This project imagines the urban and rural future of suburban Boston over the next century.
Ebenezer Howard’s conception of the Garden City champions a form of settlement where small islands of dense urbanism draw from a much larger adjacent territory full of productive rural uses. Contemporary suburbs ignore this interdependent relationship. Instead, rules dictating minimum lot sizes compel development of single-family houses spread randomly across the landscape with no relationship to civic collectivity or to the productive potential of the land. As Albert Pope identifies in his book Ladders (1996), the resulting disaggregation of ownership makes suburbs a de facto boundary for city expansion because cities cannot consolidate subdivided land into large enough tracts to extend the grid. Suburbs also bound agricultural zones because many agrarian uses require similarly large areas.
As most Bostonians will continue living in suburbs in the future, this thesis intervenes to intensify the inhabitation of a typical neighborhood 20 miles from the urban core. Houses in low-density areas far from important nodes are abandoned or relocated so that their lots can be assembled for commercial forestry, sequestering carbon and recreating local production ecologies. Over decades, the harvested wood becomes raw material for construction in neighborhoods designated for density, linking the pace of urbanization with the pace of tree growth. New building types overlaid with existing single-family homes respect lot lines while subverting their function as boundaries, creating new scales of community.
The consequences of this speculation play out through three lenses that address the divergent desires of zoning officials, community groups, and construction professionals.