The Supurban Project is a thesis project in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s B.Arch program by Nick Axel (who now lives in Santiago, Chile). Located in Phoenix, Arizona it questions the status of suburbia as a inanimate grid by designing a megastructure inspired from the 70’s that breaks this grid and reactivate neighborhoods by linking them together and implementing new public spaces.
One of the reasons of existence of Suburbia was in fact to kill public space as it was understood with the Mediterranean paradigm [we currently see what it allows with the “Arab Spring”]. Quoting an article I wrote a year ago about the Obscure History of Suburbia, Mike Davis affirms in City of Quartz that public space in the American city has been destroyed for a reason of control and security, free gathering of people being too hazardous and uncertain for a system that bases its self-sustainability in the anticipation of its subjects’ behaviors. Suburbia is thus a way to kill the Mediterranean street to replace it by the road or the highway that prevent any social interaction between people.
I read Nick’s project as a metaphorical manifesto, a megastructure as an extreme and literal expression of a will to invent a new paradigm of public space inspired by the Mediterranean one but incorporating the modern American fascination for cars and highways.
The following text is his statement for this project:
Our surroundings result from specific techniques to organize networks of people, goods, flows, and services. The urban plan attempts to orchestrate these systems into economically sustainable spatial practices. The American suburb, established as an alterity to the industrial city, was founded and marketed on existential conceptions of subjectivity. Acting as an ideological framework for the creation of identity, it represents the first explicit modeling of a social network. Working dialectically, the suburb’s efficacy was consequentially negated as it propagated the American landscape; its difference dissipated. As a typical 20th century city, Phoenix Arizona developed largely on standardized suburban prototypes that are inevitably made obsolete by newer peripheral developments. Atrophy has become an affliction with vacant land and degenerating fabric. The network is crumbling from the inside out.
This thesis revolutionizes the aberrant form of the contemporary city to reinstate the existential potential of the (sub)urban realm now lost. Patterns inherent to the suburb are polemically redeployed in the prototypical first-ring suburb of Garfield using a radical strategy of “homogeneity + homogeneity = heterogeneity”. Subverting the suburban morphologies’ logics, a sprawling form is superimposed over the landscape; a continuous infrastructural and programmatic network reifies their symbiotic relationship. Juxtaposing these distinct spatial ecologies engenders a dynamic landscape of differentiation and localization, producing a context for the reterritorialization of the urban subject.