Jul 21st 2016

This panel discussion, moderated by Judith De Jong and Marshall Brown, questions new forms of decentralized urbanism in the contemporary American metropolis. Panelists include Robert Bruegmann, Claire Cahan, Andrew Metter, Juan Gabriel Moreno and Mark Muenzer

While references to American suburbia typically conjure an image of vast, homogeneous tracts of post-war residential neighborhoods, this roundtable begins with an understanding that decentralization is neither new, nor specifically American. Rather, it is evident as early as the third millennium BCE, where outlying settlements of Mesopotamian cities focused on commerce and industry. Early American suburbia was likewise often industrial, and developed distinct municipalities; some of which were annexed by their central cities, while others faded into oblivion or developed into thriving economic hubs. Therefore, when looking historically, decentralization has traditionally acted back upon the city center, forcing a reconsideration of urban forms and qualities.

The contemporary American metropolis is characterized by a wide range of decentralized urbanisms, many of which exhibit open or loose formal and spatial patterns. However, because these patterns are harder to identify, understand, and instrumentalize, and because the architecture is so often banal, these conditions are easily dismissed. This panel discussion seeks to re-examine these urban forms, as they are often some of the largest and fastest growing parts of a metropolis, as well as generators of innovative new architectures. It asks: What are these new forms of architecture and urbanism in the decentralized American metropolis? What are the primary forces being materialized in their making? And what are the opportunities for the future?

Image: “How the Strip Mall Can Save Suburbia” by Judith K. De Jong and “Smooth Growth” by Marshall Brown

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