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Can The End Of Military Bases Mean The Start Of New Public Spaces?

As bases close around the country, a new competition asks whether we can do something interesting—and important—with all the land.

Vast new open spaces will open up to the world during the next 10 years: the U.S. military is closing or realigning more than 235 military sites as part of its orders to find $489 billion in savings over the next decade.

So Architecture for Humanity (AFH) has a question for you: "Can we use this opportunity to bring economic stability to areas deserted by closed bases?"

As host of the Open Architecture Challenge, AFH is asking designers around the world to re-envision the future of decommissioned military space through its "[un]restricted access" competition. The six-month competition (PDF brief) with $5,000 in prizes wants architects and design teams to transform former places of conflict into "civic spaces built for the public good." If teams don’t have bases closing in their own communities, Architecture for Humanity has selected five sites that teams without a local site can use including Cuba’s Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, the NSA’s "East Bank" in New Orleans and Flak Towers in Vienna, Austria.

They’re raising some tough questions in the process: "Can we re-envision the more than 750,000 abandoned bunkers that pepper the Albanian landscape? Is there a second life for the recently bombed Libyan military strongholds? Can we use environmental diplomacy to re-imagine Guantanamo Bay Detention Center? Is there a way to turn vacated bases in Afghanistan into places of learning?"

But turning places of conflict or decay into vibrant centers of community life and ecological restoration is the kind of work AFH already does around the world. Its network of 50,000 design and architectural professionals donate their time and skills to build (or rebuild) shelter for those mired in poverty, recovering from natural disasters or simply in need of better design environments.

Those are exactly the skills to redesign military bases for a new generation asked to beat an earlier era’s swords into plowshares.

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  • sr613

    I think this is a great idea and it will definitely NOT be a one solution fits all scenario. It would be great if most could be turned into greenspaces or community focused areas.

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  • Lolly

    there are countries in deep crisis that continue to invest in military development

  • Jim Beeler

    The idea that military bases before remote from many townships, will suddenly provide windfalls is a pipedream. Living around a few towns where this happened previously and noting those communities still struggling even since WW II, odds are against positive results.

  • Lotus Yee Fong

     Can you please specify which towns?  I remember when the Rust Belt in the Midwest created economic migrants to Albuquerque, New Mexico in the late 70s for non-union right-to-work jobs at Levi Strauss and Intel.  Later, when we moved to California in the early 80s, I watched BRAC base realignment and closure shut down Mare Island in Vallejo, Alameda Naval Base, Concord Naval Weapons Base, the Army Presidio went from Post to Park (National Park Service).  McClelland Air Force Base near Sacramento has been converted to high-tech incubators.  Concord is undergoing commercial conversion.  Near Monterey, Fort Ord has become Cal State University Monterey Bay.
    I agree that it's not easy or possible everywhere, but it's not impossible.