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Since 2008, the Buell Center has been engaged in a long-term initiative dedicated to cultivating a new, national conversation about the past, present, and future of public housing in the United States, particularly in the context of the current economic crisis. This conversation has taken shape, in terms of both architecture and urban policy, through the wide distribution of our pamphlet, Public Housing: A New Conversation, and a series of unique public programs. This work envisions that genuinely public housing is needed, and investment in housing and related infrastructures could serve as a catalyst of urban transformation in American cities and suburbs.

The pamphlet synthesizes Buell Center research and ideas generated in the Public Housing/Public Sphere: Policy and Design Workshop held in July 2009 at GSAPP’S Studio-X space in downtown Manhattan. It seeks to restate the problem by reconsidering the facts: that public housing exists in the United States in a variety of forms, that more of it is needed in other forms, and that these needs are connected to those public needs addressed by recent investment in other types of infrastructure. These ideas have been further explored in The Buell Hypothesis, which continues the effort to enlist the design community in rethinking the American dream and contemplating a potentially different future for public housing and the American city.