With a little imagination, there’s hope for the burned out strip malls and acres of asphalt formerly known as “suburbia.” They can be turned into active, usable, livable places.
That’s the word from Ellen Dunham-Jones, an award-winning architect, Georgia Tech professor and author of “Retrofitting Suburbia”. I caught up with Ellen at the International Making Cities Livable conference in Portland, Oregon, a town I’ve written fondly about because it helps people to be weird.
According to Ellen, “Underperforming properties present tremendous opportunities.” In some cases, Big Box buildings can be re-purposed. In others, a stream underneath a parking lot could be returned to its former splendor.
Here, she summarizes her TED talk in three minutes:
It hasn’t been that long since I wrote “Down and Out in Suburbia on Carfree Day.” I live near Tysons, a redeveloping area in northern Virginia outside Washington, D.C. But when a new Metrorail line arrived, my life changed. I’m no longer confined to a car. I can walk to a new bus line and ride my bike to the rail.
The Walmart pictured above is located at the station nearest my home. The store is tucked into the first floor of a 1960s parking building that is still used partially for that purpose.
I haven’t moved, but sometimes I wonder: do I still live in suburbia?
To get more inspiration for being active, effective and “built to last”, read the easy, breezy Durable Human Manifesto – now also a 25-minute Audiobook with the sounds of music, nature, robots and giggly kids.