Architecture, College of


Date of this Version

Spring 5-2023

Document Type



Rebecca Virgl, "Designing the American Dreamscape: Suburbs of Worship and the American Dream," University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2023.


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 Jason Griffiths. Lincoln, Nebraska: May 2023

Copyright © 2023 Becky Virgl


This thesis explores suburbia as the physical manifestation of the American Dream as a pseudo-religious system. This religious system and contemporary suburban ideology are explained and disseminated through a historical review and analysis of suburban media. Pop culture serves as a signpost that directs public opinion and cultural value; much of media today wrestles with the ideas of the American Dream, fore fronting these cultural values in our collective identity. Once the baseline of socio-economic religious ideology has been established in the American Dream, the extremes of these beliefs were explored in three suburban environments: home, labor, and retail. Each building took aspects of contemporary American culture and skewed them against the American Dream’s three main beliefs of economic success, individuality, and privacy. The buildings were then displayed in an exhibition that explored satirical methods of exploration. Ultimately, the American Dream, and in a broader sense architectural representation, prioritizes the artifice of success over the actual fruits of meaningful labor; if the image of success can be sold, then the work becomes successful.