association presidents.

the only people who don't like the gated communities are the people who live outside of the gated communities.

Yeah, well, that makes sense, doesn't it? Why would someone buy into a gated community if he didn't actually like gated communities? It's kind of like saying the only people who don't like spaghetti are people who don't eat spaghetti.... kind of a self-fulfilling statement.
posted by Doohickie at 10:23 AM on December 25, 2004

Gated communities have been around for a while.
I remember this castle fiefdom in Scotland.........
posted by notreally at 10:26 AM on December 25, 2004

I think a major issue with gated communities is how they relate to the greater community wrt shared goods.

Imagine you have a GC with your own police force and your own fire engine and clinic. At what point do you decide that you are 'paying taxes twice'; once for your community and once for everyone else's.

This would seem, to me, to be the thin end of the wedge, the point where physical separation becomes [not the right word] legal separation.
posted by fingerbang at 10:46 AM on December 25, 2004

I don't think the guys in charge of branding the place ever saw the Godard movie: Alphaville.
posted by kozad at 11:18 AM on December 25, 2004

>the only people who don't like the gated communities are the people who live outside of the gated communities.
Yeah, well, that makes sense, doesn't it? Why would someone buy into a gated community if he didn't actually like gated communities?

Quite right Doohickie, but you've missed his oh-so-subtle point: what he was saying was code for "the only people who don't like gated communities are the people who can't afford them."

It is, however, bullshit. The most vehement diatribes I've ever heard about gated communities have come from friends and colleagues who have lived in them, came to despise them, and moved somewhere else.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:37 AM on December 25, 2004

The developers of Alphaville ought to have had a look at a pioneering venture in the spirit of LeCorbusier that preceded the gated communities. In 1957 I visited Venezuela by boat. We anchored in the port town below Caracas and were driven up to the city by taxi. On the way up we saw a row of huge buildings which at the time looked very beautiful. They were called super blocks and had been built primarily for government workers - beaurocrats. The buildings were each twelve stories high and each contained a supermarket, drug store, and some had cinemas. Each apartment was entered along a breeze way that overlooked the sea, and in theory the residents never had to leave. Our driver told us this story: After the government had built the new road up to Caracas and had imported thousands of Italian workers to build it on the basis that the Venezuallan workers were too lazy there was a revolution and the government was overthrown. The new superblocks were thrown open to the peasants who had previously been living in shanty towns around the city. Our driver told us proudly that he and his family lived in one of the blocks and asked if we would like to visit. We of course said, yes.

He took us up in an elevator, the floor of which was covered in dirt and what looked like bird shit. We got out on the eleventh floor and were confronted by an elevated farmyard, there were chickens, goats, pigs and naked children happily playing along the breezeway, We walked to his apartment and went in to be introduced to his wife and kids. They were gloriously happy in the new abode. But it was nothing but a concrete shell, unfinished, with a cold water tap coming out of one wall where the kitchen was intended to be and bucket beneath it. I know there must have been a toilet and some kind of cooker, but that was about it -- no furniture just blankets and a few cushions I guess. I still wonder about these gated communities -- after the next revolution - wherever.
posted by donfactor at 11:51 AM on December 25, 2004

the only people who don't like the gated communities are the people who live outside of the gated communities.

Naw. As I said, I live in one, and I don't especially care for the fact. It's a nice place in other respects, and I suppose the fences and gates do make you feel a bit safer, but overall I'd probably like it better without them. For one thing, it's a pain to get around this way, since there's only the one exit. I like taking shortcuts when I walk, and you can't do that in one of these things. And that's leaving aside the civic irresponsibility of the thing, which I do think is a problem. It's just that there's hardly any such thing as civic responsibility in Texas anyway, where people revolt against the idea of paying tolls on the congested expressways they use, so the gated thing doesn't bother me so much here. When in the walled city of Rome...

On the other hand, it's hardly "hell on earth," and I say that as someone who values diversity. There's a real mix in here of students, working people (of various income levels) and old people; actually, if there's anything missing, it's families with children. Ozzie and Harriet it ain't.
posted by ramakrishna at 2:01 PM on December 25, 2004

The Haves and the Have Snots.
posted by Termite at 2:36 PM on December 25, 2004

and then theres MICHAEL EISNER's "system of how to develop communities. One day," eisner said,"i hope they say 'thank god for CELEBRATION.'
(thank you harpers magazine--my favorite-- via findarticles.)

or perhaps community means a "vision of simpler times," in a "neighborhood of extraordinary design and detail" with "cottage-style homes that are filled with warmth and personality" and "garden-style landscaping with meandering pathways, benches, water features and secret places." all of this promised by
HIDDENBROOKE a community "inspired" by the paintings of THOMAS KINKAID, "the painter of light (TM)"
(thank you salon.)
posted by oigocosas at 5:14 PM on December 25, 2004

and since it IS my favorite, i should have posted a handy link to this "American journal of literature, politics, culture, and the arts published continuously from 1850"--

just in case youve missed what i refer to as "reader's digest for the critical of thought."

ps: merry kratzmier, metafilter.
posted by oigocosas at 5:22 PM on December 25, 2004

Good discussion on this - the difference between the New Urbanism and Postmodern Urbanism - just a couple of days ago over at
posted by luriete at 6:19 PM on December 25, 2004

I don't habla the espanol but there looked to be yards and lakes and that sorta shit in the pictures. Not urban at all.

The closest thing in NYC to a "gated community" in my experience is Stuyvesant Town / Peter Cooper Village, which is this enormous complex that basically fills Manhattan between 14th and 23rd East of 1st Ave. The interiors of the apartments are pretty nice, but the complex is probably the most architecturally void place in Manhattan.

There's no gates, and you can just walk in if you want, but I imagine if you were wasted or a bum someone would come up and show you out.

Some friends and I looked only because of the 5-bedroom apts there - first off they HAD 5-bedroom apts, and what's more they were really cheap per-person. But the place seemed very out of touch with the spirit of Manhattan - for example there was NOTHING inside the complex but apartment buildings, excepting a few stores on the ground floors of perimeter buildings. And for the most part they didn't allow roommates.

Battery Park City might be a bit similar (I get to the West Side rarely,) but it is at least a lot thinner (so easier access to the real city) and they went a little beyond utilitarianism in making the buildings.

There was also, as mentioned above, a sense in Stuy town that they were trying to appear more "exclusive" or "upper class" than they really were, with the whole branding effort, the rules against roommates, and so on, whereas a place that really was nice would just charge $5000 for a one-bedroom and forget all that BS.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 10:02 PM on December 25, 2004

> The closest thing in NYC to a "gated community"

... is the high-rise apartment building with the locked street entrance you have to be buzzed through. NYC has (and has long had) a higher density of gated communities than anywhere else in the US. In NYC due to land prices they build their gated communities up instead of spreading 'em out, but that isn't a substantive difference. Once again the Big Apple is an arrow pointing directly to the dystopian future.
posted by jfuller at 8:11 AM on December 26, 2004

I don't habla the espanol

That's kinda obvious, seeing as how the link is in Portuguese.
posted by signal at 7:18 PM on December 26, 2004

And so, in summation, we're all going to die horrible, painful deaths, but not, of course, before everything we have ever loved is destroyed. Happy Holidays everyone!
posted by ticopelp at 11:31 AM on December 27, 2004

I like taking shortcuts when I walk, and you can't do that in one of these things ... if there's anything missing, it's families with children.

or people w/o cars. when gasoline goes bye-bye, these things will collapse.

"Dignity Village" is a silly name, but the idea is fantastic.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:05 PM on December 27, 2004

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