Synopsis: The Burlington File, the case study for the book Suburban Transformations, defines new ways to transform edge city-like conditions and their suburban contexts into more sustainable, livable communities over time.
Detailed Description: The book’s central premise is that the identity of a rich, memorable place emerges over time from the interaction of natural and human-made forces, often leaving traces of past interventions. The tendency of our culture to “erase” the natural landscape and all vestiges of past constructions impedes communities from developing unique identities.
The town of Burlington, located on the perimeter of greater Boston along Route 128, has become a significant node for retail, businesses and institutions. While its population officially registers 23,000, more than 120,000 people work in, live in or visit the Burlington Mall area daily. Its development pattern, typical of most edge cities, is anchored by a major mall, cluttered with office parks, randomly sprinkled with strip malls, and carpeted by immense parking lots.
This case study uses the “open design matrix,” which allows for place formation through time, shifting social forces, and changing community stakeholders. An extensive mapping process allows better comprehension of the site’s historical and contemporary operational forces. This analysis, when combined with a reading of the community’s mandate, can generate new scenarios for a community’s transformation.
Depicted as “film clips,” these computer-generated transformations illustrate a step-by-step transformation that allows testing of multiple options before actually committing resources to finalizing place design. These dynamic, flexible processes enable communities to adjust and recalibrate their designs over time as circumstances change.