In thinking about the suburban growth and the sprawl, we can not help but wonder where nature has gone! The built environment is growing at the expense of the natural environment, and population growth indicates that this will go on in the future. Where is place for nature in suburbia? How can these different ecologies – the ecology of people, the ecology of cars and the ecology of nature – coexist and integrate in a new model of development?
We have come to the conclusion that green spaces, parks or open spaces, as the lungs of the built environment and one of the driving factors for the creation of the suburbs, should become the force that restructures the suburban fabric. Juxtaposition of a network of green space on the existing urban network demands re-structuring of the geometry of the grid. For this restructuring we used the tool of parametric design to interpolate and subdivide the urban fabric. This led to a robust and flexible system that could accommodate the specifics of any given site.
“Speculative Urbanizations”, a graduate studio at CornellUniversity provided us with an opportunity to test our idea at a location in Las Vegas. The suburbs of Las Vegas are characterized by the sprawl as the phenomenon of suburbia and the projected population increase, the two issues that are the reason for re-thinking urban tactics for the suburbs. We used the existing network of wash lines present in Las Vegas as a generator of an ecological corridor, which would, in turn, lead to restructuring of the urban geometry. Triangulation was the most appropriate interpolation method for the specific site, and resulted in a variety of parcel sizes, housing typologies, and open spaces.
Nature gradually makes its way through the entire development, from the ecological corridor that reinstates animal and plant migration routes, followed by a recreational buffer zone that provides valuable amenities to the residents, and a network of greenways that mitigate the harsh desert climate, finally reaching each individual housing unit through the courtyard house typology.
Possibilities of the courtyard house are researched to suit the various needs of residents, both in the traditional house-on-a-parcel model, and a new collective housing typology. The combination of the triangulation method and the stackable courtyard houses create a housing structure that deals with increased density, while maintaining the privacy of each unit. Its form allows for the accommodation of various functions to be incorporated within the core of each structure, leading to a mixed-use development. The building types are designed to be commercial, civic, infrastructural and recreational, supplying the neighborhood with a range of amenities which make it financially and programmatically sustainable.
The ecological approach to the development is further reinstated by limiting vehicular traffic to the outer ring surrounding the individual housing area, while pedestrian and bicycle traffic are encouraged through the infrastructure of the greenways leading to the center of the development. Public transport is given an important role in the way the development is accessed, by including a larger bus station in one of the buildings.
We create a Microcosm of Las Vegas, which consists of porous high-rises brimming with life and activity that surround the Mediterranean town of narrow shaded streets and larger open spaces, ending in a landscape of people, animals, trees and water. Each of these different ecologies is a part of life in the new suburb.