Corporate Pastoral

Suburban and Exurban Office Parks

Jesse Fried • Oct 24, 2017

A beautiful dream in the excitable minds of mid-20th-century corporate leaders, government bureaucrats and real estate investors became the strange daily reality of our present. The idea was to extricate industry and commerce from the old, crowded, unruly, immigrant-dominated cities and take it to the fresh fields and open horizons of the American countryside. Here hardworking, moral, white families could create a modern yet wholesome community: parents free to peacefully push forward the boundaries of science and industry, kids to live clean, optimistic American childhoods. Today as we survey the concrete culverts, drainage pools and cheap futuristic architecture, we can only wonder at the combined innocence and arrogance of that fantasy of the powerful. Without even getting into the politics of it, most of us feel that a visceral wrongness haunts these suburban corporate office parks. Driving on one of their access roads, in a landscape of mowed grass, parking lots, low office buildings and corporate logos on all sides, one can almost feel the earth groaning with boredom. An environment built to exclude distractions and increase productivity, in which generally very uninspiring work occurs, makes for weary workdays devoid of anything interesting or stimulating.

There were of course a lot of practical factors too for bringing corporate offices, warehouses, factories, etc. into the grassy fields and open space outside the city. Cheaper land, lower taxes, ample space for parking lots, proximity to the suburban towns where middle class employees wanted to live anyway, newer and less crowded infrastructure.