On March 8, the Forum for Urban Design and the Museum of Modern Art, with generous support by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, gathered a national homebuilder, a former NYC City Planning Director turned suburban developer, a prominent Phoenix advocate, and a leading New Urbanist to debate the proposals put forth in the MoMA exhibition, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream.

Ara Hovnanian set the stage by exploring his own company’s strategy for adapting new homes to a post-crisis reality: by building multi-generational, multi-household homes for boomerang children, aging parents, and older siblings. Joe Rose followed, arguing the Buell Hypothesis of “Change the dream and you change the city” might be better adapted to “Respect the dream and you change the city,” suggesting that dismissing the suburban dream would never lead to a suburban makeover.

Grady Gammage Jr. was quick to defend the single-family home, the dominant housing typology in his hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. He argued that instead of the radical proposed changes embedded in the Foreclosed exhibition, that a denser housing types would have to be built more incrementally. Ellen Dunham-Jones had her own take on the Buell Hypothesis, suggesting instead “Change the regulations and you change the city.” She argued that a reanimated New Urbanist agenda would tackle the glut of regulations preventing dense housing typologies and encourage new ways of thinking.

Forum fellows and guests tackled homeownership subsidy programs, the challenge of the automobile in future developments, and re-conceptualizations of the suburban “American Dream.” Although there was a resounding sense that the Museum had accomplished what it had set out to do—to provide bold design visions to revive existing suburbs—both panelists and fellows argued for reconsidering existing regulations, rather than design, for a genuine suburban retrofit.

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Shifting Suburbia Transcript


The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy is a leading resource for key issues concerning the use, regulation, and taxation of land. Providing high-quality education and research, the Institute strives to improve public dialogue and decisions about land policy. For more information about the institute, please visit http://www.lincolninst.edu/