Los Angeles, CA
from the Time Magazine article: “If history is any guide, the future is not really likely to be that different from now: a look backward twenty-five years now, in the future of the seventies, shows little that is startlingly new—particularly in the built environment. What can be noticed is how much bigger and more elaborate (not to mention more predominantly Mediterranean™), the suburban house is today, and how much smaller the lot. Both are probably responses to the home’s new role as a short-term investment (rather than a place to put down roots), and the real estate industry’s corresponding scramble to come up with more list-able (countable) amenities.
Substantive changes are lurking on the horizon, though. It is no surprise that the computer revolution will bring the most telling of these. After all, the consummation of the cyber revolution will affect what is considered reality, introducing a new, but increasingly less alternative, universe of work and play. More surprising might be the triumph of the green revolution, following the eco-conscious boomer’s achievement of geriatric legislative might, and their children’s growth to adulthood as the first generation of habitual recyclers. While the computer will promote a dramatic trend towards decentralization, allowing people to spread out and live or work anywhere, the green consciousness will urge a contrasting densification in order to conserve resources and open space. The reconciliation of these opposed trajectories will define the sub-‘burb of the future.
This will occur as the consuming vastness of cyberspace satisfies the historic suburban craving for more space, allowing the house to shrink to a more supportable size (the yard has already shrunk beyond what the name can support, in the interests of the pocket mansion’s hunger for more interior space). The wasteful “setbacks” between neighbors will be eliminated when privacy becomes more of a virtual concern, helping to cut down on sprawl. Cyberspace will even provide a less damaging arena for the demonstration of conspicuous consumption, inheriting the responsibility for status-display from the house and front lawn. With cyberspace taking care of the private realm, the physical world will be freed for more generous community gestures. The park-like ideal will be clearer when the cheek-by-jowl pocket-mansion planning typical of developments today no longer mars the suburban landscape—and signs of individual affluence no longer signify community poverty.
The trends toward decentralization promoted by the cyber revolution will have obvious social effects, and these will also impact the physical environment. In particular, the computer will challenge the cohesiveness of the family—the standard suburban unit of measure—as each of its members become self-sufficient citizens of an alternative world increasingly seen as the one that matters. Within this new virtual world kids will grow up much more quickly, un-restrained by any biological clock or accident of personal appearance. Even the youngest cyber-savvy family member might be employed, for example. This will translate into a greater independence for the children in the physical world as well, since their cyber sophistication will make them confident with atms, fast food automats, and dial-a-ride shuttles, while their security, communication and medical “patches” and implants will make them safer “out there” than today’s kids. Parents will relax their vigilance—freeing up psychological space for other pursuits. As the family thus becomes diffuse, the home will respond with a contrasting cohesiveness. As cyber space becomes the kind of space that matters, the primitive sense of territorial “ownership” will fade within the house as it has within the neighborhood, and the house program will be more finely divided among specific activities rather than among family members.
Genetic engineering will play a role as well, offering biological solutions to problems once thought to be strictly mechanical, primarily by reducing the impact of all these people on the land through new waste-treatment technologies.
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This “Sub-‘burb” responds to the economic pressures on the limited landscape to increase density and to the related need to maintain the unique suburban balance between privacy and display despite such density; it answers the necessity for greater ecological responsibility, and takes account of the reorientation towards spatial reality prompted by the increasing importance of the computer and cyberworld.
The Sub-‘burb proposes a continuous carpet of habitation that is approximately twice as dense as the existing suburban model, but which confines all the building below the circulation datum, so that the park-like nature of the garden city ideal is emphasized at the public level. The openness of this field of lawns is preserved through the use of air-bag guardrails, which provide fall protection only when needed. The status display function of suburbia is satisfied on line and at the upper, public level, without bulking up the house, by separating the functions of dwelling and storage; since all the courtyard houses are out of sight, status is conveyed by the quality of stuff rather than the size of the house, and these possessions—cars (e.l.o.v.), satellite data services, meal services, etc—are arranged on a mobile platform for the neighbor’s inspection.
The infrastructure for the tract lies in the space below the roads, and includes energy, sewer, water, and data, along with access tunnels. Also located under the roadbed proper is a rockbed thermal storage area which supplies ceiling and floor plenums in the adjacent houses with conditioned air, heated or cooled according to the season. The increased density allows for the provision of a neighborhood-sized strip of open space at the public level for each group of forty houses.
Below the public level, the courtyard for each residence provides complete privacy, efficiently accessing just the right amount of outdoors and nature necessary to promote a sense of well-being, without intruding into the neighbor’s perceptual field or sprawling beyond its needs. Each courtyard is designed to provide for microclimate adjustment, using a balance of plantings and a pond area to promote the evaporative cooling and humidification so crucial to comfort in a desert setting.
Access to each house is gained through this courtyard, entered from above by a stair and lift device appended to the mobile display platform. This device can be pedaled from one end of the lot to the other, providing the resident with exercise as well as mowing the lawn, mulching the trimmings, and supplying additional power to the household batteries. Inside, the house is organized to provide all the program of a typical 3 bedroom suburban house in less than half the space, through the use of a mobile program deck (PRO/dek: US pat. 6,526,702B2). The area of the house is divided in half longitudinally into zones of greater or lesser programmatic control; one half is taken up by the shuttling pods of the program deck while the other half is left open as free space. The PRO/dek takes advantage of the fact that in the typical dwelling only a few of the rooms are ever being used simultaneously, and so eliminates that space of the unused rooms, or rather trades it for additional unprogrammed free space. This additional area serves as the family’s political space, where the individual members must negotiate its disposition at any particular time.
Location: Inland Empire, CA, US