Monday, July 30, 2012

The American Dream

For many years, beginning when I was in college, I went to a dentist whose office was within two blocks of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). Whenever the opportunity presented itself, I would also stop at Chock full o'Nuts next door for a brownie. (For those of you who have never heard of this chain, consider it a more vanilla Starbucks.) And if I had extra time, I would spend some time at the MOMA. I won't say that this made visiting a dentist pleasurable but I always enjoyed the time spent at the MOMA.

Many years later, I still enjoy spending time at the MOMA. Yesterday was such an opportunity. My younger daughter and I were in New York City for the day and after lunch we stopped by the museum. In all the previous visits to the museum, rarely have modern art and economics crossed paths (unless you consider the $ value of some of the art) but yesterday we saw a very dynamic exhibit entitled "Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream." As you enter this exhibit, you pass by a map of the United States that shows foreclosures by state with different colors representing the different percentages of foreclosure. Clearly, as is visible and as we all know, we have a serious foreclosure problem prompted by a serious recession (and lackluster recovery) with housing and mortgages as a cause and also a victim.

As noted on the museum website:
Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream is an exploration of new architectural possibilities for cities and suburbs in the aftermath of the recent foreclosure crisis. During the summer of 2011, five interdisciplinary teams of architects, urban planners, ecologists, engineers, and landscape designers worked in public workshops at MOMA PS 1 to envision new housing and transportation infrastructures that could catalyze urban transportation, particularly in the country's suburbs.
This effort was in response to a report prepared by the Buell Center at Columbia University and the end products were a series of inventive solutions to the issues confronting our suburbs with specific recommendations for five important suburbs across the country. Now why did this exhibit fascinate my 11 year old daughter? The answer is not that she has studied these issues in 5th grade nor is it that I have spent time with her talking about foreclosures. The answer is that the exhibit included "a wide array of models, renderings, animations, and analytical materials" that captured her attention and her interest.

Very often disciplines divide serious issues, which are then studied in one silo when the problem and the solution transcend many silos and disciplines. As the exhibit clearly demonstrates, we can "rehouse the American dream" but certainly not by doing the same old things in the same old ways. See the exhibit before it closes on August 13th or pick up the book which has the same title. Economics and architecture never looked better together.

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