An alternative reality for Gary, Indiana

Project Title: Heterotic Mutations: American Dream(land)

Location: Gary, Indiana

Author: Vardhan Mehta + Braden Young

Ecology Economy – American Dreamland, Vardhan Mehta + Braden Young

The demise of rust belt cities like Gary, Indiana was brought upon by a multitude of factors – its pledge of allegiance to the steel industry, modernist planning principles like abstraction from grid and separation of city functions into zones. All of this entangled in the fragile materialisation of the American Dream as an individual’s ownership of a house, a car and a plot of land.

Heterotic Mutations proposes a speculative re-imagining of the American rust belt—and, by extension, the American middle-class dream—by developing an alternative reality for Gary, Indiana. This urban fantasy re-configures and reevaluates the relationships between heterogeneous elements of an urban and suburban condition such as ecology, changing demographics, live, work and play. By adopting the site’s ecology as a catalyst of urban operations and the main organizational tool for the city, Ecology here is the emergent whole that is constructed through the interaction of the user groups and their environment, from systems of liability and resource. This urban framework does not dominate the city but is empathetic to its contextual growth.

Heterosis is the tendency of a crossbred individual to show qualities superior to those of both parents. This principle is realised by creating mutations of programs, functions, landscapes and user groups. The city block is no longer subservient to the grid and the automobile but a dynamic porosity that relies on bottom-up development. Housing is no longer a free-size solution but a typological mashup of other embedded programs geared towards multiple user groups and their sensibilities. The nodes are dense hybrids of transit, commerce and housing that promote attitudes of the collective. We use the notion of these urban fantasies to elicit ideas for choreographed growth.

Text provided by the author(s).