Interboro partners Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca, and Georgeen Theodore met as students at Harvard's Graduate School of Design, where they found themselves slipping between disciplines. They wanted to unite architecture and planning, using the creativity of the former to loosen up the data-heavy world of the latter. The trio won its first honor in 2003 with the Dead Malls Competition. Their proposal envisioned an intermediary life for a mall in Fishkill, N.Y., as it awaited redevelopment, putting in place the tools Interboro continues to utilize. The team researched, visited, and photographed the mall intensively, finding that it was not dead, but rather a place of ongoing activities, both formal (a postal distribution center) and informal (a flea market). Interboro's proposal arose from what was actually happening. "Our analysis stems from our love of the built environment and our love of how space functions," says Theodore.
With the Improve Your Lot! project (above), begun in 2004 as a winning entry in collaboration with the Center for Urban Pedagogy in the Shrinking Cities competition, Interboro and the center studied empty residential lots in Detroit and the homeowners who not only remained but spread out and occupied abandoned adjacent lots. The firm documented the practice, seeing it as positive. (In this instance, a homeowner maintains a garden on the neighboring lot, which is owned by a billboard company, and uses discarded signs as ground cover for her plants.) As advocates, Armborst, D'Oca, and Theodore continue to educate the Detroit community on ways of achieving landownership.