LTL Architects : New Suburbanism


[Ed. Note: As I’ve already mentioned on the page, LTL has me straight geeked off their illustrations, so there are more images shown in this article than I would normally throw up in a single post – they’re ill though, so you shouldn’t have a problem with it]

This is an older project by LTL Architects [we’ll be getting to current work, don’t worry] entitled New Suburbanism : Prototypical American Suburb [one of the firm’s ‘speculations‘, the project was part of the 2000 National Design Triennial exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt Museum – and was updated for the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale]. The project is a proposal for a new approach to the idea of the ‘suburb’ and how it should be planned/laid out/experienced, responding to [basically] the failure of the American suburb to live up to the hype – and the subsequent failures of newer movements [such as New Urbanism].


From the designers:

In New Suburbanism individual houses reformat existing desires, creatively reclaiming the normative suburban spatial logic determined by commodified rooms and features. In the New Suburbanism proposal, the house arrangements are made through exploiting the reciprocal relationship between the figural commodity rooms and the free space of the public programs, initiating a spatial play not achieved in the stilted plans of typical homes and setting the stage for unprecedented mass customization. In New Suburbanism, latent desires of suburbia are exploited, lamentable redundancies are absolved, and new sectional matings are established in continued pursuit of the American Dream [via LTL Architects].


[Image: section perspective showing the sloping roadway that connects the big box retail to the housing – and a drive-through waterfall to wash cars, created by the overflow water from a community pool above]

My initial reaction to the project was two-fold: first off, this was the first to grab my attention while fingering through LTL’s new book, simply because of the illustrations. After drooling for a minute I read the description of the project [which is more substantial and thought provoking than the simple quote above, found on their webpage] – and while it’s a stretch [I mean, it is ‘speculation’], the firm makes some interesting points. LTL attempts to confront the continued ‘success’ of the McMansions + Big Box retailer = great suburban life equation that still appears to be the norm in so much of the U.S by fusing the two into a much more ‘urban’ hybrid.


In essence, the Big Box retailers are turned into a plinth on which the suburbs are developed – which is a fascinating concept for a number of reasons. First, it combats sprawl – which is a real problem in the U.S., and no solution seems to be coming – by combining the two major building types in the suburbs; the buildings in which you live, and the buildings in which you shop [read: buy all that crap to fill your mini-mansion], creating a much denser site. By doing so it is also a ‘greener’ solution to typicaldevelopment, as it drastically reduces building footprints. You’ll notice in the images [in particular the plan below] that there are no sprawling parking lots, effectively killing large swaths of land. That’s because parking for the retail is tucked beneath all those homes – brilliant.


[Image: section perspective showing the relationship between the retailers below and the housing units above]


[Image: I love this drawing where this ninja is mowing his lawn while there’s a guy 15 feet below him buying a lawn mower. Great stuff.]

Now, I know what many of you viewing this are thinking: who the hell wants to live on top of a Home Depot? And why would I want to be able to walk downstairs to Bed, Bath & Beyond? Well for starters, all that dirt and grass and whatnot would effectively shield you from being constantly aware of the fact that people are buying new lawn chairs 20 feet below your kitchen. The desired [one assumes its desired] insular quality of the suburb is also achieved by not allowing that many vertical connections between the commercial zone below and the homes above – it actually encourages inhabitants to get in their car and drive to the store that might in actuality be underneath their neighbor’s house. These types of design elements in this project show how LTL is really taking suburban living to task, making a political statement about the incredibly popular ‘American Dream’ home with a two car garage located so far from everything one needs to sustain life that a car is absolutely necessary.
[Image: typical housing plan – the project has all the qualities typically found in suburban life: homes that are similar in shape and design but just different enough to feign individuality, complete with ample parking and seas of green lawn to ensure that the separation between houses/property can’t be mistaken]

Previous posts featuring LTL Architects on architecture.MNP:


ADLS 05.11.2007 : LTL Architects

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards

Eye Candy : LTL’s Architectural Illustrations

Posted: November 10th, 2007
at 3:20pm by orangemenace

Categories: architecture,housing,urban/master planning,featured ninjas,architecte de la semaine

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