Thursday, May 30, 2013

Interesting and Miserable Drive: 11 Miles of Automobile Churches

There are so many great places and here I go complaining.

My errands took me OTP yesterday. OTP is Atlanta shorthand for "Outside the Perimeter" outside of I-285, Atlanta's perimeter highway.

It's was unfamiliar territory to me so I took the scenic way back. I focused on an 11.1 mile stretch, a state highway. It's now an inter-suburb 4-laner, a quick, safe road with synchronized signals.

Housing didn't collapse here. It's still on the make. Things are new. Some suburbs were ruined in the downturn but not this one.

I don't expect shopping centers, strip malls, tire dealers, restaurants, schools, recreation centers, office parks or even subdivisions to be noteworthy. They are efficient and efficiently built, whether in Georgia, Ohio or California, urban or suburban.

I pay them no attention whatsoever. I crave landmarks, something different.
"Most landmarks and focal points in cities - of which we need more, not fewer - come from the contrast of use radically different from its surroundings, and therefore inherently special-looking, happily located to make some drama and contrast of the inherent difference ... noble buildings ... set within the matrix of the city, instead being sorted out and withdrawn into 'courts of honor'"- Page 228, ”The Death and Life of Great American Cities” - Jane Jacobs, Vintage Books Edition 1991
In this prosperous place the old farmhouses, barns, and quaint little churches are gone.

So the new churches are the only hope for landmarks. But they aren't so hot.

The landmark city churches are pre-WW1, pre-Depression, and post-WW2. You can't build them like that today except in centers of great wealth.

New churches are on a budget in the middle of parking lots. They are modern or pomo abstractions of classic churches. New city churches would look the same if they were actually building new city churches.

So these 11.1 miles are just a place to get through.


  1. Drive further outside the perimeter - maybe a couple of hours - where the incomes are much lower. The new churches in those areas are steel structures that resemble warehouses. Actually, I think they were supposed to be warehouses, but were sold as 'churches'. Sadville. The young members getting married have to go elsewhere - they cannot get married in these steel warehouses without windows - too dark and stale. So they marry elsewhere - typically not in a church. I just don't get it. In old Europe and early America, they built magnificent structures to honor God, without electricity or power tools. Now they order ugly steel church buildings on Ebay.

  2. There are plenty of fine old churches in the suburbs and they are a welcome sight. Not on this 11 mile stretch. But there might be a few right off the road. Imagine how great it would be to move a modest old church to that road. The Dunwoody Farmhouse at Mt. Vernon and Chamblee-Dunwoody is a breath air in the midst of practical but forgettable center.


Blog Archive