Audi CEO Rupert Stadler announced that the Boston Firm Höweler + Yoon won the German automaker’s second Urban Future Award at an event in Istanbul last night. The €100,000 prize was the culmination of a competition to design a speculative, transportation-focused vision for a large-scale urban area.
Höweler + Yoon’s winning plan reimagined the East Coast of the United States from Boston to Washington, D.C., as “Boswash,” a single interconnected metropolitan area. The project would massively upgrade the Interstate 95 corridor to become a conduit for high-speed rail, freight, and shared cars. “It’s conceived as a retrofit,” says firm partner Eric Höweler. “The hardest thing about infrastructure is acquiring the land, but I-95 is already there.”
The plan calls for turning Newark, New Jersey, into a giant transportation hub. It also incorporates what the firm calls a “tripanel” system, paving units that automatically rotate to a grass-covered side to accommodate pedestrians, a pavement side for cars, and a solar panel side when not in use. Beyond transportation infrastructure, the plan also outlines a the conversion of derelict neighborhoods along the I-95 spine into farms to serve the region. The firm also proposed a system of housing units inhabited temporarily—like a vacation timeshare—to serve a population constantly circulating through the region. “We see a lot of bottom-up urbanism—learning from the city,” he says. “But we want to talk about big plans.
Some members of the jury balked at the house-sharing idea, including the previous Urban Future Award winner Jurgen Meyer. “That part of the project was conceived as a polemic,” says Höweler. The firm cast the move as an update of the American Dream for a population more interested in mobility and easily accessible resources than traditional single-family homes and individually owned cars. Though he admits that the model could present a problems of homesickness and senses of place, the plan addresses the changing culture and lifestyle of “Boswash” inhabitants in addition to their infrastructure.
The firm beat out four other teams, each focusing on its own region, to win the award: CRIT from Mumbai, NODE Architecture & Urbanism from China’s Pearl River Delta, São Paulo’s Urban-Think Tank, and the home team, Superpool, from Istanbul. An exhibition showing all of the competition entries is on view at the Hasköy Spinning Factory in Istanbul through December 26.
Top: Eric Höweler with Audi CEO Rupert Stadler / © Audi Urban Future Initiative
Project presentation: © Höweler + Yoon Architecture