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Can This Suburb Be Saved?

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Architectural model for WORKac’s Nature City for Keizer, Oregon.  

“Foreclosed” does a fine job of analyzing these changes and of offering tentative, provocative solutions. For all its thoughtfulness and rigor, though, a whiff of colonialism blows through the project, with its corps of city-based experts venturing into suburbia with maps and modern technology and plans for reforming the indigenous culture. The visions they come up with have a familiar urban feel, and the show replaces old conventional wisdom with the only slightly fresher dogma of density, a word that irritates millions. Packing people close together has virtues that don’t need to be spelled out to most readers of this magazine, and dispersing the population as wantonly and deliberately as we have in the last 70 years has been a colossal environmental blunder. We need more variety of settlement types. But suburbanites like the suburbs. To dismiss the deeply ingrained desire for a buffer zone between one household and another is to turn potential allies into a hostile cul-de-sac army. You can’t wish the ’burbs away, and you can’t turn them into imitation cities.

Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Museum of Modern Art. February 15-July 30.


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