Architecture, College of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-24-2021

Document Type



A Design Thesis Presented to the Faculty of The College of Architecture at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Master of Architecture, Major: Architecture, Under the Supervision of Assistant Professor Ellen Donnelly. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2021

Copyright © 2021 Brenton Rahn


Responding to the unchallenged sprawl of suburban cities in the Midwest, the proposed principles seek to densify and further diversify the established social and political norms which currently still stagnate progress toward more autonomous neighborhoods. Through application of a specific set of principles that serve as guidelines, Modding Suburbia seeks to create dense, usable space from previously unused and forgotten interstitial areas hiding in the suburban landscape surrounding the socially and politically protected single-family home.

This project focuses on the transformation of the immediate context surrounding the single family home to promote density and diversification of housing and community. Through interstitial methods of construction in the underutilized areas of the suburban lot, a sense of place can emerge which gives way to community, diversity, availability in terms of more affordable housing for lower income families, and autonomy as it creates walkable facilities where previously, there were none.

Research trajectories supporting this proposal include: understanding the current and historical situation of suburban America from its roots of how it began, to the housing boom of post WWII, housing crisis’ of the 21st century; American housing market statistics; relationships between architects and the general public; zoning laws relevant to the implementation of previously mentioned principles of Modding Suburbia; current trends concerning accessory dwelling units, home business operations, and work from home mandates of the COVID-19 pandemic; mass transit systems of growing metropolis’s; previous research concerning suburban retrofitting; and landscape alternatives to the grass lawn.

Advisor: Ellen Donnelly