Status: Speculative, Completed 2012
Location: Levittown, USA
New Levittown is a quasi-urban densification for New Levittown, NY submitted as a competition entry for the Build a Better Burb competition of 2010. The typical sprawl of the suburban downtowns is re-imagined to be transformed by the reuse of existing Big Box retailers superimposed with a pattern of modernist structures organized around streets.
New Levittown and the Four Problems of Contemporary Architecture:
Quasi-Urban- the co-existence of forms and systems that are the result of a loss of autonomy of suburban systems
Densification- a realization or actualization of the conditions of the quasi-urban.
1. Envelope- it’s now solid/void vs hole, virtual vs actual, and this is caused by a convergence of a sustainability apparatus and biopolitical imperatives, holes are the exceptions that prove the rule.
2. Grounding- how buildings touch the ground and interact with their site, in contrast to problem 1, the ground is now an active, rich surface, saturated by materiality (xeriscapes, groundwater retention, manifold sustainablility responsibilities), and program (mixed use realities emanating from the loss of autonomy of suburban systems).
3. Time- phasing, speculation, anticipation are fused together, are bound into an experiential component of architecture (not without anxiety). The future is indeed yoked to the present but in an indeterminate fashion- what to do with highways, parking lots, etc while waiting for sustainability technology/politics to catch up?
4. Mediation- two levels, Subjectivity and Nature. This relates to the symbiosis/disjunction between machines and humans. For the modernists it was always a clear distinction between them which subsequently was projected as a dystopia in the 60’s and 70’s- a passive subject suffers to the dictates of machines. Where is this passive subject today ? Ours is a fully activated subjectivity but the question remains how much real effect we have on our environment. Our attitude towards nature takes on a specific form of realism (a false humility) that, as the situation requires, can either be master over nature or be at one with it. Architecture mediates, and these are the two interrelated modes.