Let Them Burn

Stéphane Degoutin and Gwenola Wagon



These projects were imagined for the competition Reburbia - A Suburban Design Competition, which goal was to « reinvent the suburb » (read : the american suburb). « Let Them Burn » and « A House, a Garden, a Stockbreeding » have made their way up to the « Notable Entries ».


Superstudio's Seventh City (Continuous Conveyor Belt City) moves with its eight million inhabitants. In front of the city is a factory that builds the new districts, and behind it, another factory that destructs the older ones. It is an image of the american suburb: its main characteristic is not to sprawl, but to move. Continuously, new suburbs are built, and old suburbs are abandoned (see Detroit).

This movement is older than the suburb itself : the US have a long tradition of ghost cities, aimed at a semi-nomadic population and left in place after use. The crisis has accelerated the process.

These ghost towns sometimes become attractions for tourists, such as the cities of the Gold Rush.

For sure, all the vacant developments will not become touristic attractions.

We propose to use the other ones for great popular parties, during which the houses will be set to fire one by one. This suburban ritual is inspired by the Detroit « Devil's Nights » and European tradtional festivals.

This destruction-consumation is to become a huge potlatch.

Let the suburbs die. There is nothing left to do with the territories consumed by residential sprawl.

A house, a garde, a stockbreeding

The huge amount of vacant land in the abandoned American suburbs can be used to increase the ruralization of the city.

We propose developments which are sold as packs :

House + Land + Stockbreeding

Each housing type is associated with a species or a culture. Housing standards are associated with agricultural standards.

Each pack is ready to use. It comes with a user guidebook, a training if needed, a one year guarantee and assistance service (an assistant farmer can be required).

We propose themed neighborhoods, specialized on a few plots of land: the sheep district, the chicken district, the pig district... This would allow neighbours to get in touch to keep or exchange their animals.

This proposition requires an advertisement campaign. A persuasive propaganda promotes the idea of miniature farming and breeding, and the dreams associated with a rural environment (peasant idyll, family arch...), very far from a real farmer's life.

Theme Park City

Abandoned american suburbs form the largest architectural decay in the history of mankind. They revive the fascination for the derelict, ruins, ghost towns and defunct theme parks.

Empty suburbs (whether in Detroit or in Dubai) can be considered as found objects. They could, in the future, be destroyed by fire or replaced by forests.

But ruins are for tourists and strollers. Therefore, we propose to visit them, in the same way as the ghost towns of the west can be visited.

Abandoned developments are a hugely scaled game field, a free zone. Neglected areas are turned into theme parks for tourists. Attractions are randomly mixed within the urban fabric, as a theme park which would have been blown up in spare parts.

Muddy Estates

Residential suburbs are marketed at increasingly narrowed customer niches, according to the income, age, hobbies, sexual or religious preferences... Ultra specialized communities tend to appear: gay and lesbian only retirement communities, christian fundamentalists communities, or amateur pilots communities. It is a new form of segregation: segregation by marketing (and, of course, many of them are not only themed, but also gated).

We propose to create communities for even narrower niches.

Muddy Estates is aimed at mud wrestling amateurs. The main avenue of the development is maintained constantly wet, so that the residents can benefit from the best quality of mud, at any time of the day - or night. Each house has a muddy living room, to allow more private games.