This website is a record of what was said about Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, an architecture exhibition co-curated by The Buell Center at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, from April 2011 through August 2012.
Preface: How We Talk about…
How do we talk about architecture? Housing? Cities? Culture? Politics? As the evidence collected here testifies, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, an exhibition that ran at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York from 15 February–13 August 2012, and was co-organized by MoMA architecture curator Barry Bergdoll and myself, offered an occasion for many people to talk about many things. Or, I should say, to write about many things, since that is what is collected here: bits and pieces of text written by a wide variety of individuals about and around the exhibition and its premise.
These comments testify to how we talk about, write about, and otherwise debate culture and politics, aesthetics and economics, design and policy. They also demonstrate, tacitly, what we do not allow ourselves to discuss, what we conveniently ignore, forget, or otherwise remove from the table. The comments were compiled by the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University, a research institution that had provided a “script,” The Buell Hypothesis, to be interpreted by the five architect-led teams who designed new housing for five different American suburbs for the exhibition at MoMA. Details on the script, the design teams, the process, the public workshops, and the exhibition are available in the catalogue, Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream (Museum of Modern Art, 2012). The material collected here differs from that in the catalogue, insofar as here we record what others—not the curators, not the participants, but members of different publics—had to say about the show and the issues it addressed.
We initially compiled this material, which runs from printed articles to blogs to reader comments to tweets, as a record by which to gauge our efforts. The goal of The Buell Hypothesis and of the exhibition was, from our point of view, to “change the conversation” about housing and suburbanization in the United States in the context of the ongoing financial crisis. More specifically, it was to put the question of public or social housing on the table in a new way, with the help of concrete architectural proposals.
As a result, we had before us a controversial and widely reviewed exhibition that we had co-organized and therefore knew intimately. Through the course of the exhibition’s run, links and references to critical reactions came in on what often seemed a daily basis. During the same period, we organized a number of follow-up events and discussions, together with MoMA and separately, as did others. So we also had before us a unique dataset of public reactions to a cultural event that touched on some of the most sensitive issues of the day. Chronologically, one might observe in these reactions a rough, uneven swing from uncritical enthusiasm to (sometimes) righteous skepticism to—gradually—deeper reflection, though I must admit that I remain personally unsatisfied about the limited extent of the latter, presumptuous as that may be.
Mirroring the contours of official discourse in the United States, the exhibition was celebrated in The Nation and attacked on the Fox Business Network. Nevertheless, our ultimate purpose here is not to measure public reaction, pro or con, and thereby accede to the metrics that dominate cultural and political discourse alike. Rather, it is to hold up a magnifying glass to the public sphere itself. It is to inquire into what can and cannot be discussed in public, in a variety of arenas and by a variety of stakeholders, around a subject that carries undeniable urgency and yet, is usually framed in an extraordinarily narrow and instrumental manner. If the material interests you, I therefore urge you also to note the silences, institutional and otherwise, that show boldly through the debate. And to ask: What is being assumed here? By whom? And for what historical reasons?
Other than organizing the material according to thematic categories, we have refrained from interpreting the data. Instead, we offer it to you to reflect and perhaps comment upon further. In the exhibition catalogue I noted that the overall project was conceived under the distant sign of Enlightenment, which the philosopher Immanuel Kant described long ago as “mankind’s exit from its self-incurred immaturity.” Based on the evidence here and on much else, my own provisional conclusion is that the conversation around housing in the United States, especially in the suburbs—“ground zero” of the financial crisis—is not, for the most part, enlightened. On the contrary, it is arguably quite “immature.” Changing it requires changing the common sense around which public debates are structured. But perhaps as you peruse these assembled comments, shouts and murmurs from interested parties big and small, you might join me in discerning glimmers of hope, traces of profound thought and of profound commitment that force their way onto the page or onto the screen. It is to these traces that this document is dedicated, with gratitude to all who have helped make them visible along the way.
Introduction: For the Record
With this collection of material, the Buell Center has compiled an archive, a snapshot of discussion and debate on topics close to home for most Americans. As Reinhold Martin notes, this compilation is largely rooted in the Center’s need to investigate the results of its attempt to “change the conversation” about housing. As such, we who have compiled and edited the contents have come to understand this project of culling and categorizing as one of data collection. To downplay our own biases, we have aimed to minimize editorial voice. After all, given our involvement in the exhibition that sparked this conversation, as well as the nature of the discussion itself, it is difficult—if not impossible—to argue that these issues are not close to home for us as well.
Fundamentally, the project seemed simple: The Buell Center sought to compile and present the conversation surrounding the Foreclosed exhibition and the workshops that led to it. We culled essays, reviews, interviews, and weblog posts as well as tweets, photographs, videos, and comments from the viewing and reading public. The content ranged from multipage art-world reviews of the exhibition to broader essays and broadcasts on the American economy that mentioned the show. We collected everything we could locate that was published or circulated between the announcement of the project in April 2011 through the week following the show’s closing in mid-August 2012.
Very early on, two questions emerged with implications for our attempt to avoid editorializing. The first was quite simple as we took stock of the sheer volume of material: What to include? Or rather, if necessary, what to exclude? The second question was considerably less straightforward as we pored through thousands of comments in response to hundreds of articles and began to see just how many conversations were taking place: How can we even begin to catalogue, organize, and ultimately make sense of and learn from “how we talk about” a given issue when that seemingly singular issue comprises most facets of American life?
The Buell Center’s approach to these two questions has shaped this collected dataset. Thus, some description of our decisions—the dataset’s “metadata”—is in order.
The comments and conversations are presented here in strict chronology. They constitute far more than a representative sample, but also far less than an exhaustive collection. Because the “official” perspectives of the exhibition (including those of the Museum of Modern Art, the Buell Center, the curators, and the architect-led teams) are compiled in the exhibition catalogue and on the Museum’s website, we have largely opted to highlight the reviews, responses, and reactions to the show and the conversations that took place beyond these “official” venues. As a result, many of the blog posts published on the Museum’s website during the workshop phase have been omitted, as have most of the Museum’s tweets. Likewise, many published mentions of the exhibition containing only reprinted language from MoMA press releases have not been included.
However, the goal of focusing on the wider conversation is balanced by the need to properly frame that conversation relative to the exhibition. Thus, particularly in the early portions of the timeline, a small handful of descriptive articles and framing blog posts has been included to supply that context. Additionally, essays featured on the MoMA/PS1 blog after the conclusion of the workshop phase appear within this collection, since they include reflections by collaborators and team members and thereby bring individual voices into the discussion. In the spirit of full disclosure, it should also be said that Martin and I have each entered the public discussion at different points. Our respective essays are therefore included here: Martin’s appears within an essay-format roundtable discussion, and mine as lessons from the project based on early reactions to the show.
Further, a considerable amount of material included in this archive has been quoted or cited as well as reprinted, reposted, and retweeted. In these instances, care has been taken to indicate which articles have traveled to the far reaches of the Internet without necessarily including each appearance made by a given text. For example, where new reader comments are posted to reprinted text, those comments are presented with the original article, as are direct comments made via Twitter.
The follow-up task of organizing and excerpting the material took its cue from classification techniques used in quantitative research methods. We looked at the compiled dataset in search of its inherent “natural breaks.” Rather than asserting an arbitrary classification system or one that would be too heavily embedded with our own assumptions, we combed through the material, taking note of the topics of discussion, aiming to let the dataset speak for and classify itself. Through the process, related topics were grouped together, as were divergent opinions on similar issues. In the end, we assembled thirty-three distinct topics of conversation woven through the discourse. These topics are applied as tags for each excerpt, comment, or tweet in this volume and summarized in its index.
The conversation topics are purposefully nonpartisan. In other words, excerpts or comments with the same tag may contain arguments and opinions either for or against a specific issue. Some topics are purely binary: Comments that veer into political name-calling, for example, generally fall into the category “Liberal versus Conservative.” Others are rather broad, made up of several perspectives centered around a common theme. For example, the label “Homeownership” is applied to a range of comments discussing the comparative values of homeownership and renting, the financial mechanisms involved in and structural barriers to owning a home, opinions on the mortgage industry or the alternative ownership models presented in the exhibition, and so on. A few topics are the result of conversational dynamics enabled by the online forum itself. For example, “Internet Banter” is used to indicate instances where commenters engage in a back-and-forth—sometimes maintaining the topic of conversation, sometimes simply complimenting an article’s author for a well-written piece, and sometimes devolving into heated insult-laden exchanges.
What we have hoped to compile—for our own reflection and research and for any interested reader—is an archive that allows us to trace the many circuitous threads of a conversation and begin to untangle how we talk about these very contentious, personal, and public issues. These threads constitute an almost topological web or network of public discourse, with some topics converging repeatedly and others being discussed together only within certain contexts. One hope is that this archive may serve as a suitable dataset for investigating these patterns (e.g., in what contexts does housing affordability get linked to transportation infrastructure and access to jobs?). Toward this end the project’s online incarnation features robust sort and search functions to aid a reader in navigating the paths of discussion.
To reiterate: The Buell Center has decidedly refrained from drawing conclusions from any preliminary analysis of the data. There are, of course, many reasons for this, but one in particular is worthy of note: recognition of the act of deliberation. How we talk about our culture and its many related dimensions, values, and their implications is inextricably bound to the production of that culture. This compilation includes several conversations that, upon cursory glance, resemble deliberative processes. We offer this collection with some hope that its contents may be further deliberated, discussed, and debated while the conversation continues.
Foreclosed is announced on 25 April 2011.
MoMA Design Program to Promote Rethinking of Housing in Light of Foreclosure Crisis
Foreclosure Crisis Sparks Project on “Rehousing the American Dream”
The Suburbs are OK
Suburbia: What a Concept
Architect in the Middle
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Foreclosed: Visit the Teams for Open Studios
Foreclosed: Rewriting the Script
Foreclosed: Between Crisis, Possibility and Revision
Are Museums America’s Last Hope for Civil Discourse?
Glen Lowry, Director of the Museum of Modern Art in It’s Not Just a Museum, It’s a Think Tank.
Dispatches from the Changing American Dream: Expanding the National Conversation
Reimagining the American Dream
It’s Not Just a Museum, It’s a Think Tank
Foreclosed: Prioritizing Project Elements
The Art of Advocacy: The Museum as Design Laboratory
MoMA Project Starts Rebuilding the American Dream, Starting in Orange
Update: Foreclose: Rehousing the American Dream / MoMA
Arts and the Quality of Place
"Foreclosed" Open Studio at PS1
HONORABLE INTENTIONS: Why are art institutions dabbling in city planning?
Foreclosed: Close of the Workshop Phase
Orange NJ: A Model for the Future. MoMA joins local nonprofit HANDS in recognizing a bright future
Civic Action and Long Island City: Foreclosed, Suburbia, and the American Dream
Foreclosed: MoMA Takes on Suburbia
Foreclosure and the question of how form follows finance
Foreclosed: Buying into the 'American Dream'
Foreclosed: Thoughts on Cicero and Collaboration with Jeanne Gang
Video: Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream / WORKac
Foreclosed: Reverse Engineering
Times are changing in the early ‘all-alike’ suburb Levittown
Foreclosed: The Role of the Team in the Design Process
Rewilding and the Musuem of Modern Art – Really!
Inviting Consultants to the Design Table
This Week's Jumble -- Jan 30, 2012
The CRIT: Thoughts on MoMA's Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
MoMA Rethinks Architectural Possibilities around Foreclosures
Museum Of Modern Art Offers Exhibit On Foreclosure
Suburban Density in Cicero – The Importance of Small Affordable Housing Units in Chicagoland
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream Proposes Infrastructure Change for American Cities and Suburbs
Foreclosed Homes Breathe Inspiration into Architects
Designing a Fix for Housing
Can This Suburb Be Saved?
‘Foreclosed’ Reopens the American Dream
A Blueprint for a New American Dream; Will Architect Jeanne Gang's Ideas for Cicero Work in the Real World?
New Exhibit at MoMA Highlights Reimagined Suburbs
Foreclosed opens at the Museum of Modern Art on 14 February 2012.
Housing and the 99 Percent
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
MoMA’s New Exhibit Scrutinizes the Suburbs
A Radical Approach to Homeownership
The American Dream, Revised
MoMA Misses by 99%
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Jeanne Gang’s Proposal Transforms Chicago’s Rundown Cicero Into a Thriving Neighborhood
New MoMA Exhibit “Foreclosed” Reimagines Suburban Life
Housing Crash at MoMA
Architects Reimagine the American Suburb for MoMA’s ‘Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream’ Exhibit
Jeanne Gang’s Proposal to Transform Chicago’s Rundown Cicero into a Thriving Neighborhood
Our exhibition site "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream" (show open through July 30) has launched: http://bit.ly/yNOJZZ
Has “Design” Become an Activity of, by, and for the 1%?
Suburban Renewal at the Museum of Modern Art
Rehousing the American Dream
Great Cicero designs http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …MoMa's Foreclosed exhibit also re-imagines Kezier, Rialto, Temple Terrace & The Oranges.
Rather Utopian approaches to reconfiguring US suburbs. http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …Not sure people would actually want to live in these...
What do you think about a bit different neighborhood ? ... http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Sympathy for the Suburbs
MoMA’s ‘Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream’ Exhibit.
Reassembling the American Dream
Breakfast Links: Phones
Lena Beug at MoMA
Questioning the Value of an Outsider’s Perspective in MoMA’s “Foreclosed”
MOMA exhibit examining foreclosures in Orange and discussing the redesign of its housing and supporting infrastructure moma.org/interactives/e…
Foreclosed: Architecture Center Reimagines Suburbia after Housing Crisis
Foreclosed Forum: Suburbs, Cities, and Crisis
Rewriting the rules of urban repair, MOS imagines an unconventional solution: http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
The Museum of Modern Art Tackles the Foreclosure Crisis
Architecture Brings New Life to Foreclosure Crisis
Art+Architecture: Fact and Fiction in The Buell Hypothesis
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream at MoMA
Architects Re-imagine the Foreclosured Cities
Re-Imagining American Suburbs
Gary Gibson, Minneapolis, Minnesota... Building in the streets...
Suburbs, Jetson style: MoMA Remaps America [SLIDESHOW]
What’s On: Foreclosed at the MoMA
Moma: Foreclosure Exhibit | Part 1
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream | If you are visiting New York, you should see this great exhibit at the MoMA: http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Thoughts on MoMA’s Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Rehousing the American Dream at MoMA
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream
Activist Exhibitions Overcome Display Difficulties
Suburban Design: Pomp and Paternalism
Does your Suburb look like THIS?
Living with Nature in the Post-Suburbs
The New American Dream: Stunning Designs for the Suburbs of the Future
Architects, planners, ecologists, engineers, and landscape designers rethink suburbia at the moma.. looks cool. http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Art world does makeover of the American Dream
Look at your Neighborhood
An Artistic Revision of the American Dream
Nature-City: Suburban Housing for Agrarians at Heart
Dreaming of Home
Can Designers Fix America's Suburban Foreclosure Problems?
Hissing about Suburban Lawns
Small Town, U.S.A
A View from Temple Terrace
Open Access study: The Buell Hypothesis responds to the ongoing mortgage foreclosure crisis, not with narrow .. http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
'Change the dream & you change the city' - food for thought at 'Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream' exhibit, MoMA http://bit.ly/wqFcxE
Foreclosed Homeowners Inspire Museum’s Architects Show
Reimagining Temple Terrace’s Look and Financial Future in a Post-Housing Bubble Economy
Recap: What is Foreclosed?
Financing Suburban Architecture
Banks to Pay $25 Million to NY State over Mortgage System
What Mumbai and Beijing Can Learn from New York
Who is Going to Pay for Those Architect-Designed Plans for the Suburbs?
Exhibition Review: “Foreclosed” at MoMA
Of the grid and ghostowns
If you get a chance, visit the awesome Foreclosed exhibit at MoMA NY. Reimaginations of housing models in suburbs. http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Architects Fix Half-Built Inland Empire Subdivision for MoMA
Reality Check: Developers React to MoMA’s Show “Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream”
“Shifting Suburbia” brings visionary thinking down to earth. Not top-down, give people the design tools they need. http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Re-imagined areas devastated by housing crisis for MOMA http://bit.ly/yr57AO << Brilliant use of a digital narrative
MoMA Rehouses the American Dream
http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …Cool exhibit with work by architects, and planners, in NYC...
Foreclosed is MoMA's exhibition of proposed ideas to address the American housing problem http://www.moma.org/interactives/e …
Foreclosed: New Ideas of Suburbia at New York’s Museum of Modern Art