New Domestic Landscapes
Urban Innovation in the Era of Suburban Decay
If the American city seemed to die as suburbia flourished in the last half of the 20th century, today the tables have turned. The current housing crisis, brought about by predatory lending and the subprime mortgage debacle, continues to deepen, and suburbia finds itself facing threats previously reserved for the urban context: abandonment, crumbling infrastructure, squatters, violence.
A major task of architects in the coming decades will be to rethink how to cultivate this decaying domestic landscape. This research project studies the residential spaces of Tokyo, Japan, a city whose specific conditions provide particularly interesting models for rethinking underutilized urban and suburban space. Positioning Tokyo in relation to shrinking cities like East Berlin, Germany, the city represents the opposite limit condition--urban proliferation. But just as the abandoned areas of East Berlin contain islands of unexpected growth only possible in a divided city whose twin stories of development have only recently reconverged, Tokyo also sprawls in a paradoxical manner particular to its post-war condition of frenzied development. In both cases, the appropriation of underused or decaying space is exceptional.
The suburbs of Tokyo deal with undesirable space in an efficient manner that parallels the city’s extraordinary reaction to extreme density, at the same time redefining the value of enriched space that offers solutions to the problem of housing development which go beyond the typical American economic model of "bigger is better". By turning back to the hyperurbanized city to rethink suburbia, we hope to emphasize the diversity of cityscapes, looking both at the suburban condition as it occurs within cities, and the urban condition as it appears within suburban typologies of housing.
Ongoing Research Project
Funded by William Kinne Traveling Fellowship
Tokyo, New York, Philadelphia