Mobile Suburbia, Get A Tiny On-Demand Lawn For Your High-Rise Apartment

Urban residents can already order up almost anything delivered at their convenience. But not a backyard–yet.

Cities are the land of mobile everything–not just the ubiquitous food truck, but mobile dentists, science labs, mobile parks, and even a mobile city hall. Why not add a mobile backyard to the list?


Gothamist recently pointed us to Mobile Suburbia, a temporary yard designed by Aaron Berman while he was a student at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture (for a class, appropriately, in “Mobile Architecture and Mobile Services”).

“I wanted to provide a space that could temporarily transform one’s ‘urban experience’ into something completely different,” Berman said. He thought about what he liked about the suburbs–relaxing with friends in a little private green space. Since most yards only see a few hours of use each week, he reasoned, city dwellers could actually rent outside space when they needed it rather than having a permanent lawn.

It’s a little like Julien Berthier’s vision for a mobile Parisian balcony, though Berthier’s balconies were attached to the top of a crane and could easily drive up and drive away. Mobile Surburbia, Berman imagines, would actually hook onto a building.

“While the work is still highly conceptual at this point, the idea is that there could be multiple attachment points to the building’s existing structural system,” Berman says. “Through the use of cables, anchors, hooks, etc., the Mobile Suburbia unit could attach to virtually any facade. Multiple variations could be designed to attach to different building typologies like the glass skyscraper or the brownstone.” In some buildings, he says, it might be possible to add it as an extension to an existing fire escape.

It’s bigger than a typical balcony, with room for storage, a table, and a lawn. Someone could invite friends and family over for a barbecue, or even a miniature game of croquet.

Would having access to a temporary backyard keep New Yorkers out of city parks? Berman doesn’t think so. “If anything, it will provide the setting–that previously rarely existed outside of the suburbs–to talk with your neighbor over the fence, while still in your own ‘backyard,'” Berman says. “The only difference is unlike in the actual suburban backyard, you could be six stories in the air.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.