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The Overlooked Architectural Opportunities of Suburbia


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Sarah Booth Conroy Lecture 2017 (AIA DC)

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The Overlooked Architectural Opportunities of Suburbia

  1. 1. The Overlooked Architectural Opportunities of Suburbia Amanda Kolson Hurley AIA DC Sarah Booth Conroy Lecture April 4, 2017
  2. 2. SUBURBA N(Image: Library of Congress/Historic American Building Survey)
  3. 3. SUBURBA (Image: Lexington Historical Society)
  5. 5. Suburbia as conformist wasteland “ … [A] treeless communal waste, inhabited by people of the same class, the same income, the same age group, witnessing the same television performances, eating the same tasteless pre-fabricated foods, from the same freezers … a low-grade uniform environment from which escape is impossible.” —Lewis Mumford, The City in History, 1961 “Our suburbs are interminable wastelands dotted with millions of monotonous little houses on monotonous little lots and crisscrossed by highways lined with billboards, jazzed-up diners, used-car lots, drive-in movies, beflagged gas stations, and garish motels.” —Peter Blake, God’s Own Junkyard, 1964
  6. 6. “Little boxes made of ticky tacky” (Images: State Museum of Pennsylvania, below; Wikimedia Commons, right)
  7. 7. Looking past the suburb/city binary Urbanism is incremental and increasingly polycentric. “The [peripheries] of the cities are not beautiful, of course; they are not well treated. But they are the future of the city; or they are the city of the future, if you prefer.” —Renzo Piano, 2015 interview
  8. 8. The secret history of suburbia 19th-century communes and phalansteries African-American suburbs Garden Cities and New Towns (Images: Wikimedia Commons, below left; Andrew Wiese, below center; Amanda Kolson Hurley, below right)
  9. 9. SUBURBA N(Image: Wikipedia)
  10. 10. SUBURBAN (Image: Philip Turner/Historic American Building Survey)
  11. 11. SUBURBA N (Image: Jay Reed/Flickr)
  12. 12. SUBURBA (Image: Carol Highsmith/Library of Congress)
  13. 13. American suburbia today Just over half of Americans live in suburbs (Frey 2010).  In the 50 largest metro areas, 44 percent of people live in racially diverse suburbs (with a nonwhite population of between 20 and 60 percent). Another 17 percent of Americans live in suburbs that are predominantly nonwhite (Orfield and Luce 2013).  In the largest metro areas, 52 percent of African Americans live in suburbs (Kneebone 2016).  Across America, the share of the population that is families with young children has declined since the 1950s, and suburban poverty is rising. (Map: Michael Bader, Metropolitan Policy Center, American University)
  14. 14. New modes of suburban living  Multigenerational and shared homes  Home as a source of income and/or site of production: accessory apartments, small-scale farming, in-home businesses (Images: Toll Brothers, below left; Associated Press, below right)
  15. 15. Choy House (Images: Michael Moran/OTTO, below left; O’Neill Rose Architects, below right) Flushing, Queens, New York City O’Neill Rose Architects
  16. 16. Blackbirds (Images: Iwan Baan) Echo Park, Los Angeles Bestor Architects
  17. 17. Missing Middle housing and neighborhood design (Diagram: Opticos Design) Opticos Design
  18. 18. Missing Middle housing and neighborhood design (Rendering and plan: Opticos Design) Prairie Queen, Papillion, Nebraska Opticos Design
  19. 19. Daybreak, South Jordan, Utah (Images: Urban Design Associates) Urban Design Associates with various homebuilders
  20. 20. Agriburbs 1 (Images: Tom Fox, SWA) The Cannery, Davis, California SWA for the New Home Company
  21. 21. Agriburbs 2 (Images: DSGN AGNC) Spaces of Opportunity, South Phoenix, Arizona DSGN AGNC
  22. 22. Whole-suburb retrofit Tysons Corner, Virginia (Images: Virginia Department of Transportation/Flickr, below left; Fairfax County, below right)
  23. 23. New model malls 1 La Gran Plaza, Forth Worth, Texas Pacific Mall, Markham, Ontario (Images: Mariachi Mexicanisimoshow/Youtube, below left; Pacific Mall, below right)
  24. 24. New model malls 2 City Center Bishop Ranch, San Ramon, California Renzo Piano Building Workshop Eastland Town Square & Library, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia ACME (Images: Bishop Ranch, below left; ACME, below right)
  25. 25. Remix the strip Montessori Primary School, Fayetteville, Arkansas Marlon Blackwell Architects The Block, Annandale, Virginia (Images: Marlon Blackwell Architects, top right and below right; Northern Virginia Magazine, below)
  26. 26. Speculate wildly Logistical Ecologies Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape ”Freedomland,” in Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction Keith Krumwiede (Images: Hinterlands Urbanism and Landscape with MODUS Collective, below left; Keith Krumwiede, Atlas of Another America: An Architectural Fiction/Park Books, 2016, below right)
  27. 27. “Return to the city” or continuing suburbanization?  The high cost of housing in many urban centers will keep pushing people to the suburbs.  Some metropolitan areas may show a stark reversal of the late 20th- century pattern, with diverse suburbs surrounding majority-white centers. However, some “vanilla suburbs” will likely persist due to resegregation.  The redevelopment of some suburban hubs into satellite cities (e.g. Tysons Corner and White Flint) could bring higher-skilled jobs and real street life to the urban outskirts.
  28. 28. Where we go from here  Fix zoning to allow for accessory dwellings, Missing Middle housing, corner stores, and home businesses  Build bus rapid transit and light rail, especially suburb-to-suburb, but with measures to prevent displacement  Prevent resegregation through mixed housing and proactive school integration  Support cohousing and new forms of live/work space  Get architects enthused about the suburbs and encourage officials and developers to raise the bar for design
  29. 29. Raise the bar Shaker Design Competition City of Shaker Heights, Ohio Symphony Woods/Merriweather Park Inner Arbor Trust Columbia, Maryland (Images: Donnelly Eber Architects, below left; Amanda Kolson Hurley, below middle and right)
  30. 30. Amanda Kolson Hurley