Wendy Cheng—Chair, American Studies, Scripps College; author, The Changs Next


Wendy Cheng—Chair, American Studies, Scripps College; author, The Changs Next Door to the Diazes:

Remapping Race in Suburban California (Minnesota, 2013)

Neil Padukone—Director, NYC Manufacturing and Industrial Innovation Council; author, Beyond South

Asia: India’s Strategic Evolution and the Reintegration of the Subcontinent (Bloomsbury, 2014)

In recent years, architects have focused design research on the potential of various historical

architectural sites of collective inhabitation and/or labor found on the edges of the city (the monastery,

the phallenstary, the factory, the social condenser, etc.) to act as models for the establishment of new

social and political collectives. The private market has developed new co-living and co-working real

estate products, including those which adaptively-reuse former office spaces and which promise

higher-density and transit-oriented suburban living, marketing “urban” amenities and lifestyles to young

residents of suburban areas (many driven out of urban areas by housing costs). And the cumulative

effects of longer-term patterns of migration, as well as more immediate events such as the reaction to

the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests, have begun to challenge

the image of the suburb as a monolithically white, patriarchal and politically conservative milieu, giving

way to more complex, contested and culturally-specific realities. These phenomena prompt questions

regarding what forms of collective life, politics and social transformation might be possible within the

architectural and infrastructural context of the contemporary American suburb; and of how that

architecture and infrastructure might change in order to shape and respond to new needs and desires.

The studio symposium will explore the social and environmental impacts of postwar suburbanization,

relating the development of infrastructure, real estate practices and other physical, financial and policy

tools to the present-day circumstances of suburban life. The aim of the seminar is to provide a context

for students to consider the potential reuse of the ensemble of office buildings at Alexander Park. What

can architecture contribute to the project of overcoming the social hierarchies and environmental

damages that have been “locked-in” to the built form of suburban and exurban areas through historical

patterns of development? If the local politics of the suburbs has been historically grounded in the

preservation of private property values and exclusive access to communal resources (e.g. school

districts), what possibilities for more progressive forms of local politics might today emerge from (and

materially transform) suburban communities?

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