A Future Suburbia: Open House 2011 – Part 1 of 3

Can the answers to saving suburbia be found at the heart of what drives big cities?

Last week PSFK attended Open House, a day long event hosted by Droog in collaboration with architects Diller Scofidio + Renfro that presented a re-imagined future for suburbia. Droog founder Renny Ramakers introduced the project which was developed through Droog Lab, a limited run collaborative design platform aiming to identify unique local conditions which can inform globally-relevant design ideas. Renny explained that the inspiration for the project in New York stemmed from her frequent trips to the city while the Droog shop in Soho was open. She became aware of the unique breath and depth of the service industry which is a core element to how New York City functions.

NYC based Diller Scofidio + Renfro was invited to serve as lead designers on the project and began by conducting research and interviewing local service providers. Charles Renfro provided details on the people they spoke with which ranged from NYC fixtures like dog walkers to psychics.  A few of the more unique providers mentioned were The Luv Coach (a dating consultant), NY Wedding Dance (dance school) and Dr. Sofa ( a furniture surgeon who cuts large pieces apart and rebuilds them inside small apartments). The interviews provided insights into how these service providers did business as well as how they used space within the city.

Renfro spoke about how the density of New York is an important ingredient in the sustained success of small sized service providers. The blending of residential and commercial spaces within the city contribute to a sense of ‘business everywhere’. Suburbs on the other hand have historically emphasized separation both geographically from places of work as well as from direct contact with neighbors through individual lots. While their creation promised an escape from the unhealthy conditions within cities of the past, suburbs today show the symptoms of stagnation and outdated thinking. The goal of the Open House project is to imagine how a suburban service economy might look and function.

Open House encourages self-inventiveness, offers ideas, and proposes new models for suburban housing, striking a new balance between the private and public realm. Starting with an economic argument for the struggling middle class, the proposal also addresses the challenges posed by urban sprawl and single-owner consumption. The new residential marketplace not only brings more capital and density to the neighborhood, it also increases social cohesion through service exchanges.

DS+R generated some initial planning ideas for how homeowners might transform their spaces to serve a broader community based on their interests.


Front of the house is extended with a viewing area and lounge while privacy is maintained for the rest of the house.


Created for a skilled bedtime story teller, the added space allows other members of the community to visit and listen discretely.


Meant for young lovers looking for some privacy, this house caters to stealthy romantic encounters.

They also generated some conceptual plans for how multiple houses might be linked together to create broader shared spaces.

 

In Part 2, we’ll be sharing the first batch of realized projects created in Levittown, NY by local architects and designers.

[concept illustrations via: Droog in collaboration with Diller Scofidio + Renfro with EFGH]

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