America’s suburbs are not the homogenous places we sometimes take them for. Today’s suburbs are racially, ethnically, and economically diverse, with as many Democratic as Republican voters, a growing population of renters, and rising poverty. The cliche of white picket fences is well past its expiration date.
The history of suburbia is equally surprising: American suburbs were once fertile ground for utopian planning, communal living, socially-conscious design, and integrated housing. We have forgotten that we built suburbs like these, such as the co-housing commune of Old Economy, Pennsylvania; a tiny-house anarchist community in Piscataway, New Jersey; a government-planned garden city in Greenbelt, Maryland; a racially integrated subdivision (before the Fair Housing Act) in Trevose, Pennsylvania; experimental Modernist enclaves in Lexington, Massachusetts; and the mixed-use, architecturally daring Reston, Virginia.
Inside Radical Suburbs you will find blueprints for affordable, walkable, and integrated communities, filled with a range of environmentally sound residential options. Radical Suburbs is a history that will help us remake the future and rethink our assumptions of suburbia.
Join us for the launch of Fred Scharmen's Space Settlements!
In the summer of 1975, NASA brought together a team of physicists, engineers, and space scientists—along with architects, urban planners, and artists—to design large-scale space habitats for millions of people. This Summer Study was led by Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill, whose work on this topic had previously been funded by countercultural icon Stewart Brand’s Point Foundation. Two painters, the artist and architect Rick Guidice and the planetary science illustrator Don Davis, created renderings for the project that would be widely circulated over the next years and decades and even included in testimony before a Congressional subcommittee. A product of its time, this work is nevertheless relevant to contemporary modes of thinking about architecture. Space Settlementsexamines these plans for life in space as serious architectural and spatial proposals.
Fred Scharmen teaches architecture and urban design at Morgan State University's School of Architecture and Planning. His work as a designer and researcher focuses on how architects imagine new spaces for speculative future worlds and who is invited into those worlds. Recent projects, with the Working Group on Adaptive Systems, include a mile-and-a-half long scale model of the solar system in downtown Baltimore (in collaboration with nine artists), and a pillow fort for the Baltimore Museum of Art based on Gottfried Semper's Four Elements of Architecture.