Back in May, New York’s Museum of Modern Art kicked off a nearly yearlong series of presentations, workshops, and public symposia on the topic of America’s ongoing foreclosure crisis. Out of this dense thicket of discourse will emerge a new exhibition, “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream,” scheduled to open early next year. It follows last year’s “Rising Currents” show in MoMA’s Issues in Contemporary Architecture series and—part of a longstanding tradition of public engagement by the museum’s Department of Architecture & Design—“Foreclosed” is set to feature ambitious ideas for reshaping the ragged social and economic landscape of the nation’s suburbs.
Another milepost on the road to the show’s February opening was marked last Saturday, when the five jury-selected design teams whose work will form the core of the exhibition hosted a final open studio at PS1, MoMA’s contemporary cousin on the far side of the East River. Firm principals on hand to present their complete (or near-complete) proposals included Jeanne Gang (who was named a 2011 MacArthur Fellow) of Studio Gang, Michael Meredith of MOS, Amale Andraaos of WorkAC, Andrew Zago of Zago Architecture, and Michael Bell of Visible Weather.
Each team took as its subject a specific locale affected by the real estate collapse. Studio Gang, together with a multidisciplinary team of experts that included writer Greg Lindsay and urban designer Rafi Segal, took on the problem of “arrival cities,” towns that act as ports of entry to immigrants from around the world. “These places can work—or they can turn into slums,” noted Ms. Gang, whose speculative plan for immigrant-heavy Cicero, Illinois, would turn abandoned industrial facilities into integrated live-work environments.
One common theme to look for when the show opens next spring is the attempt, evident in several schemes, to make private spaces public, or to create spaces that have a dual public-private function. Speaking of his redesign for Rialto, California, Andrew Zago favored the metaphor of “mis-registration, like a misprinted comic book,” to describe the blurring of the public and private spheres.
The afternoon ended with an address from Shaun Donovan, United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Far from seeing the “Foreclosed” proposals as architectural pipe dreams, the Secretary expressed his hope that the exhibition will act as a springboard for future development. “This crisis is a chance to rethink our… settlement patterns across the US,” he said. “This is not just about provoking or exposing, but about building towards solutions.”