Can Designers Resuscitate the Suburbs?

Justin Davidson reviews a new exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream”, that asks architect-led teams to address the myriad problems plaguing the country's suburbs.
February 14, 2012, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Davidson starts by outlining the numerous challenges facing the suburbs today, including acres of abandoned foreclosures, rising transportation costs, social and cultural transformations, and "acres of sparsely used parking lots flanking clogged roads."

The author then recounts the exhibit's "magnificently ambitious" attempts by five teams of architects, economists, engineers, lawyers, landscape designers, and other specialists to develop innovative solutions to such problems in five specific suburban locales, while staying grounded to practical realities.

Despite being prevented by the curators from straying too far into speculation, the results of the exercise revealed ingrained challenges to re-purposing.

According to Davidson, "precisely because the groups tackled their missions from multiple angles, they maximized the number of opponents who could prevent any of these projects from getting built. That's the paradox of trying to transform the suburbs: The only way to get it done is by rewriting laws, rationalizing markets, reforming the construction industry, and changing the culture all at once-which probably can't be done."

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Published on Sunday, February 12, 2012 in New York Magazine
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