The Open House: A Model For A Future Suburbia

I watched Inside Job by Charles Ferguson a few days ago. This compelling documentary does not only expose the economic crisis shocking truths but reminds us about the impact on ‘ordinary’ people in the US and abroad. America is plagued by unemployment rises and record foreclosures with the suburbs particularly hit. The Open House, a project developed by the Dutch design group Droog in collaboration with the architecture firm Diller Scofidio & Renfro, imagined a new model to revive the suburbs.

Inspired by the New York City’s service economy and entrepreneurial spirit (dog walkers, drycleaners, nail salons…), Droog and DS+R worked with a series of designers to explore “what value personal service exchanges might offer to suburbia”. Explains Droog’s co-founder and director Renny Ramakers:

“We realized this system does not only create jobs and encourage social encounters, but also plays a psychological role for the service providers, in stimulating them discover something they are good at. We saw that the habit of outsourcing all kinds of life tasks by people in New York encourages others to invent their own professions. We also noticed that many service providers we met created their profession with little investment and new infrastructure.”

Nine design teams helped Levittown, NY residents to ‘discover their inner service provider’, to build up a home business that would match their skills and interests, create interactions with the community and possibly generate earnings. On Saturday, April 23rd, the public could view and participate in Open House prototypes featuring a domestic museum, a block pantry or an awesomely absurd Attention Clinic.

This Future Suburbia might sound idealistic and will not solve the suburban problem entirely but she conveys serious values. The Open House model recognizes the power of the people, communities and creativity as solutions to over-consumption and economic crisis.

Credits: Future Open houses
Photographer: Naho Kubota