Marcin Chmura, a recent graduate from London's Bartlett School of Architecture, has developed a project which attempts to imagine a new future for the 'American Dream'. The United Suburbs of AmeriKa, named after Franz Kafka’s novel in which—despite never having visited America—he depicts the United States as a utopia offering eternal wealth and happiness for his foreign protagonist.
In 1836 the US cleared its debt for one day by selling large parcels of land to private buyers. Although this led to a six-year depression, the US—desperate to rekindle the ‘American Dream’ now unattainable for most citizens in a debt-dependent economy—has again turned to real estate to alleviate National Debt.
The US takes on the role of Global Waste Importer, exploiting global environmental concerns to surreptitiously acquire cheap materials with which to manufacture landmasses featuring the defining elements of American Suburbia: houses (inflated plastic), lawns (radioluminescent nuclear waste), permanent blue sky (woven textile), vegetation (stacked paper), and a spring microclimate (metal reflecting light).
These landmasses form the United Suburbs of AmeriKa, a new state marketed to foreign investors as a dependable real estate investment. The US provides an opportunity to increase the value of an AmeriKan house with custom options, a white cloud or foliage. These suburban landmasses are never occupied, although maintenance services and upkeep are provided. To appeal to American citizens, the suburb manufacturing facilities are shaped as typical US leisure activities.
The New Congress
The New Congress, a 2000m x 500m cargo ship, voyages around the world to collect waste from the highest waste producing nations. Modelled after the National Mall in Washington D.C., its iconic white dome now symbolises America assuming environmental responsibility, while the feasting Garbage Men (America’s former politicians) reveal the economic intentions behind the waste collection.
Upon its return to America, the New Congress sorts waste into five types which are then distributed to production facilities to be reappropriated as building materials for archetypal suburban elements. Each urban typology is modelled after one of five struggling sectors to stimulate economic growth.
- Nuclear Cooling Pond – Agriculture
- Metal – Mechanical Engineering
- Plastic/ Glass – Hospitality Management
- Textile – Art and Fashion Design
- Paper - Accounting
White Picket Fence
The White Picket Fence now separates America from its third neighbouring country, AmeriKa. It is patrolled by pink plastic flamingos evocative of those found on suburban front lawns.
United Suburbs of AmeriKa
Each material is transported to AmeriKa for assembly. As most of AmeriKa is toxic or radioactive and therefore uninhabitable, AmeriKa embraces buy-to-leave plans for foreign investors, a phenomenon affecting most metropolitan cities today.
As an idle ensemble of waste, the Suburbs of AmeriKa require constant maintenance and filtration. The Bioremediation plant - which takes the form of the Tower of Babel to hint at the inevitable failure of the utopia - filtrates toxic leachates produced by the landmass to protect the ecosystems below and maintain the financial value of the investment vehicles. As a byproduct, they produce AmeriKan apple pies from the vegetation used in the filtration process.
Real Estate Agent
After purchasing an AmeriKan landmass, foreign investors are treated with an AmeriKan apple pie, recreating the hospitable tradition in the US when welcoming a newcomer to the neighbourhood.