Posts tagged with "Suburbs":

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Droog and Diller Scofidio+Renfro reimagine Levittown with ′Open House′

On Saturday, April 23 the conceptual Dutch design company Droog and Diller Scofidio + Renfro presented "Open House," a project that offered dialogue for possible new social and economic models to revitalize pre-existing suburban neighborhoods. The one-day event began with a symposium at Columbia's off-site Studio-X in Downtown Manhattan, followed by a field trip to Levittown, Long Island, where nine homes from the fabled, archetypal post-war American suburb were transformed into residential marketplaces with experimental installations by designers, architects, and homeowners. "We were inspired by the service economy in New York, where people are outsourcing everything from dog walking to love coaching," Renny Ramakers, co-founder and director of Droog, told the Levittown Tribune. "This service-oriented mentality could be inspiring for people living in the suburbs, especially in economically challenging times." The symposium, featuring talks from Ramakers, Charles Renfro (partner, Diller Scofidio + Renfro), Heleen Mees (economist, Tilburg University), Roo Rogers (entrepreneur and director, Redscout Ventures), Mary Ellen Carroll (conceptual artist) and moderated by Mark Wasuita (Columbia University, GSAPP), kicked off the event with a bundle of critical framing issues. Mees revisited the Marxist notion that "culture follows structure," and how the reach of the service industry in urban cities--abundant and often highly specialized, from doormen to baristas and janitors--contrasted vastly with the experience in suburbs, where sprawl necessarily lowers density and the ability to sustain such a fluid economic model. Wasuita spoke of the changing ideology of suburbia and the individual, citing marijuana growhouses in California residences as an extreme example of how an individual's identity can transform by practicing an alternative use of space. Rogers spoke of collaborative consumption, a system that places on emphasis on service over ownership, as demonstrated by ZipCar's successful car sharing model, while Carroll discussed a long-term project in Houston that includes the repositioning of a house in nearby Sharpstown, Texas, a planned community whose demographics have changed radically over the last decades. All tied into the driving ideas behind the Open House project, which, according to Renfro sought to help people "find their inner service provider" as a means of generating an alternative economy. Among the re-imaginings that transformed each home into a personal business: House Dress by L.E.FT playfully wrapped the building exterior in a giant skirt, turning its interior into a casino; Bright Dawn Farm designed by Freecell (pictured) transformed a backyard into an agrarian farm with a 60-foot linear greenhouse; and an installation by EFGH visualized a service-intense masterplan applied to a six-block case study of Levittown. While some designs were loftier than others, the Open House project shows creative ways to generate revenue from home, beyond mowing your neighbor's lawn. Open House is the second of New York-based conceptual projects by Droog Labs, the experimental think-tank arm of the Dutch design company. The first, "Pioneers of Change," took place on Governor's Island in 2009.
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Quick Clicks> Winded, Juiced, Stripped, TOD-IMBY

Winded. Popular Science has the story of a bridge concept in Italy called Solar Wind featuring an array of wind turbines capable of generating 40 million kilowatt hours annually. If that weren't enough, the proposal also incorporates a solar roadway for an added green boost. Juiced. The Times of Trenton reports that Princeton University is converting 27 acres in West Windsor, New Jersey into a field 16,500 photovoltaic panels able to generate 8 million kilo-watt hours of clean, green energy every year. The project will begin in 2012 and is expected to generate 5.5% of electricity for the university. Stripped. Citiwire considers the downfall of the suburban commercial strip and it doesn't look good for sprawl. As shopping trends evolve and consumer taste retreats from the generic strip landscape, hybrid shopping centers resembling main streets could be the future. TOD or not TOD. Residents of an award-winning transit-oriented development in Maryland featuring a wide median where a light rail line was planned have turned their backs to their neighborhoods original lofty goals. StreetsBlog sums up the latest high-profile case of NIMBY-ism.
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Urban Planning as a Psychoactive Drug

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta points out a University of Michigan, Ann Arbor study suggesting that city dwellers harbor more stress than their suburban counterparts, but says access to parks could be the cure. Researchers have found that spending time in parks or park-like settings can help reduce cognitive effort and promote relaxation. Data seems to suggest that urban planning and the design of park space into our built environment can have a much more profound effect on our individual behavior and psychology than we might think. Parks, researchers suggest, are the best medicine for a chaotic world. Here's the problem from Dr. Gupta:
The problem seems to be "attention," or more specifically, the lack of it. With so many different distractions -- from a flashing neon sign, to the cell phone conversation of a nearby passenger on a bus, a city dweller starts to practice something known as "controlled perception." That toggling back and forth between competing stimuli can be mentally exhausting.
Researchers asked different groups of students to spend a day in the city and in the suburbs and then evaluated their mood and attention.  While the suburbs have their own unique stress points compared to the city (who enjoys the road-rage inducing commute on the choked interstate or the banal asphalt lots fronting endless shopping centers?), there's much more green within sight that soothes our brains. To be fair, there are many different types of urban experiences - many replete with green space. While a walk through the crowded, neon-flashing streets of Times Square with its hustle and bustle could undoubtedly strain the most focused individual, a stroll through the shady, tree-lined streets of the West Village, steps from where Jane Jacobs once lived, can offer a thoroughly relaxing experience. But increasing the amount of nature in cities can't be a bad thing. Even a little green can go a long way. From the Boston Globe:
Studies have demonstrated, for instance, that hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance, it seems, because they provide a mental break from the urban roil.
It looks like urban planners are a little like the doctors of the city. But what's your experience in cities, suburbs, or even in the park? Does the city stress you out? Can more parks save us from a world of stress? Share your insights in the comments below.
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Suburbia: The Next Generation

It's official. The suburbs are here to stay. Now we just need to figure out what to do with them. At least that's the premise of the Build A Better Burb competition that we told you about back in July, when entries submitted by architects, urban designers, planners, visionaries and students, all vying for $22,500 in prizes, were slimmed down to 23 finalists. And the winners are...

AgIsland This ambitious entry has Long Island reclaiming its agrarian roots, replacing office parks with farms. It also calls for consolidating and relocating 9 million square feet of office space along Route 110, utilizing a transit-oriented model.

Building C-Burbia Landscape designers created "an infrastructure system for short-term biomass storage and formation of long-term soil carbon reservoirs in suburban landscape."

Levittown: Increasing Density and Opportunity through the Accessory Dwellings One problem of suburban life in the NYC metro area is a lack of affordable housing options. One solution proposed here is to allow a homeowner to maximize the buildable area of his/her lot, preferably by using modular forms (instead of timber) the structure can expand and contract as needs change.

Long Division This vision of a sustainable Long Island starts with a regional plan that aims to preserve the island's aquifer, maximize transportation, and targets several underutilized downtowns for growth. The plan calls for new typologies of space combined with planned voids.

SUBHUB Transit System Transit doesn't always go where people need it to and is sometimes too big for it's own good. Instead, a more walkable and extensive micro-infrastructure that consists of re-imagined transit, a HUB at existing train stations where people and goods transfer to a smaller shuttle system, and SUBHUBs at existing public schools is envisioned for Long Island.

The winning student submission is: Upcycling 2.0 These Columbia University students target the ubiquitous suburban typologies -- single family house, strip mall, train station, street medians, big box stores, endless parking lots -- and re-appropriates them.

The winning Long Island Index People’s Choice Award, selected by the public, goes to: LIRR: Long Island Radically Rezoned Long Island becomes Living Island by re-densifying the residential fabric,  re-centering public space around train stations, and chopping up underused parking surfaces into small blocks that are a more appropriate fit for scale of the neighborhood.

While the Long Island Index originally anticipated having a first prize and multiple other winners, the jurors felt that the winning submissions were all strong and decided to honor the top designs equally.  Therefore, $20,000 will be split among the top five designs; each will receive $4,000: The student prize was $2,500. ( The “People’s Choice Award” did not have a cash prize.)

Winning entries will be on view at The Long Island Museum from October 8th-October 24th and at The Long Island Children’s Museum from October 5th-October 31st.

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Long Island Radically Reconsidered

The Build a Better Burb competition, sponsored by the Long Island Index, has announced its 23 finalists, selected from a pool of over two hundred submissions. The competition invited architects, designers, planners, and students to reimagine suburbia in light of Long Island’s lack of job opportunities and its high housing costs—and a landscape ripe for reinvention as a more socially and environmentally sustainable place. The finalists’ proposals range from regional to local, and from idealistic to pragmatic, but share a few common threads. “One of the most important components of winning plans are walkable downtowns,” Galina Tahchieva, a Miami-based architect and jury member, told Newsday. “If places are not walkable and mixed-use, they are not going to be sustainable.” Other jurors included Retrofitting Suburbia co-author June Williamson, design journalist Allison Arieff, Rob Lane of the Regional Plan Association, Interboro partners Georgeen Theodore and Daniel D’Oca, and Lee Sobel of the U.S. EPA office of policy, economics, and innovation. In a release, the Index commended the finalists’ “thought provoking” ideas for their comprehensive scope: “None of the ideas are small ones with just a single building to retrofit a downtown.” Among the intriguing schemes were Brooklyn-based Tobias Holler’s LIRR: Long Island Radically Rezoned, which envisions a self-sufficient Long Island with 100 percent local food production, and Clover Stomping by Nasiq Khan of Queens, which would transform the region’s transportation with pedestrian bridges and bike paths, and then make these refurbished transportation hubs the center of new downtown districts. Other proposals included Philadelphia-based Nelsen Peng’s Bethpage MoMA P.S. 2, which would transform a Long Island town into an artist’s community, and AgISLAND by Amy Ford-Wagner of New York, which would place organic farms along Route 110. The public is invited to vote for their favorite among the finalists’ proposals, all of which are on view at the competition’s online gallery. The winners—and prizes of more than $20,000—will be announced on October 4.
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The Burbs Unbound

The suburbs are in a sorry state—rampant foreclosures, derelict downtowns, and anyone under 35 fleeing for their lives. But as we’ve reported in a look at Long Island, the burbs are now seeing the stirrings of a smart-growth insurrection as town officials try to find a sustainable way to the future. Helping lead the charge, the Long Island Index is today announcing the launch of Build a Better Burb, an open ideas competition to rethink what the suburbs can be. They want us to dream big—and they’re dangling $22,500 in prizes for the boldest solutions for retrofitting Long Island's acres of “underperforming asphalt.” As Nancy Rauch Douzinas, president of the Rauch Foundation and publisher of the Long Island Index, put it in a statement: “The postwar ‘first’ suburbs, exemplified nationwide by Long Island’s own Levittown, are now pushing sixty years old and the needs of these communities have changed dramatically over the years. Now is the moment to address contemporary challenges by retrofitting the prewar suburban landscape of small towns and train transit that languished during decades of construction of new highways, shopping malls, gated subdivisions, and far-flung office parks.” The jury includes Teddy Cruz, Allison Arieff, June Williamson, Daniel D’Orca, Rob Lane, Paul Lukez, and other planners, urban designers, and architects. Register by June 21; winners will be announced in September.
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Reburbia Resolved

Judges of Dwell and inhabitat's Reburbia competition split the difference between fantasy and pragmatism in picking winners out of last week's 20 finalists. Grand prize went to "Frog's Dream," Calvin Chiu's fanciful vision of abandoned McMansions converted into wetlands.  Judge Geoff Manaugh of BLDGBLOG readily acknowledged the plan was chosen not in spite of its surrealism, but because of it:  "It's poetic, not practical - and that's exactly why this project is positive evidence of how we might really rethink suburbia," he said. But the jury's second favorite was one of the only entries, out of 400, that was a policy proposal rather than a design proposal.  "Entrepreneurbia: rezoning suburbia for self-sustaining life," submitted by Urban Nature, F&S Design Studio and Silverlion Design, suggested changing zoning laws to allow small businesses to take root in suburbia.  Judge Jill Fehrenbacher, founder of inhabitat, called it "clearly the most practical, cost-effective and energy-efficient proposal submitted to us, and therefore the one which has the biggest potential to effect real change." Coming in third was Forrest Fulton's proposal for turning big box store parking lots into farms, and the winner of last week's online "People's Choice" contest -- garnering 2300 votes -- was Galina Tahchieva's "Urban Sprawl Repair Kit," which devised infill strategies for five common suburban building patterns.
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Fill it In, Trick it Out

Dwell and inhabitat's REBURBIA competition last month drew hundreds of schemes for making the suburbs more sustainable, and now they want your votes to pick a "readers' choice" winner from the 20 finalists. (The official winners will be picked next week by a jury, and featured in Dwell's December/January issue). Nearly half of the entries suggest filling in suburbia by re-purposing space from roads, parking lots, big-box stores and McMansions.  Others propose tricking it out with new technology:  turbines installed over freeways to harness the wind energy created by cars whizzing underneath; a device to enable parked cars to generate enough energy overnight to power houses; a new airborne system of mass transit.

There's a strong strain of retro-futurism detectable in the current front-runners.  Alexandros Tsolakis and Irene Shamma's sleek airships make you want to don a jetpack and silver jumpsuit.  And Light + Space's towers of sustainable residences bear a striking resemblence to Safdie's Habitat '67.

This is the popular vote, so just like in high school, the sexy designs are getting the attention while the zoning-policy proposals sit all by themselves in the cafeteria.  Head over to the competition website through August 17th to check out the finalists, and maybe even consider parking your lunch tray next to some of the underdogs.
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Suburban Dreams

In the wake of the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, global warming, rising energy costs, and constant gridlock, you'd think the model of Suburbia isn't faring to well. Well, you're not alone.   Dwell and Inhabitat are sponsoring a competition called Reburbia, dedicated to re-envisioning the suburbs. They're asking entrants to design "future-proof" spaces, from small scale retrofits to large-scale restorations, to replace current types and systems like McMansions, cul-de sacs, big box stores, strip malls and car-centric communities. Ideas, they suggest, could come in the form of bicycle transportation hubs, energy generating freeway paving systems, and new housing prototypes (including a "McMansion farm rehab", whatever that is). Enter here. And hurry, because entries are due on August 1! Winners will be announced on August 19 (Grand prize: $1,000).