The winners of the Build a Better Burb design competition were just announced, and a student group from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture and Planning and Preservation proposed an impressive concept to redevelop the suburbs on Long Island into a more sustainable and self-sufficient region. Upcycling 2.0 by Ryan H. B. Lovett, John B. Simons, and Patrick Cobb suggests densifying towns and making better use of underutilized infrastructure like parking lots. The plan also focuses developments around transit hubs, and zones for agriculture and conservation are clearly marked out.
The goal of the Build A Better Burb competition was to address several challenges facing the vast suburbs of Long Island. The competition sought to specifically address ways to build more affordable housing, reduce traffic congestion, provide more jobs, and provide local food. The entries were filed down to 23 finalists, and yesterday the six winners were announced — all of which provided interesting or viable suggestions for how to improve the region. Upgrading transportation via a rail network and providing better hubs filled with commerce and residential seemed to be a common theme, and there were many projects that incorporated agriculture more fully into the fabric of the suburbs.
Upcycling 2.0’s basic premise is to use the basic building blocks of cities and towns and combine them on parcels of land to better utilize our space. For example, instead of a big box store with a huge parking lot, the space would be better utilized as a combo unit containing a store, parking, and a high school built on top. Likewise, a strip mall can be topped with a row of single-family townhouses with a green belt built beside. In this way, single-use lots can be transformed into multi-use parcels, making better use of the space and providing multiple functions for area residents. Upcycling 2.0 does not propose that we tear down the existing infrastructure — instead it suggests to upcycle and add to it in order to make it more useful.