Suburbia is not as built out as it seems. Consider the mapping of 8,300 acres of opportunity – vacant parcels and parking lots – in the many small downtowns of the country’s “first suburbs” on Long Island. On the occasion of the release of these revealing new interactive maps, the Long Island Index invites all architects, urban designers, planners, students, visionaries and everyone else interested in shaping our suburbs’ future to help us “Build a Better Burb.” This ideas competition seeks bold design proposals for retrofitting underutilized asphalt in suburban downtowns into innovative and surprising new uses, forms and urbanisms.
Roughly equivalent to the area of Manhattan south of 50th St., 8,300 acres is a lot of land. It is still, however, only 1.1% of the land mass of Nassau and Suffolk Counties. By building in a new way on this land, rather than elsewhere on Long Island in the old way, there is tremendous opportunity to address the contemporary challenges of suburbia, by shifting focus to the prewar landscape of small towns and mass transit that languished during decades spent constructing highways, shopping malls, dream-home subdivisions and far-flung office parks. How might Long Island’s existing downtowns be creatively retrofitted – redeveloped, reinhabited and/or regreened – in ways that are economically productive, environmentally sensitive, socially sustainable, and aesthetically appealing?
Building suburbia in the old way is no longer working. Statistical indicators show that Long Island is facing several pressing challenges: to build affordable housing and greater housing choice, especially for rentals; to reduce car dependency and congestion; to bring Long Island’s diverse communities together in a shared public realm; to improve equity and access to opportunity for all; to meet the needs of retiring baby boomers who wish to age in place; and to fight the “brain drain” of younger residents who don’t see a future here and leave.
There has been a crisis of imagination, and your bold new ideas are urgently needed. There should be no preconceptions about what is or is not possible. What would you do on these acres of opportunity? Build a car-free community for thousands? Plant an oasis of urban agriculture? Produce renewable energy and provide well-paying green jobs? Use landscape systems to repair ruptures in regional ecologies?
The best ideas, designs, images and videos will be selected as finalists by a diverse jury of distinguished academics and professionals and exhibited on the website. Cash prizes totaling $22,500 will be awarded.”