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Dreamin’ California

Productive Landscape and Chaparral Compact

Feiyue Chen
MIT SMArchS 2018
In collaboration with Mengfu Kuo
Instructors: Alan Berger, Rafi Segal, Jonah Susskind

When facing new technology, designers are the ones who optimize its relations with the existing elements, transforming the current state into future imaginations. Designing the future is, to some extent, a way of projecting subjective wills onto the unpredictable.

The project investigates the potential suburban transformations in Palm Spring, California, brought by the technological development of the Automated Vehicles (AVs) system. Situated in 2050, the project presupposes a Level 5 AVs system (Completely driverless).

Highways, roads, bridges, and tunnels, our traffic system has been shaping the form of American suburbs dominantly, especially in California since the 1850s. These infrastructures brought about the old California dream: goldrush, a second chance, a new world, instant wealth/fame.Incorporating multiple metaphysical denotations, the phrase "California dream" constructed the ultimate image of a utopian life: a combination of beautiful landscapes and comfortable homes.

The California dream has long been a doubling of, first, the human ego of manipulating nature, and second, the unlimited appetite with uncontrolled consumptions. The combination has created a myth or illusion of having infinite land for the “theme park city” to endlessly sprawl. A misread of the human-nature relationship that has been and will be harming the city itself.   

What we are proposing here is a perceptual transformation from “ego” to “eco”. The beauty of the Automated Vehicles (AVs) system is its efficiency, security, and the much-reduced need for street paving. All these will generate a more flexible traffic system than the existing one, thus enabling the traffic system to become a suburban player to serve more urgent issues in the context. With the new form of technology, we are able to re-arrange the spatial sequence to enable a higher level of rationality and sustainability, an integrated suburban amalgam overlapping numbers of layers together as an organic whole.

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