Reburbia Winners Announced!

Reburbia Winners Announced!

By Sarah Rich
We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2009 Reburbia Competition, sponsored jointly by Dwell and Inhabitat. The competition challenged architects, designers and concerned citizens to come up with solutions that would address the problems that plague present-day suburbia by envisioning different scenarios for the future. Proposals tackled foreclosed McMansions, vacant big box stores, strip malls, parking lots and more with design fixes ranging from community agriculture and algae-based biofuels to zeppelin-based transit and pools transformed into water treatment plants. The competition drew over 400 entries from countries all over the world.

For Frog's Dream, an abundance of plants and the installation of wetlands overtake empty suburban homes to clean and filter water.

The grand prize goes to Frog's Dream: McMansions Turned into Biofilter Water Treatment Plants, submitted by Calvin Chiu. The design proposed converting abandoned suburban tract homes into wetland areas, using vegetation to filter and clean water in abandoned suburban areas for nearby urban centers. Of this entry, judge Geoff Manaugh, author of BLDGBLOG, said, "I love the trans-species approach, the acceptance of certain economically obvious shifts that are occurring already in many a recently constructed suburb, and the hydrological inventiveness. It's poetic, not practical - and that's exactly why this project is positive evidence of how we might really rethink suburbia."


Brought by Urban Nature, F&S Design Studio and Silverlion Design, Entrepreneurbia sought to reconsider the traditional approach to zoning divisions, which can keep the residential and commercial modes far apart and promote sprawl and car dependence.


Got an empty big box store? This proposal suggests planting the parking lot and roof, turning the interior into a greenhouse, and enjoying hyper-local fresh produce.

The second place prize goes to Entrepreneurbia: Rezoning Suburbia for Self-Sustaining Life, submitted by Urban Nature, F&S Design Studio and Silverlion Design. This entry called for reining in sprawl and making suburban communities more vibrant and walkable by transforming uniformly residential neighborhoods into entrepreneurial incubators by changing zoning laws to support small businesses. Of this entry, judge Jill Fehrenbacher, founder of Inhabitat, said, "The idea was one of the few entries in the Reburbia competition that wasn't really a design proposal at all, but instead a policy proposal -- and it was clearly the most practical, cost-effective and energy-efficient proposal submitted to Reburbia, and has great potential to effect real change."


The third place prize goes to Big Box Agriculture: A Productive Suburb, submitted by Forrest Fulton. This entry proposed turning big box store parking lots into farms, the interior of the stores into greenhouses and restaurants, and many of the existing structural details into renewable energy generators. Of this entry, judge Eric Corey Freed, principal of OrganicArchitect said, "Flipping the economic flow of agriculture and commerce is a much needed step in the right direction. I love that this entry looks at reuse of existing infrastructure, local farming and methods of growth."


For Tahchieva’s diagram from the Sprawl Repair Toolkit, traditional setbacks are reimagined to reduce dead space. "Why don't we urbanize the frontage of suburban houses and create opportunities for people to have an accessory dwelling unit, which can be a rental, a live/work unit, or a granny flat?" asks Tahchieva.


The People's Choice Award, which was selected through an online voting process that allowed the general public to elect their favorite entry from a list of twenty finalists, was the Urban Sprawl Repair Kit: Repairing the Urban Fabric, submitted by Galina Tahchieva. Capturing over 2300 votes and 188 comments from our passionate online community, this design delineated five building typologies characteristic of suburbia, and corresponding formulas for recreating them in order to promote environmental responsibility and community building.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the Reburbia contest, and thank you to all of those who submitted their ideas to us!  The winning proposals will be featured on, and, and featured in Dwell magazine's December 2009/January 2010 issue, which will explore the future of design. The grand prize winner will also receive $1000.

Many thanks, as well, to our esteemed panel of judges: Fritz Haeg, Geoff Manaugh, Thomas Ermacora, Paul Petrunia, Eric Corey Freed, and Allan Chochinov.

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