The Suburban Makeover

We’ve discussed before what suburbia might look like in the future. Dwell and asked designers, planners, and engineers to submit their ideas for a suburban re-do (ReBurbia), and invited readers to vote on the top 20 finalists. The leader so far: the urban sprawl repair kit — complete with “suburban house wings.” [%comments]


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  1. Jacquilynne says:

    I don’t quite get that repair kit proposal. It seems like it pretty much takes the only space with grass and trees and plops new buildings on top of that, while leaving expanses of aboveground, single-level parking intact. How is that an improvement?

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  2. M.B. says:

    A classic case of solutions in search of a problem. Most of the examples look like they were designed by three year olds or visiting aliens from another planet. At every opportunity casual references are made about Mc Mansions. The reality is that people like living in the suburbs. Why not leave the suburbs alone and have a contest to redesign urban inner city ghettos?

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  3. Joe says:

    “Suburban house wings” were so much more exciting in my imagination. We need to skip over flying cars and go straight to flying houses!

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  4. ScotterOtter says:

    The reason why I like suburbia is having garages and the vast availability of parking. Without that I might as well move back to the city

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  5. travis ormsby says:

    It’s interesting that a couple of the comments here reflect the comments on the proposed “repair kit” solution: namely that suburbs are awesome the way they are and cities are the places that suck.

    As a city dweller, those comments seem strange to me. I could never live in a suburb because they seem so soulless, ugly even. Far uglier than my “urban ghetto” despite being better maintained.

    But that’s simply a matter of taste. If people like living out there, so be it. It would be nice, however, if once and a while suburbanites acknowledged the negative externalities their lifestyle imposes on me:

    extra air pollution from all that driving

    decreased water supplies from all that lawn watering

    Increased demands on city services like policing and stadium/opera/symphony subsidization without paying the full tax cost since they don’t live in the city

    an inability to increase public transit because urban sprawl requires a large amount of freeway miles/dollars per capita.

    and so on

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  6. Bob Calder says:

    We have new construction that resembles the number one solution where existing green space is replaced with buildings flush with the sidewalk. Unfortunatley they are used for dwellings – apartment space – and people don’t like living that close to traffic.

    Koreans have a good solution. They have a narrow insulating room in the location a porch would occupy. Noise and temperature variation are minimized although opening and closing two sets of windows means increased work for residents.

    Putting a green roof on an existing building is very expensive due to the increased weight. It absorbs water and holds it in order to support the plants.

    The economic life and value of older buildings is VASTLY overrated. The reason we depreciate them is they really aren’t worth much.

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  7. Eric M. Jones says:

    I have lived in apartments all over and Los Angeles townhouses and brownstones in Brooklyn and suburban (but not tract houses) in several places. I now live in an ex-urb tree-shaded single-family house on one acre.

    I don’t think there is any perfect place to live. If there were, people would ruin it. The Eagle’s song Last Resort says it all, “call someplace paradise…kiss it goodby.”

    For each of the places I have lived, I disliked some factors. Then when I moved on to a different situation, I missed those very same basic factors. I often speculate that simple proximity to others is the biggest factor. If they could keep the noise level down, all would be well. But I was also priviledged to live in an apartment building where the manager was always the center of the party, and he introduced everybody to everyone else. He was an automatic and dependable best friend and dinner guest.

    So it was the human dimension that made living there a dream. And suburbs can be a lonely place.

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  8. DaveyNC says:

    Suburban wings? Who wants to have their bedroom window 6 feet from the road/traffic?

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