Exurban Futures: A handbook for architecture potential on an emerging frontier; Chicagoland’s periphery.
Intrigued by the ‘edge’ conditions that surround our rapidly expanding global cities, the moments where city and countryside begin to blur, this project aims to provide architectural suggestions for a zone that is under-addressed by the academy and profession.
The site, situated on the edge of the Chicagoland area in Kane County, Illinois, provides the opportunity to tackle the complexities of exurban life. A confluence of routes, of farmland, of suburbia, and of historic settlements like St. Charles and Geneva as well as where their jurisdiction ends (incorporated vs. unincorporated) positions the scheme. The Kane County Fairgrounds becomes a loaded symbol and anchor of the countryside, a hub of an agricultural culture (authentic or not), and how it interacts with the city.
From a series of prompts/artifacts: geological calendars, soil production indices, supply and logistics networks, settler outpost – suburban present, and Kane County Plan 2040 and CMAP 2050, five exploratory operations are produced for the following themes: Building Thriving Ecologies, Establishing Robust Agricultural Platforms, Diversifying Regional Exchange, Radicalizing the Single-family Home, and Empowering Sociocultural Network – as questions, as catalysts. Final hybrids emerge from these topics explorations, forming a spatial suggestion of exurban futures, a synthesis of a journey, exposing the invisible forces at play as well as a gesture for further integration by stakeholders.
While each of these topics could have been a thesis project on its own, this design survey allows for a beginning of a deeper study, imagining what an architecture could be on the edge of Chicagoland. It aims to bring together site, resources and references, using the tools in an architects toolkit to speculate about an overhaul of exurbia that effects meaningful critique and change.
Major prompts include: Countryside: Future of the World (2020) exhibition and publication Countryside: A Report by Koolhaas/AMO, Reorienting the Rural (2019) programming at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, Finding Exurbia: America’s Fast-Growing Communities at the Metropolitan Fringe (2006) by the Brookings Institute, Infinite Suburbia (2017) by Berger, Kotkin, and Balderas Guzman, Radical suburbs: Experimental living on the fringes of the American city (2019) by Hurley, and Sprawl and suburbia: A Harvard design magazine reader. (2005) by Saunders and Fishman.