According to a June 2012 National Foreclosure Report, approximately 3.7 million homes have been foreclosed since the beginning of the financial crisis in September 2008. Despite evidence that the housing market is showing feeble signs of stabilization nearly four years later—housing prices rose for the fourth consecutive month in May—economists caution that mortgage availability and the unwavering prevalence of foreclosures may hinder further growth. The impact of the crisis is ubiquitous, even penetrating the Olympics, where talk of swimmer Ryan Lochte’s parents’ impending foreclosure has rivaled the attention paid to his swimming achievements. Intimately tied to the American dream, single-family home ownership has long been a measure of success.
In spite of overwhelming economic insecurity, or perhaps because of it, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, has presented an exhibition of opportunity—an attempt to see the silver lining in a make-or-break moment for the American ideal. MoMA’s Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream initiates a new look into the housing crisis, steering the conversation away from blanket criticism of the financial sector and towards visionary solutions. As the second installment of MoMA’s “Issues in Contemporary Architecture” series, Foreclosed offers a space for exploration to architects who seek to drive innovation and direct change.
The exhibition is the result of collaboration between the MoMA and the Buell Center, the only institution in the United States focused on the study and advancement of American architecture. Interdisciplinary teams of architects, city planners, community activists, landscape designers, engineers, and artists worked together during the summer of 2011 at MoMA PS1 to envision new models for five failing suburban locations: Rialto, California; Orange, New Jersey; Cicero, Illinois; Temple Terrace, Florida; and Keizer, Oregon. Led by five architecture firms, each of the teams relied on the premise of the Buell Hypothesis as a starting point: “Change the dream and you change the city.”
Though aesthetically divergent, each model revolutionizes the concept of community. In favor of communal practicality, the ability to express oneself through the appearance of one’s home has been obliterated. Across projects, interwoven, mixed-use spaces straddle the divide between inside and outside, work and home. Andrew Zago of Zago Architecture refers to the phenomenon as a “relaxation of boundaries,” as patterning on the sides of his Rialto homes spill onto outdoor walkways, visually connecting public and private space. In Michael Meredith and Hilary Sample’s reimagining of Orange, the MOS Architects remove the car and erase the street, filling it with a repeated structure for commercial and private use. Jeanne Gang from Studio Gang Architects proposes a communal kitchen for Cicero inhabitants, while Michael Bell of Visible Weather encourages a combine of stores, corporate offices, and homes in Temple Terrace. Amele Andraos and Dan Wood of Workac have the most dissimilar project, “Nature City” in Keizer, which prioritizes the opportunity for residents to live close to nature, yet the team still blends boundaries, between the natural environment and the built one.
Open through August 13, Foreclosed engages the Buell Hypothesis by attempting to assess whether a change in cultural assumptions has the potential to allay the effect of the foreclosure crisis and diminish the impracticality of the suburbs. Each of the projects employs the hypothesis as a call for change by harnessing its potential to redefine suburban sprawl. Tucked away in a room on the third floor of MoMA, Foreclosed illuminates a new opportunity for unrestrained innovation in response to the housing crisis.