The Museum of Modern Art(MoMA), known for abstract exhibits, has taken an in depth look at something very real this year: the American housing crisis. Tucked away on the third floor of the MoMA “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,” is a current exhibit that jumps in on the national catastrophe of foreclosure, a bonafide public crisis. It demonstrates the MoMA’s effort to develop plans for housing that will help end this calamity which has swept through United States since the financial meltdown of 2008.
The exhibit is small, but its significance is especially immense, introducing visitors to the mortgage crisis that is plaguing the suburbs. The exhibit emphasizes the importance of the suburbs in the development of the American Dream.
In present time, the suburbs suffer from a wide range of problems, including unemployment, increasing foreclosure, and environmental pollution caused by car-reliant inhabitants. On one wall of the exhibit it says, “Change the dream and you can change the city,” begging the question of how heavily our notions of American life affect the America we create around us.
Across the country, suburban sites were chosen to be worked on. Five teams of architects, engineers, landscape designers and other specialists were invited to redesign the future of housing in the middle of the foreclosure crisis.
One of the teams, WORKac’s Amale Andraaos and Dan Wood, proposed Salem-Keizer, Oregon as the site of their transformations. In their model, they focused on an eco-friendly town in which there is no on-street parking. Instead, there exists a wide range of landscapes and gardens, maintained by the neighborhood and accessible to the public. To solve the problem of residential space, Andraaos designed a tower of homes which he described as a “varied stack of houses” ranging from studios to two bedrooms each with their own private garden. At the core of the building is an artificial waterfall meant to provide water for the city. Next to this building stands a structure containing recreational areas for activities such as swimming, climbing, and gardening. A particularly fascinating part of this model is a structure resembling a stack of pancakes where solid wastes are composted. A public path laden with shopping centers and pharmacies leads to the heated pools, warmed by the methane generated from the compost, situated on the uppermost stack.
The architecture from Studio Gang’s vision centers on Cicero, Illinois. This particular American suburb was deluged by the foreclosure crisis in the 1920s. Because of the overcrowding in many of the homes in Cicero, the team constructed a Rubik-cube styled building in which many bedrooms can be built and kitchens can be used communally. In their model, they focus on the use of space for outdoor activities and playgrounds for children. “The idea is to bring back the vibrancy Cicero once had,” said Jeanne Gang, the spokesperson for the Studio Gang.
Andrew Zago of Zago Architecture chose to take on Rialto, California. Their reinvention of the American suburbs takes on urban qualities to alter the “iconic, cliché, Google Earth image of what a suburb looks like.” He suggests subdividing the town into a maze-like structure. The reinvention, he says, will include artificial habitats such as zoos to make use of the natural forest near the site.
The exhibit will be ongoing through September 30, 2012 with lectures and gallery talks by the architects approximately every two weeks.
Consider a trip to the MoMA on a Friday evening, where admission is free from 4:00 to 8:00 PM as part of their Target Free Friday program. Try to either get there as close to 4:00PM as possible or consider arriving after 6:00PM to most effectively dodge the long lines and overcrowding. You can not only avoid the hefty 14 dollars for students, but also escape into a place where the jam-packed streets of New York City seem to melt away into a meditative atmosphere of creativity, thoughts, and beauty.
“Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,” visually demonstrates the results of the ongoing quest to throw off the stereotypes of suburban living and effectively alters the classic dream of owning property in America.