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Beautiful (And Creepy) Aerial Drawings Of Imaginary Suburbs Will Make You Reconsider Sprawl

The aggressive patterns of unplanned growth, inspired by the American West.

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Suburban sprawl might not make a neighborhood sustainable–or very pleasant to live in–but it does make for mesmerizing art. For the last decade, artist Ross Racine has been carefully constructing imaginary suburbs, each drawn by hand on a computer.

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“I’ve been fascinated by maps and aerial views since childhood,” Racine says. “Views from above give us a more synthetic idea of the world and the distance required for reflection.”

None of the drawings are based directly on actual suburbs, and Racine doesn’t look at maps or photos as he works. But he says that much of his inspiration comes from the suburbs of the American West.


“Their lack of trees, large lots, spread and surrounding flat, barren, open ground makes them look like giant land art drawings, aggressive interventions in the landscape,” he says.

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Racine was drawn to suburbia for aesthetic reasons, particularly their linear qualities. “There is an analogy between their line-based structure and the lines in an artist’s drawing on paper,” he says.


Though he says he wants the drawings to be open to interpretation, Racine admits that they can be seen as critical of suburban design. “Like a great number of environmentally aware people, I draw attention to its excesses,” he says. “I think a major device I use is exaggeration … like my take on the spaghetti-like confused mass of organic streets.”

After years of working on the drawings, Racine says the work is slowly changing a little. “My ideas about suburbia haven’t changed, but the prints have gradually become more complex with more dense material and the introduction of color,” he says. “Like many artists, I don’t plan ahead very much. I let one drawing lead to another, step by step into the unknown.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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