MoMA Foreclose: Rehousing the American Dream

mos . + archdaily . © 2011 The Museum of Modern Art

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.

0 comentarios :

Publicar un comentario