Dreaming American

In Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, on exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, architects were asked to rethink the American suburbs in light of the foreclosure crisis.

by Paul Hond Published Spring 2012
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Nature-City / Photograph by Levi Stolove

Keizer, Oregon

Firm: WORKac
Architects: Amale Andraos, assistant professor of architecture at Columbia

Dan Wood ’92GSAPP

Recognizing the failure of our current suburban landscape — sprawling single-family homes that have become untenable both environmentally and economically — Nature-City reinvents the British urbanist Ebenezer Howard’s late-nineteenth-century model of the “town-country” for the twenty-first century, building upon the long-standing dream of living closer to nature by emphasizing land stewardship and sustainability.

To do so, Nature-City integrates housing and ecological infrastructure to provide five times the density and three times the public open space of its neighboring Keizer. Nature-City extends a series of urban “piers” into restored native habitats — an oak savanna, wetlands, a Douglas-fir forest — to create a neighborhood in which more than 70 percent of the land is dedicated to nature. Within each band of city, a wide range of housing blocks provide various landscapes, such as sky gardens and orchard courtyards. In addition, the housing itself behaves as ecological infrastructure, treating organic waste in the compost dome, generating electricity using methane, storing treated water in towers. With its embrace of density (of humans, animals, and plants) and diversity (of uses, housing types, and habitats), Nature-City creates a community grounded in difference rather than sameness, and promotes a renewed investment in public life.

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