The home-foreclosure crisis of the last five years and the wider international financial downturn of which it is a complex part have shaken Americans' confidence in the future of the country's suburbs. Suburbs have long been the sites of a key component of the American Dream: personal ownership of a single-family home on a swath of green lawn, an investment that once guaranteed stability and a legacy for the next generation. This exhibition proposes that these crises have a silver lining: they have created opportunities for radically rethinking the building blocks of the United States' fast-growing urban fringe and developing a new national conversation on issues of housing, transportation, and public space. The projects in this exhibition, developed by five interdisciplinary teams of designers, respond to the analysis in The Buell Hypothesis (2011), a research project of the Temple Hoyne Buell center for the study of American Architecture, at Columbia University. The Buell Hypothesis, which analyzes statistics about the country in 2009 (when President Barack Obama signed the American recovery and reinvestment Act), hypothesizes that multiple outcomes were possible from that investment in infrastructure, and invites designers to imagine them. The suburbs studied in Foreclosed (and in The Buell Hypothesis) are located near New York, Chicago, Tampa, Los Angeles, and Portland, Oregon. They all have characteristics that make them particularly pertinent to nationwide challenges, including a significant rate of foreclosure and a considerable amount of publicly held land, available for development.
During summer 2011, five teams of designers (including architects, urban planners, and landscape architects), economists, ecologists, and engineers—led by the principals of the architecture firms MOS, Visible Weather, Studio Gang Architects, WORKac, and Zago Architecture—began a cross-disciplinary conversation, imagining the redesign of specific sites across the country, from older east coast suburbs with rail connections to newer subdivisions accessible only by highway. Working in studios at MoMA PS1, they discussed their projects with the public in a series of open houses. Their work, presented here, is not a set of blueprints for the development of specific places so much as an array of visions that will help us rethink the physical and financial architecture of living, working, and commuting in the extended metropolis.