The need for revolutionary housing solutions may be one of the most important issues we face as architects in the upcoming years. In my article “Density=Destiny: Broadening the Local Sustainable Discussion” written in 2005, I outlined how the leaderless sprawl that had governed the Phoenix, Arizona growth plan for the last few decades was absolutely unsustainable. Unfortunately, the uninsulated and crashing home prices in these fringe areas seem to prove my point.
The Case Study housing program (1946-1966) provided 36 individual home designs focused on new modes of living. Decidedly modern, these solutions have provided a foundation of living style and substance for architects for the past 50 years. But what about the next 50? Are we simply to design the next updated box (with incorporated green principles for PC value), repeat it 100 times on the same .25 AC lot subdivision, and call it an advancement over what the current big builders are doing? The answer is obviously “no”, but leads to -“so, what then?”
I think there are a few correct answers. One has to be higher density. Density isn’t a four letter word. Good examples of it are around. Portland had a large competition last year, and the entries were fantastic: http://www.courtyardhousing.org/entries.html
Also, there is a growing movement towards adaptive reuse. In most cities (and especially in Phoenix) there are droves of infill lots that need to be re-imagined. Lots closer to center city. Lots large enough to contain a variety of living spaces as well as support functions. Lots that deserve to be something more than empty paved parking lots and abandoned retail strips. There are also good examples of this, and this book makes the case as well as any I’ve seen: http://www.amazon.com/Retrofitting-Suburbia-Solutions-Redesigning-Suburbs/dp/0470041234
The case for new case studies, then, is this: We of course need to study and test and recommend and provide the housing solutions for the next wave and follow the course of study to its logical end, even if the end is something unexpected. The answer isn’t likely singular.