In a future where limited natural resources will force us to find better solutions for density and efficiency, what will become of the cul-de-sacs, cookie-cutter tract houses and generic strip malls that have long upheld the diffuse infrastructure of suburbia? How can we redirect these existing spaces to promote sustainability, walkability, and community? It’s a problem that demands a visionary design solution and we want you to create the vision!
"Visionary design" is all well and good when you're working on a blank slate, but it matters very little when you're trying to retrofit whole subdivisions. Rising energy prices might create demand for denser and more efficient suburbs someday. That doesn't mean we will get denser and more efficient suburbs, though. The obstacle will be the homeowners who like things the way they are, and there will always be lots of homeowners like that. Sure, they might agree that other homeowners should live in denser and more efficient suburbs, but they won't want their own subdivisions retrofitted with greater density, no matter how visionary the design.
As energy becomes more expensive, those who want to live closer to work or to live in smaller, more efficient apartments or condos will move. Those who stay won't want their neighborhoods to change. I don't believe that central Austin neighborhoods, for example, will ever welcome greater density in the neighborhood interiors, no matter how high land prices get. If density can't get any traction in central neighborhoods where density makes the most sense today, I don't see it ever getting any traction in suburban neighborhoods. Great design won't entice homeowners in suburban subdivisions to cancel covenants, support rezonings, and make the other hundred changes that would be necessary.
Or perhaps I'm just too pessimistic.