Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Thesis Research has Begun...

Alan T. Kirkwood
Written: 9/18/2013
Well, I have begun to research my thesis topic and think I have one narrowed down. I have a personal interest in this project and it is something that I am passionate about which will more than likely help push me along in researching for it. I am focusing on suburban redesign. The areas of focus are the suburb I live in back home, Olympia Fields, as well as two neighboring ones. These areas each have their own individual situations they are dealing with, but they all seem to fall under this blanket of socioeconomics. This term is simply defined by Merriam Webster as "Of or involving both social and economic factors." Wikipedia goes on to further explain it as "…the social science that studies how economic activity affects social processes. In general it analyzes how societies progress, stagnate, or regress because of their local or regional economy, or the global economy." In the case of these three suburbs, there is a failing of business or a lack there of, which I believe is having an effect on the sense of community and vice versa. The property taxes for home owners in some of the areas have increased substantially because of the lack of business, the mall and shopping centers are on the decline due to the failure of large corporations as a whole in this country and the local people not supporting the growth of them. Rather, the people of these suburbs travel elsewhere to do their shopping instead of encouraging and opening more businesses here. My family's is one of the areas that have been affected by the spike in the property taxes which brings in my personal interest, as well as the fact I would not like to travel 15 miles to purchase things I could right down the street from my house.

In my research for my topic, I came across articles and lecture videos of a professor from Georgia Institute of Technology. Architect Ellen Dunham-Jones is one of the leading people in the big sustainable design project of the next 50 years called "retrofitting suburbia". www.ted.com/speakers/ellen_dunham_jones.html. She gives examples of cities that are thriving due to the retrofitting of former mall areas and major streets and how these encourage people to walk more in suburban areas. More so developing an urban feel in a suburban setting. The goal is to "reduce the ecological footprint and energy consumption while improving the health and communities and providing living options for all ages within these communities." (ted.com) In the video, She gives case studies all over the United States to prove her point. I also found competitions going on worldwide to redesign suburbs of large cities, particularly one in the UK for some suburbs outside of London. The name of it is Adaptable Suburbs with the purpose of studying "the relationship between networks of human activity and the changing form of urban and suburban centres through time". www.ucl.ac.uk/adaptablesuburbs. These sites have also been helpful in my urban design studio project as well just in some of the concepts and ideas presented. I will share more on this in a later post..... 

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