Future of Suburbia, 2014-2016

Modern suburban development has endured in our cultural imagination for almost a century. More than 67% of all U.S. residents live in suburban areas and that number is growing. Urbanized territory is rapidly rising on almost every continent. The American model of suburban development has been adapted all over the world with phenomenal success and often signifying upward social and economic mobility. Globally, suburban development will account for the largest segment of new growth and urbanization to 2050.

With the success, growth, and increasing global social and economic dependence on suburbs, the MIT Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism believes it is time to explore how they may be improved through better design and planning. To be sure, we need to examine how new templates and technologies might be embedded into them for higher levels of sustainability and performance, and we need to ask whether new suburban models can be created for developing world contexts, what this might mean for new land tenure models needed, and how new forms of the suburbs in the developing world may evolve over time. These questions and more were addressed through three major components of the biennial theme – a published book, an exhibition, and the LCAU’s Spring 2016 conference:

Exhibition: The 2016 Future of Suburbia exhibition featured contemporary photography of global suburbs paired with futuristic designs for new suburban models based on LCAU and MIT research initiatives around aging, immigration, water, food, poverty, mobility, energy, and health as they apply to the suburban condition.

PublicationInfinite Suburbia will be a defining tome on global suburban development, covering topics such as history, demographics, social justice, planning, policy, energy, transportation, health, environment, design, form, economics, technology, and more. Published in fall 2017.

Conference: In April 2016, the LCAU hosted a two-day Future of Suburbia conference at MIT’s Media Lab, bringing together international experts for panels focused on 4 thematic aspects of suburbia: heterogeneity, experimental, autonomous, and productivity.

Fall 2014