chapter  19
28 Pages

Developing large-scale consumer landscapes

CONSUMING IS as old as human history, but consumerism as a deliberate condition and goal of mass society has a much shorter history. The advent of the Industrial Revolution set in motion forces that over the subsequent two and a half centuries profoundly transformed the lifeways and landscapes of Western Europe and the United States, followed unevenly by the remainder of the world. The replacement of animal power by fossil fuels made possible an explosion in the production of material goods and the creation in time of regional economies and societies geared to, even dependent upon, mass consumption. This progressed through early forms of mechanization to large-scale standardized manufacture, and on to customized forms enabled by flexible production underwritten powerfully by the digital revolution. This has been reflected in radical changes in the American landscape, from the so-called industrialization of agriculture to the emergence in urban environments of large-scale facilities for manufacturing, distribution, and consumption, all representing a major increase in the size and landscape impact of the built structures and the accompanying land-use compositions they required. The theme can be traced across many dimensions, a number of which have been considered obliquely in earlier chapters on industrial landscapes, cityscapes, and the impact of the automobile. But it is useful now to examine directly a group of landscape phenomena that have become decidedly assertive if not yet dominant in the landscape-the emergence of large, predominantly corporate spaces devoted exclusively to mass consumption. Among the many forms this has taken, we will consider the emergence of mega-retail spaces, corporate spaces of leisure and entertainment (from arts performance to sports vacations, and gambling), the convention industry, and a few other large consumer sites such as museums, the megachurch business, and landscapes of outdoor advertising. The penetration of large corporations into practically all spheres of material consumption and entertainment in the United States during the latter half of the 20th century and the way this has been registered on the

423 American landscape presents a central theme for this exploration.