Unlike a poorly designed product, there is no way to issue a simple recall on the failures associated with the incredible suburban sprawl of recent decades. The dust has, however, settled on on the sustainable design proposals submitted to the Reburbia competition, the winners have been announced, and a series of awe-inspiring ideas for reclaiming and remaking American suburbs have emerged – from finalists and runners-up alike.
Some projects focused on larger-scale suburban issues while others honed in on specific problems and areas of interest. The more bizarre and offbeat ideas include the incredible suburban airships of Tsolakis+Shamma as well as the fantastic (if insanely far-fetched) interstate highways-turned-farms conceived by designer Daniel Phillips .
Designers Forrest Fulton, Alan Berger and Miller | Hull Architects all took on the more narrow and practical but ever-present ‘big box store’ issue – what to do with large-scale retail designed to be accessed only by car and service a vehicle-centric culture. Their proposals were variations on a core theme of (re)using these as farms and bio-fuel generation stations.
Other more limited but compelling interventions (including the following two winning projects) that proposed using abandoned ‘McMansions’ as water filtration stations and to rezone essentially from scratch to turn suburban into more urban spaces.
Additional entries suggested highway-overpass wind-power turbines, street median-to-green-space conversions, giant modular housing towers and more. The question is not so much whether or not these ideas will play a role in the future of suburban (re)design, but which of them will be the ‘real-life’ winners.