There were inklings that conventional suburban development may not be sustainable or have positive outcomes, for many years. At the Lincoln Institute, we ran a workshop called "Redesigning the Edgeless City," aimed at retrofitting, in a targeted way, the landscape of strip malls and far-flung subdivisions. These days that effort, sometimes referred to as "sprawl repair." has taken on a new urgency, after the housing bust of 2008 -- a seminal event that left wide swaths of the country veritable wastelands, dotted with zombie subdivisions, vast developments that have platted and laid out with cul de sacs and streetlamps, but with virtually no chance of ever getting built out. At the same time, industrial areas and legacy cities have been similarly struggling.
It was a natural partnership, then, with the Forum for Urban Design and the Museum of Modern Art, to put on Shifting Suburbia, a symposium set for March 8 in New York at MoMA, in association with the museum's exhibit Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. Curator Barry Bergdoll will moderate a discussion with Ara K. Hovnanian of Hovnanian Homes, Joseph B. Rose of the Georgetown Companies, and Ellen Dunham Jones of the Georgia Institute of Technology. The event is at MoMA's Bartos Forum on 3/8 at 6:30 p.m.
The exhibit, which details the work of design teams made up of architects, economists, and artists, charged with remaking five struggling areas all around the country, has prompted an interesting dialogue, including commentary from Blair Kamin at the Chicago Tribune, Diana Lind at The Next American City, and Bryan Bell at Metropolis. Jeanne Gang and Greg Lindsay had this op-ed essay in The New York Times, Designing a Fix for Housing. The proposals are meant to be provocative more than specifically policy-oriented, though it's heartwarming that anything at MoMA would refer to zoning and Brownfields. The intent of the forum is to take the discussion of post-2008 to the next level.