The multidisciplinary teams working on projects for the exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream have five weeks left in the workshop phase. Here, they share the latest developments in their respective projects.
Project: Thoughts on a Walking City
Site Location: The Oranges, New Jersey
TO-DO List #7
1. Finish software we’ve developed for filling the streets with micro-Modernist slabs. After we made it someone told us that Cedric Price did something similar with a proposal “Magnet.” The zoning-free and programmatic flexibility is based upon the aggregation of two unit types: A. Flexible Empty space and; B. Fixed Service space to be informally poured into the underused and costly street infrastructure. Once filled they produce a dense and informal pedestrian collective, a cooperative, with a spatial quality similar to Venice or Benjamin Thompson’s Design Research.
2. Finish Model for Movie, write narrative…
3. Collect more and more references (in no particular order):
1. The New City, Another Chance for Housing, Urban Renewal, everything ever proposed by Edward Logue
2. Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital + Algier’s project = our project (both street figure and field.)
3. Parc la Villette??, Tschumi + OMA? Collapsing various forms of Seriality and Repetition.
4. Smithson’s Golden Lane Housing-Networking organizational model (Social relationships as a model.)
5. Louis Kahn’s Masterplan for Philly
6. Cedric Price’s Fun Palace or the idea that we provide empty spaces, no program. On/Off Masterplanning. 0/1 Binary of Service cores and Empty Spaces. No Zoning….
7. Venice, Italy- No Addresses, an informal city.
8. Benjamin Thompson’s Design Research in Cambridge, MA. Venice-like pedestrian spaces.
9. The High Line?
Project: The Garden in the Machine
Site Location: Cicero, Illinois
Our title continues to pull together many threads of our project. A functional “garden”, for example, in the “machine” (the factory) will begin the process of cleaning our site using plants and trees to phyto-remediate the contaminated soils. Teammates Kate Orff and Idan Naor made a great sketch showing how the process might play out over time, starting with ripping off the roof and floor of the factory and foresting the site. Later, trees would be transferred to parks or streetscapes to make way for the new program elements such as housing and schools that can be constructed with some of the salvaged materials from the factory. We also came to the conclusion that the project should push further the notion of closed loops within the rehabilitated factory site. We are designing space into the project for a waste-to-energy loop including the use of an anaerobic digester, vertical wetland, and material recycling center. These components reduce resource use by making the housing greener, reduce the burden on the municipal systems, and add jobs and opportunities to our concept of “Re-housing the American Dream.”
This past week we have been considering how time and process can be represented in our models and drawings. Will museum visitors be able to understand the idea of ‘remediation in progress’ in a drawing? How can we represent time in a physical model?
We also continue to resist the temptation to redesign everything in Cicero (a common affliction among architects) “Don’t give us a master plan,” Barry first warned the teams back in May, and has more or less repeated his admonition at every session since. Indeed, the master plan distracts from the architectural proposition, making it difficult to see what is being touched by us and what is not. That’s why our site model will articulate the difference between what is inside the factory and the bungalow fabric beyond—even though we have the urge to show a future Cicero where they are blended together.
Site Location: Salem-Keizer, Oregon
As promised, we took our design to Keizer last week.
Our first stop was at the Keizer Times, the local newspaper. The publisher, editor as well as a local consultant in community and organizational development introduced us to the realities of the town, where the shiny trinkets of low-risk, profitable development mostly trumps more ambitious political visions.
We presented Nature-City as a new prototype combining urban qualities with the ones of the countryside. This launched a conversation on how to create social diversity and a new economic model with the current resources of Keizer, its inhabitants and its surroundings. How to retool the American dream, away from the stranglehold of the single family house ownership model, and whether anyone would ever want move to Keizer for another, different and maybe new reason or opportunity.
The next day, we wanted to hear Salem’s side of the story and why the city was pushing back on Keizer’s campaign to expand its Urban Growth Boundary. We met with the Statesman Journal (Salem local newspaper) editorialist as well as a local developer currently building Pringle Creek, a neighborhood that uses the resources of the land and its natural habitat as the main attractor. The idea of a more public life resonated strongly and the dream of living into a “Tower of Houses”, being able to expand your horizon beyond the site, into the Willamette Valley and surrounding mountains was a hit.
The feedback and response was outstanding, Keizer seems to be ripe for experimentation, at the very least to discuss it. The Keizer Times is preparing an article on the project and would love to see the final project exhibited locally.
Project: Simultaneous City
Site Location: Temple Terrace, Florida
During the summer we’ve been very direct and have relied on a set of internal terms as we work. The team has developed a shared sense of direction based on the terms that follow:
1. Anti-Ideology: A way to act without acting and a critique of an agenda without posting a new one. The dramatic rise of Low-Income Housing Tax Credits since the 1980’s is what we’ve called an anti-ideology. They constitute a deferral of revenue by the IRS and in effect incentivize low-income housing development by creating a tax break for a profitable corporation. They make the less politically palpable direct expenditure on public or social housing obsolete, yet still constitute as much or more eventual costs. It’s a system that grew exponentially during the past 25 years and has rarely been discussed in very public ways.
2. Anti-body: We have continually tried to take what was wrong with the sprawl and make use of it but also to produce immunity to it. We explored the set backs for zoning, the dimension and scale of parking lots; we looked at the cartography of the commercial strip and the scale of ill formed side yards. In short: we tried to make the basis of the problem a remedy and mine what was new in these zones: people are used to these spaces and at some level they constitute a new experience in the life of all of us.
3. Housing and Marketing: Housing has been presented as inevitably defined and thus provided as a response to public taste. That may be true to a some extent but its only because no-one has risked developing any real options. As a child my father took me to see Columbia, Maryland as it was being built. That same year I also saw the National Guard tanks going into Washington DC during the 1968 riots. Columbia was planned from start to finish—a satellite city away from the real one. Housing seemed ripe to be taken over by a dreamland of images, advertising and semiotic coding that assuaged the anxiety of the actual city—the dream was easily subsumed and thereby made to seem inevitable even as it never had much of a plan—a groundless dream overtook the everyday utopia of Columbia and righteous indignation of riots.
4. Energy: The changes are inevitable. Prepare to see the suburbs tremendously devalued as energy overtakes property value. We are not using sophisticated energy systems in our work but instead have created a dwelling unit with various levels of conditioning. This means that you live in a quasi-migratory pattern during the day, the month or year. We are using housing to shield office space from heat gain during the day and allowing the heat gain from the office to help warm housing at night. But it is clear that density and shared resources are needed and they can be provided even as privacy and independence are increased. Every other industry shows how to use less energy and get better performance.
5. Narrow the Work Down: Architecture proposals took on lecture formats in schools of architecture, as PowerPoint became the normative medium. Drawings often become illustrations in the realm of Adobe Illustrator. Intentions overtake design and the proposal is an outline of goals that are debated rather then felt. We’ve struggled to avoid this and it means that we slowly absorbed ideas from our entire group of consultants while we also tried to take certain goals literally: structural work enabled architectural experience. Thermal work created a unit type that we saw as changing the daily experience of life at home. The urban work has diminished in importance as we see it as having instigated a new architectural realm.
6. Precedents: The anxiety of the beginning has long diminished. So too has the relevance of precedents. The daily events of the financial markets, the debt limit / sovereign debt conflicts all make the use of history seem tenuous. There is a need for new design and design that can change how things are made, financed, and built—new design can change the stability of the household wealth and of a bank or government investment in housing.
7. Paying for New Design: “Blue Sky” research as it was known in the 60’s in space research was essentially budget-less. They spent whatever it took. The United States government could use that term today: we could and should build a set of “Blue Sky” projects in housing and urbanism. No cost spared new forms of housing that are seen as pilot projects and if needed as a new form of social housing. A no-cost project might be all about low cost construction but we need to fund new forms of housing. People could stay for five years, one-year….a five billion dollar experiment to verify a new and radically progressive new form of housing that would lead the world. The market is not doing this and it does not have the ability to imagine yet alone take such a risk. If that is understandable it can still change: But its barely a risk—we have to act—our systems are becoming obsolete.
8. People: Our design is an allegory or novella of a project. We see it as specific but also a fiction—a testing of ideas and an attempt to model the parts of the real world in a new zone.
9. Its impossible not to note the influence of work on the suburbs or the term “contemporary city” from colleagues and partners over the years: Albert Pope’s books Ladders (also noted by Andrew Zago), Lars Lerup’s “After the City,” Sanford Kwinter’s “Incorporations” and “The Contemporary City,” and the book Slow Space edited by Sze Tsung Leong (and myself) which contained essays and projects by Stan Allen and Mark Wamble. Lerup’s essay “Stim and Dross” as published in Assemblage set the stage for a dissolving of the seeming intractable stasis of the suburban city and Pope’s formal analysis combine in ways that offer flow within finite form. In both cases the city is re-configured from the vantage of perception that is enabled by modes of extension and duration. You can see more then you can see and the fixed becomes liquid. Wamble’s “Knee-Plays” essay tried to conflate the city and architecture in a way that inculcated architecture with the flow of the city. Allen’s work with Reiser, Umemoto and Apfelbaum on the Croton River Aqua-duct project deeply affected our work on the extended strip of Temple Terrace.