Foreclosed: Prioritizing Project Elements

The multidisciplinary teams working on projects for the exhibition Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream have one month left in the workshop phase before the final public Open Studios at MoMA PS1 on Saturday, September 17, 2011. Here, they summarize their progress and outstanding concerns as they move towards finalizing their respective projects.

WORKac on a roll! Photograph courtesy of WORKac

WORKac – Amale Andraos and Dan Wood

Project: Nature-City

Site Location: Salem-Keizer, Oregon

We were excited and encouraged by the reception of the project in Keizer. A subsequent article in the Keizertimes not only accurately summarized the ambition of the Foreclosed project as a whole, but also confirmed that there is possibly a wide range of people living in the suburbs today who would be open to living differently, given the choice. All along, this was for us the most critical part of the enterprise: can we produce a project for both MoMA and Keizer?

Exhibition: we are now in full production on the core sample model and are starting the drawings and renderings. Our “best of” inspiration wall includes everything from vintage travel posters to images by Superstudio, FLW, Hieronymus Bosch, Julius Shulman, and the latest cover of Cabinet Magazine</a>. Still, we are grappling with how best to represent the project graphically, to create an architectural drawing that is also somewhere between a rendering and a diagram.</p>

Project meeting discussing dwell/work units. Photograph courtesy of Spirit of Space

Studio GangJeanne Gang

Project: The Garden in the Machine

Site Location: Cicero, Illinois

Design continues on the project even though we must now begin to make final models for the exhibition. The former factory, reconfigured as a new site for living and working, looks more appealing and engaging than the repetitive blocks of bungalows that surround it. Our worries about providing “housing” are fading away as we begin to see the full potential and variety that is possible by adapting the former industrial fabric.

We are thinking about how to construct a new structure within the industrial context of our site, one that is vertical and more compact. Why not use the salvaged trusses from older abandoned factories to to create new buildings? The steel is plentiful and perfectly reusable. We see how employing steel trusses between circulation core elements will allow us to either hang new structures from the trusses or seat them on top. New dwellings can be added over time as needs arise. Our aim from the beginning was to create a new type of housing that would be adaptable to the contemporary family: one that is defined by continuous change. We are getting closer to a proposal that is both flexible and includes shared elements, while allowing for privacy.

Site model color studies. Photograph courtesy of Zago Architecture

Zago ArchitectureAndrew Zago

Project: Property with Properties

Site Location: Rialto, California

Site Plan: Our site plan, at 1’ = 150’, will provide an orchestrated impression of the pattern and density of land and buildings within our project site. The intention is that there be two scales of reading for this drawing. The first, far reading is of an overall texture and coloration that bears a resemblance to the fuzzy ochre of the surrounding chaparral. The second, near reading is of an intricate mosaic of strong colors and forms. Additional detailed drawings will break this mosaic down into its constituent parts such as land ownership levels, circulation, and eco-corridors.

Model: Our large-scale model is underway. It is composed of 30-pound rigid foam, styrene, micro-scaled plywood, chem-etched screens, and enamel paint.

Diagrams: In addition to the detailed drawings mentioned above, we are developing diagrams to illustrate, among other things, our building system, land-use strategy, ecological systems, large-scale infrastructures, traffic concept, and regional transportation plans.

Ecology: Working with team member Alex Felson, we are incorporating an experimental Pleistocene rewilding area into our project. This involves the reintroduction of descendants of Pleistocene megafauna or their close ecological equivalents. In our case, the large vertebrates under consideration includes African elephants, cheetahs, Asian asses, and Przewalski’s horse.

Color: The photo shows some of the current color tests for our models.

Courtyard unit with tensegrity structure platform. Photograph courtesy of Michael Bell: Visible Weather

Michael Bell: Visible WeatherMichael Bell and Eunjeong Seong

Project: Simultaneous City

Site Location: Temple Terrace, Florida

Floating Compression: Along with Zak Kostura, we’ve developed a structural deck that uses “tensegrity,” or what the artist Kenneth Snelson called “floating compression.” The deck suspends a floor plate in compression, and while the cables recall work by Richard Rogers or Renzo Piano, it’s a system that uses struts or rods as compression members—the tension is reconciled internally. This image shows the work in detail but, given the size of the deck, it’s an image to show a very large scale. The system is efficient in the use of material but it’s also interesting because of how it visually conflates compression and extension. The housing density is both compressed but also extended in the structure—we were looking at how these forces define spatial qualities of the suburbs and the conflict between the expansion and contraction.

Floating People: Working at MoMA PS1 has meant working in an exhibition/installation on a daily basis. Laurel Nakadate’s photography exhibition Only the Lonely</a>, and Ryan Trecartin’s Any Ever</a> are both stunning, but they also take a devastating aim at the suburbs, portraying its expansive spaces as coded with layers of apprehension and near violence. In housing design you are expected to try to assuage these experiences, but at times you also simply want to show it. The New York Times ran an article today on the danger of being a pedestrian on the Tampa streets, but the undertone is really the alienating aspect and endurance of the extended, dilated spaces of cities today. Art and news collide. Sometimes it seems the most obvious things are impossible to discuss and yet an image can affect what everyone was thinking. The structural work we’ve done tried to cohere this kind of extended space without losing a hint of its origin.</p>

Draft: Street layout. Image Courtesy of MOS

MOSHilary Sample and Michael Meredith

Project: Thoughts on a Walking City

Site Location: The Oranges, New Jersey


1. Finish the dreaded site model.
2. Finish the following project description:

DRAFT, Orange, NJ, MOS, Points Towards a New City</p>

Pt 1. The Problem with Archipelago Urbanism
The American model of urbanism is a market-driven collection of discrete enclaves. The American landscape is constructed as an archipelago of distinct developments that are simultaneously connected and disconnected by intricate hierarchies of roads and highways. Within this expanding urbanism, cities are wrought of architectures, themes, and conveniences meant to attract communities of people to live where they desire and identify. In this way, American urbanism has become a lifestyle commodity. If we accept this market-driven model, then we are confronted with the omission of those who do not have the means to choose. Within this system, the poor are fundamentally excluded and are thus relegated to their own enclave; the ghetto enclave, the self-perpetuating alter ego of the lifestyle-enclave.

The housing crisis, however, exposed this problem of lifestyle, desire-driven urbanism and highlighted the thin line that separates the desirable and the undesirable enclaves, as well their respective fates. It is increasingly apparent that our current model of urbanism presents a significant cultural dilemma, one that cannot be solved strictly with low-income options for housing. In fact, government-subsidized “public housing” has arguably exacerbated the problem of the ghetto by fundamentally distorting the term “public” and driving a wedge through the economic disparities within a community. The market however, has not provided a better solution to date.

Essentially we are faced with two choices to alleviate and to reduce these enclaves of wealth and poverty:

Option A: It becomes the government’s purview to regulate the housing market, providing both sticks and carrots to ensure that the poor are not ghettoized.

Option B: Allow for a housing market without government subsidized oil, subsidized infrastructure that benefits the few, and tax breaks—incentives that produced sprawl to begin with. Perhaps the market, left alone, would inherently produce density, and the long-term benefits of more dense communities. (We need a little more technical info on this…)

Pt 2. From Macro to Micro Infrastructure
If we are to rethink housing within this model of American urbanism, and we acknowledge that economic policy plays a crucial role in this (as evidenced by the foreclosure crisis), we must also rethink the infrastructure that enabled and perpetuated this form of urban development. Nearly all of our trusted infrastructural systems—from roads and highways to water systems and energy resources—have been called into question as unsustainable in recent years. Whether on grounds of economic viability, environmental impact, or personal health, our urban infrastructure is no longer serving our contemporary American lives.

As our country has evolved from an export manufacturing-driven economy, so does our model of urbanism and infrastructure need to evolve. The public health concern that once drove sprawl—the concentrically organized zoning policies that separated the polluting factory from the suburban landscape—has now become an empty gesture and, ironically, a major contributing factor to the largest public health epidemic of our day: obesity. [Is there a stat or diagram that compares urban and suburban obesity? I think this would make a good point.]

In response to the problems produced by sprawl and its enabling infrastructure—enclave mentality, energy consumption, and public health, to name a few—it is imperative now more than ever to radically re-imagine the centers instead of the peripheries of our cities and towns. The archipelago model that is predicated on underused and redundant infrastructure should be abandoned, and we should instead reinvigorate the city center as a dense urban space.

When rethinking the role of infrastructure we need to shift our thinking from a macro scale to a micro scale in order to integrate infrastructure into our building developments. We no longer need the massive networks that are difficult to maintain and become a burden during economic downturns. We need to use our buildings and housing as positive energy communities producing energy and becoming self-sufficient.

Pt 3. The Street
The street has always been a point of interest for us as the meeting place of architecture, infrastructure, and the public. It is an almost mythological place that has become synonymous with “public” or collective space. However, the reality of the contemporary American street is far less oriented towards human occupancy and is in fact primarily oriented towards all those things that will keep us off the street and comfortably in our homes, such as cars, electricity, sewage, and telephone lines.

Archipelago urbanism has produced and incredible proliferation of streets—or perhaps it happened the other way around; they are a mutually validating tautology. Whatever the case may be, the streets of the U.S. have become an incredible economic burden for both the municipality and its citizens through construction, maintenance, and energy costs. To be “free” in America today, a citizen needs to have a car. This desire for “freedom” however, has further produced an economic prison for the working class and the poor.

Pt 4. Our Proposal  …