Foreclosed: Title and Model Scenarios

The five multidisciplinary teams working on projects for the exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream have refined their project titles and models based on feedback from last week’s group critique at MoMA PS1. Here they share how their projects have evolved over the past week.

Testing the Scale

Testing the Scale: Overlay of bungalow-garden fabric inside the foreclosed factory container. Image by Studio Gang Architects. (Click to view full size)

“The Garden in the Machine”

Studio GangJeanne Gang

Site Location: Cicero, Illinois

Cicero was founded as a railroad town on the outskirts of Chicago. It was a city of immigrants (initially Poles, Czechs, and Lithuanians), a city of churches, a city of bungalows, a city outside the laws of Chicago (hence its most famous resident, Al Capone), and most of all, a city of industry.

Factories began leaving Cicero in the 1980s, along with their employees. Their departure made room for new arrivals. “The New Cicero” (as the city calls itself) is largely a Mexican one: nearly half of its Hispanic population is foreign-born. Transforming Cicero from an industrial landscape of empty factories (which occupy over a third of its land) and small, single-family bungalows (that are mismatched to their current residents’ household structure) into a thriving “arrival city” is central to our project.

But despite our focus on the changing human realities of Cicero, our team has been unable to stop thinking about its physical condition: leafy green neighborhoods interrupted by enormous swaths of factory and rail. A place like Cicero epitomizes the contradiction between America’s pastoral ideal and the reality of the technological intrusions of industrial production that made it a preeminent global power. In “The Machine in the Garden,” Leo Marx reminds us that in order to move beyond this conflicted identity, there is a need to find “new symbols of possibility.” Indeed, The Buell Hypothesis challenges us to do the same.

The necessity today for Cicero, and other inner-ring suburbs like it, is to find a way to weave more tightly the diverse elements of rail, living, working, cargo, green space, and networks. There is also a necessity and government responsibility to detoxify and regenerate wasted industrial lands. Rather than the Machine in the Garden, our project is to mine the potential of its inverse: “The Garden in the Machine.”


Nature City

Detail of "Nature-City" site plan model. Photograph courtesy of WORKac. (Click to view full size)


WORKacAmale Andraos and Dan Wood

Site Location: Salem-Keizer, Oregon

At the last pin-up, the idea that each house typology and city block is connected to, and draws its form from, a particular type of infrastructure (food, water, waste, energy, transportation) resonated very strongly. This is an idea that we are developing as we begin our architectural models. Jumping to a larger scale allows us to explore in detail the new housing typologies and their relationships to nature and the environment. Can outdoor privacy occur in section while public nature is kept continuous on the ground plane? Can local industries fit together with new typologies of housing? As we move forward with our larger site model, some things to consider: How would development phasing and progressive ownership sync up with the growth of new forests and ecosystems on our site? Can symbiotic housing-infrastructure relationships begin with our Nature-City and eventually reshape its surrounding suburban context?

“Simultaneous City”

Michael Bell: Visible WeatherMichael Bell and Eunjeong Seong

Site Location: Temple Terrace, Florida

Despite the often maligned aspects of suburbs and strip development there is, in these scenes, an underlying experience of zoning and commercial setbacks, parking lots, power lines, and a no-man’s land of rights of way; an aftermath as much designed as manifest without intention. Millions of people experience these spaces every day, and while they need to change they also hold spatial experiences that we’ve looked at with rough digital and physical models as full of potential. We are looking to see the relationship between site elements such as streetlights, curb cuts, and sidewalks. Study models allow us to see what might be derived from these moments and help pull out a DNA, mine its distances, vantages, and pacing. Digital models are rendered with materials and color to study interplays of form, light, and shadow of even banal elements.


Lee Friedlander. Albuquerque, New Mexico. 1972. Gelatin silver print. Purchase. © 2011 Lee Friedlander

We modeled the entire city in a 3-D digital model with a memory of Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1972, by Lee Friedlander. Friedlander said he deliberately included the “poles and trees and stuff” that other photographers avoid. Our physical models are often glue gun–adhered mixtures of paper, piano wire, and Masonite. We test ideas very quickly and often reject them soon after. The final model will be somewhere between and architectural and urban scale, and will be based in part on the existing elements such as street lights and existing distances across parking lots.


“Thoughts on a Walking City”

MOSHilary Sample and Michael Meredith

Site Location: The Oranges, New Jersey


1. OK, we tried to-do item #6 from last week, but couldn’t convince MoMA to stop the bloggin’.
2. Brainstorm a Title:

– New Logue Lane (Replacing the Urban with the Social)
– No-property
– Private Public
– An Alternate History of Orange, NJ
– A Walk through Orange, NJ
– Fill In-
– Close Open Ends
– Houses, Stairs, Paths, Gardens

3. Change our mind about the title.
4. We’ve made progress on last week’s #5, and tentatively decided to be Both.
5. Study unit types and rethink the ground-floor spaces to accommodate other programs such as clinics, markets, gyms, pharmacies, etc.
6. Work on the roof, is it a collective space?

Building Density

Building Density – Orange and Manhattan. Image courtesy of MOS. (Click to view full size)

7. Work on “Thoughts on a Walking City” – Scheme B

If the streets are the only truly social/municipal space left in cities, and if the financial burden of maintaining infrastructure is becoming less and less desirable for cities in economic hardship, then why not reclaim the streets for development? This makes particular sense for sites located next to a train station or transit hub where streets would not be necessary. Emergency vehicle access could be accomplished through oversized sidewalks. The infrastructural costs for a walking collective would be greatly reduced, their taxes reduced to reflect their use of infrastructure- reducing the burden on the poor and middle-class. (In general, taxes should mirror our use of infrastructure- denser cities should have lower taxes.)

One of the abstract questions this raises is how do we understand public freedom for the poor and middle-class.  “Freedom,” like “spirituality,” has become so vague it makes us cringe to even discuss it, and it’s a value we’re constantly re-evaluating. (In some aspects we’re less free than we were twenty years ago, in others we’re more free.) Today, with the expense of fuel, the burden of infrastructure, growing health care costs, an obesity epidemic, and rising unemployment- should we put an emphasis on economic freedom or spatial freedom? Is it even possible to separate these?

Architects typically argue for freedom as a liberation from the tyranny of our surroundings. Part of what we do is provide difference, alternative ontologies, alternate subjectivities and politicize an audience through buildings. When thinking about the abstraction of freedom,  an emphasis on “spatial freedom” would focus on transportation, movement. In one instance, it could be about openness, access, speed. In another instance, it could be the literalization of movement, trying to produce unstable objects. (For some, symbolic movement can be enough liberation.) Economic freedom is much harder for us to understand as architects, and ironically the symbolic freedoms of architecture are incredibly expensive to build.

So, as architects who’s freedom are we engendering? It’s an impossible question. The imagined freedoms of one generation become prisons for another, the “plinth” is one example, “Modernism” is another, “Post-Modernism” is yet another. We’re not sure it’s something to worry about, but something to recognize. (Urbanization could also be argued through a generational lens, that one model continually gets usurped by another… baby boomers seem to prefer suburbia, generation-xers prefer the city, etc…)

The mythological freedom of the street persists and it’s something that can be used towards producing a free zone, where the societal live/work split (aka commuting) can be radically re-imagined. There would be no individual property ownership as we currently know it, there would be shared equity models, etc…owned by the collective.  This is a different type of freedom, a freedom somewhat removed from property, as opposed to freedom that relies solely upon property.


Models. Photograph courtesy of Zago Architects.

“Property with Properties”

Zago ArchitectureAndrew Zago

Site Location: Rialto, California

We have produced a number of models for this project. Our intention is to create a project in which the spatial complexity of each house, and the spatial interplay of house to house is co-produced by the actual, three-dimensional form of the house, and the effects of surface blurring and misregistration. This, together with our interest in establishing a sectional relationship between inside and out makes models a necessary working technique.

We would like our final models to be at as large a scale as possible. For our site model, the scale will likely be in the range of 1” = 40’ to 1” = 30’. For our larger model, the scale will likely be 1/2″ = 1′ 0″ to 3/4″ = 1′ 0″.

Unlike our working models, which are generally produced from paper and board, our final model will likely be of painted plastic and contain a great deal of detail.