Sunday, February 19, 2012

Rehousing the American Dream

This week my curiosity took me to the MoMA to see the exhibition: "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream"

Reinventing the American dream is quite a daunting task and I really wanted to check what the MoMA had to say about this. Do these elite architects have a real alternative to what took us to the mess we are in today?  We are talking about the MoMA  here, so I was really expecting to be blown away by at least some of the 5 design projects. Well instead I kind of felt like I was at some 1950's World's fair show (The Jetsons even came to mind)  Why this sensation of deja vu? Weren't these proposals supposed to fill me with novel ideas about the future of the built environment and prompt me with optimism for our communities? So I looked closer, reading everything I could but it seemed like "Rehousing the American dream" meant putting a band-aid on these cities and suburbs instead of rethinking the problem altogether. Had architects missed an important piece of the puzzle: Connectedness? The connection within the communities and the natural environment made sense in the writing but weirdly none of the designs proposed conveyed these ideas. The renderings of the buildings (which looked like the unfinished renderings from an undergrad class) were not conveying any sense of intimacy or belonging. Further along, I was looking at funky shapes in crayola colors (art?) that did not have any cultural relationship with the local or regional culture of the inhabitants.  Another proposal, which was developed with an ecologist on board (good start!) suggested "re-wilding" :  blending with the natural habitat and even suggesting the importance of reintroducing the predators of an ecosystem; but all I saw was buildings that were forced under the turf of artificial forests... and last a flower shaped reflecting pools (biophilia?).
I was lost. In the end, I was the one who did not connect with the MoMA.


  1. This saddens me. I will still probably check out the exhibit, but I'll definitely go in with a healthy dose of skepticism -- though of course I would have most likely gone in like that anyway. You're totally right: band aid solutions aren't going to get us anywhere, and as I've been reading for our sector projects what we really need is a relatively radical reinvention of our previous notions. One thing stressed again and again (and which you mention above) is the concept of 'bioregionalism' where not only local climate and indigenous materials are factored into design but also the idea of connecting people to place and an inherent celebration of local culture and practice. What a shame this exhibit misses the mark!

  2. Interesting to see that you are raising bioregionalism here. And I am glad to see Stefanie addressing the issue of connectedness. I wonder if we can see this more effectively in a class full of Interiors people, than we would see in Architecture. This is an area that has been addressed for decades by ID though I would like to see it crossing the scale spectrum. Bioregionalism addresses connectedness. Interiors (sometimes) addresses it. Shaun will be discussing it in tomorrow's class at the planning scale. Is Architecture out of the picture?