Art Works Blog

NEA Arts: The Suburban Canvas

What do you imagine when you think of the suburbs? Tract houses? Strip malls? Subdivisions that look numbingly alike?

A new breed of architect is imagining a totally new vision for suburban life. From ways to use setbacks as sites for additional housing stock to a renewed emphasis on shared public space to houses that work with rather than against the natural landscape, the suburbs are undergoing quite a face lift. For the new issue of NEA Arts, Rebecca Gross spoke with several architects, including Boston's Paul Lukez, on the changing face of suburbia for the article "The Suburban Canvas."

Here's how Lukez imagines our suburban future:

There is potential to create new kinds of urban form within the suburban context that could be pretty sophisticated. I could see a very interesting meshing of places that are designed by landscape architects and architects and urban designers that have an overlay of artistic interventions that are community-oriented and integrated in completely new forms, but are still really great places. That could be very exciting.

I can also see a new vernacular emerging, and hopefully there are ways in which the new vernacular could emerge into a highly evolved and beautiful set of forms. You think of Italian hill towns or Spanish hill towns as an example of where a vernacular emerged that is immensely habitable, very pleasant, integrated with the landscape, but evolved as a natural outgrowth of people---the way people wanted to live and work with each other.  Maybe some of our suburbs could evolve into those kinds of places, [which were] not necessarily designed as art pieces but that evolved into representations of high form of community.

Visit arts.gov to read "The Suburban Canvas" in full. And if you liked this blog post, you might like our Art Works podcast with landscape architect Laurie Olin. Listen here.

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