I tip my hat to Twitter and David Cohn at Spot.us for turning me on to the ongoing Reburbia contest from Dwell Magazine and Inhabitat.com, two design and architecture focused publications. Reburbia’s a design competition that’s all about re-envisioning the suburbs. From the Website:
According to the US Census, about 90% of all metropolitan growth occurred in suburban communities in the last ten years. Urbanites who loathe the freeways, big box stores and bland aesthetics stereotypical of suburbia may secretly root for the end of sprawl, but demographic trends indicate that exurban growth is still on the rise. In a future where limited natural resources will force us to find better solutions for density and efficiency, what will become of the cul-de-sacs, cookie-cutter tract houses and generic strip malls that have long upheld the diffuse infrastructure of suburbia? How can we redirect these existing spaces to promote sustainability, walkability, and community?
The contest is open ended: architects, urban designers, planners and engineers were invited to submit ideas for solving some of the problems facing suburban space: sprawl, box stores, a disconnected, low density landscape more geared to cars than people. These are some of the same problems that our own Town Planner, Jaz Szklut raised in his opinion piece about rethinking Waverley Square. The organizers received more than 400 entries and have whittled the list down to around 20 finalists. Even among that select list, there are some pretty whacky ideas: One vote leader is the more fanciful T-Tree a “Towering Community of Sustainable Residences” that kind of looks like a…well…tree. It’s a cool enough looking idea, but it reminds me of the 60s and 70s fad for residential pod complexes, and we know how that turned out. Other, more spiteful plans call for unused swimming pools or abandoned McMansions to be used as biofilters for water treatment.
But many make a lot of sense. The two vote leaders are an Urbran Sprawl Repair Kit, which provides imminently sensible and easy to follow design guidelines for turning typical sprawl-ly planning into more pedestrian friendly, high density developments — say: a fast food joint surrounded by a parking lot that is transformed into the hub of a new town square, with “taxpayer blocks” of stores that are so familiar in Cushing and Waverly Square surrounding the restaurant and filling in under-utilized parking lot space. Box stores that have been abandoned by big chain retailers can (and are) being reclaimed as community space, planting gardens in unused (or underused) parking lots. One entry simply proposes rezoning suburbs to make them less…well…suburby.