Foreclosed: Rewriting the Script

Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream is a collaboration between MoMA and Columbia University’s Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture. Jointly conceived and curated by Barry Bergdoll, MoMA’s Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, and Reinhold Martin, Director, the Buell Center, the workshop and exhibition will examine new architectural possibilities for American cities and suburbs in the context of the recent foreclosure crisis. Mr. Martin is co-author of </em>The Buell Hypothesis. Images below are from the Foreclosed Open Studios at MoMA PS1 on June 18, 2011. View video of the presentations</p>

Foreclosed Open Studios at MoMA PS1, June 18, 2011. Photograph by Don Pollard. © 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

Maybe you’ve read about what’s been happening lately in classical Athens. Or maybe you’ve heard about legislators in our own, neoclassical capital attempting to negotiate a new federal budget that would be, as The New York Times put it, “credible enough to assure investors worldwide that Washington is getting serious about taking care of its financial health.” Whether it’s the IMF enforcing austerity in Greece, or markets pressuring Congress to cut Medicare, society’s script is being rewritten with draconian new rules.

Foreclosed is situated in the midst of this drama, which is also playing out around the “American Dream” of suburban home ownership. It asks, gently but firmly: What are the rules by which housing ought to be designed, produced, and made available in the United States? To whom? By whom? To what end? What ought to be the role of governments in these processes? Of markets? Of architecture? Of urbanism?

Andrew Zago of Zago Architecture (left) and Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang (right) present at the Foreclosed Open Studios at MoMA PS1. Photographs by Don Pollard. © 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

The Buell Hypothesis, which serves as a brief for the five design teams now working on a series of representative suburban sites nationwide, poses these questions in a philosophical dialogue. Conceived as a screenplay, the Hypothesis catches up with Socrates and Glaucon, protagonists in Plato’s The Republic, as they get stuck in traffic on I-95 on their way to Athens, Georgia, to attend a symposium on housing and the foreclosure crisis in February 2009.

The architects and their collaborators have been responding to this philosophical road movie with real projects. Real, not in the sense that they will be built, but in the sense that they give us something tangible to discuss, to evaluate the assumptions we make when we follow the script.

Michael Bell of Visible Weather (left) and Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample of MOS (right) present at the Open Studios at MoMA PS1. Photographs by Don Pollard. © 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

Because what partly makes the draconian new rules stick is everyday discourse, conversations public and private that no longer wince at the suggestion that “financial health” is built on the perverse pleasure of watching someone lose their home or their health care. The fact that this brutal feeling is just that—a feeling—suggests that the art of architecture might be a good place to start, to learn to think and feel differently about the movie now playing in a theater near you.

Sam Dufaux of WORKac (left) and Michael Bell (right) present at the Open Studios at MoMA PS1. Photographs by Don Pollard. © 2011 The Museum of Modern Art