about       home

skokie, illinois · taubman college · thesis studio
winter 2022 · instructor: el hadi jazairy

Suburbia is ubiquitous, a placeless space — regardless of geographical context. The extent of this endless repetition began in post-war suburbs. This era of new housing construction was like no prior period in American residential history. The inception of synthetic materials through the chemical revolution and proliferation of mass production techniques created a new method to produce not just homes, but neighborhoods, en masse.

Suburbia is often dismissed by architects as an environmentally problematic space that lacks thoughtful or unique design. By the general public, post-war suburbs are labeled out of style or obsolete. In recent decades, this has led to mansionization — the demolition of older homes to be replaced with substantially larger residences. McMansions are displays for wealth, representing more of an asset than a space for placemaking. Nonetheless, suburbia remains the most popular housing typology for households; the COVID pandemic has only heightened this preference.

Regardless of cultural perceptions of obsolescence, homes built between 1950 and 1970 represent over 28 million homes and more than 27 trillion megajoules of embodied energy. It is also composed of some of the most toxic and hard to reuse materials. Too much energy has been committed to this housing stock to be ignored.

I utilized a catalog format to propose new ecological modalities for reinventing suburban living. It references the home catalogs common to the mid-century and  was selected as an accessible communication tool with consumers. The approaches presented in this catalog center on minimal environmental impact, and making light adjustments to better nurture the suburban ecosystem.

Suburb b presents replicable strategies that may be adjusted for varied climate zones and cultural contexts in suburbs across America. The issue I produced for my thesis was the Midwest, USDA hardiness zone 6 edition. Three dominant areas are considered into which the catalogue is segmented: biodiversity, energy production and collection, and home reconfiguration and retrofit. Culturally, the assumption that all populations will move into dense high rises is naive. Each method is proposed for independent incremental efforts or cohesive implementation. There is no planet b; suburb-b offers a much needed recomposition of suburbia.


© talia moretti