Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
From Question to RightVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 265 - 267 published: 2023-02-07
The Right to Housing: A Holistic Perspective. From Concept to Advocacy, Policy, and PracticeVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 269 - 267 published: 2023-01-10
A Right to Housing: A Compelling Idea and an Elusive RealityVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 287 - 297 published: 2023-01-10
At Home with the Collective: Hilberseimer, Labor Unions, and the Women’s MovementVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 299 - 323 published: 2023-02-02
While housing could be described as one of the basic forms of architecture and one of its main responsibilities, if not today’s most crucial task, architecture has largely ceased to rethink established forms of living and the politics and economies that surround it. Escaping the pervasive models of profit-based home ownership in the West seems increasingly difficult when housing is dominated by neoliberal market values. Already at the beginning of the twentieth century, however, some architects struggled with similar conditions within the metropolis. Ludwig Hilberseimer’s proposals for new types of living for a new kind of liberated individual are particularly instructive today as they rethought housing as a right, allied with unions in order to rethink its financial models, and learned from activists in the Women’s Movement to question the dominant narratives around heteronormative family structures and domestic labor. In our time of ballooning housing costs, stagnant wages, failed trickle-down economics, and shortages of affordable housing, these urgencies have not lost but only gained momentum.
The Right to Housing: Architectural Composition as a SolutionVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 325 - 343 published: 2023-01-25
Housing is one of the main themes related to the creation of the city and plays a central role in the definition about how people live together. The development of new living strategies face many different fields of interest: urban planning, economy, social sciences, ecology, sustainability, technology. Architectural composition plays a central role in the definition of how all these matters can coexist and how it is possible to increase urban density and people’s quality of life. The analysis of Louis Sauer’s work on low-rise high-density houses outlines a solution useful for a variety of situations. Higher urban density makes it possible to increase real estate income from investments and, consequently, to increase the architectural quality of the buildings as well as the urban landscape. It gives a tangible answer to many aspects related to urban sustainability making the city more compact, reusing brownfields instead of greenfields, facilitating pedestrian cycle mobility or the use of public transport instead of private cars, and thus helping to reduce urban pollution and the use of natural resources.
Countering the “Troublesome Unit”: Compensatory Design to Create Equity in Social HousingVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 345 - 361 published: 2023-02-01
Housing scholars have shown that moving has inherent hazards and can create disruption for social housing residents as well as collective disruption within communities. This paper draws from social housing case study sites in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Analyzing those apartments with the highest rates of turnover, what property managers call “troublesome units,” revealed architectural attributes that influence frequent moves. These attributes are related to apartment size, layout, and location within the building. To reconcile the resultant inequity in apartment design, this paper proposes a theory of compensatory design, in which the architect offsets unavoidable negative attributes with positive elements to equalize turnovers between apartments. Ultimately, architects who see a troublesome unit, not as a lost cause, but as a challenge to excellent design solutions, will better serve their clients, the residents who live in the buildings, and the communities at large through the reduction of lost housing.
At Home from Emergency Shelters to Temporary LivingVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 363 - 380 published: 2023-01-24
The “right to housing” is recognized as a primary right for the realization of every person, as is the “right to mobility,” understood as the right to move to improve one’s living conditions. Today, people with unstable living and working conditions due to a multiplicity of social and/or geopolitical factors are housed in precarious housing located in the city suburbs. This model replicates that used for the management of emergencies such as earthquakes and/or catastrophic weather events. Many of these shelters, despite being able to generate their own “social microcosm,” are in a state of degradation that reinforces social alienation: we could define them as “places of exclusion.” The research presented proposes to go beyond the emergency model starting from some reflections on the “right to housing” in relation to urban regeneration processes observed in some alternative European examples. The research aims to verify whether transitional housing for refugees and foreigners can be located within urban centers, and how they should be part of a broader (urban and social) regeneration project.
The Watershed House: A Water Harvesting Prototype for Vulnerable CommunitiesVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 381 - 397 published: 2023-01-17
A potential answer to the call for a human right to sustainable and equitable housing, water access, and environmental justice may be found in the wings of a desert beetle. This paper presents a housing prototype integrating various water harvesting strategies and biomimetic solutions derived from the Namib beetle. An exploration of issues at the intersection of water access and equitable housing is presented through a literature review that demonstrates how housing conditions, access, and affordability are linked to a lack of infrastructural services, including water, which has subsequent health implications. The paper reviews both passive and active water harvesting opportunities for architectural integration. The paper concludes with a description of the prototype through a case study addressing the housing and water access needs of colonias communities in Texas, and sheds light on water access and housing affordability challenges, proposing architectural and policy strategies to address these issues. The speculative housing prototype integrates water harvesting solutions using a prefabricated kit of parts approach allowing for flexibility and adaptability across various communities where centralized infrastructure is technically or economically not feasible.
Hybrid Mass Timber + Additive Construction: Projecting an Urbanistic Building System for Social HousingVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 399 - 421 published: 2023-01-25
Mass timber construction has been cultivated as an environmentally sustainable and cost effective approach for housing typology. However, repetitive and regularly shaped timber structural systems for larger scale affordable housing applications tend to be homogeneous, lacking unique and personalized spaces for both individuals and the collective, hindering the progress of more diversified and inclusive living communities. Concurrently, rapid additive (3D-printed) building construction has begun to emerge in the single-family housing market due to its benefits of mass customization, reduced onsite labor costs, and time efficiency. However, present production and building typology at a single-unit-scale are still limited for complex social housing projects. This research aims to integrate mass timber and rapid additive construction into a hybrid system. Hybrid affordable housing, through mass timber construction and additive manufacturing processes, is intended to evolve into environmentally conscious architecture as an extension of nature. It not only provides healthy and adaptable physical spaces but also supports everyday urbanism as a response to diversified personal needs and desires for a more sustainable future.
Central State Infill: Middle Housing Solutions in Oklahoma City, USAVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 423 - 444 published: 2023-01-11
The essay discusses the urban form problem in contemporary American mid-size cities, and the relationships between urban growth and residential models, in the light of ongoing demographic, economic, and environmental phenomena. Rediscussing typical urban growth models in American cities is key for the sustainable future of these communities. In a time of significant climatic transformation, traditional city models must be updated to generate renewed climate-resilient urban forms. That means reducing waste heat and greenhouse gas emissions through compact neighborhoods that integrate energy efficiency with transit and walkability. The first part of the essay introduces the topic of urban growth in the United States. Ongoing urbanization is considered in relationship to emerging climate phenomena, change in demographics, and housing market trends. The second part discusses the current planning debate in Oklahoma City (OKC), one of the largest and most populated cities in Central United States. In addition, the essay presents a selection of recent infill housing developments for OKC’s urban core, discussing how they are contributing to the debate on sustainable urban growth in the city.
Surplus Land: How Architecture Can Transform Underutilized Public Properties into Affordable HousingVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 445 - 451 published: 2023-01-13
As the cost of land becomes increasingly expensive, cities are posed to establish new ways of finding sites to encourage affordable housing and housing for people experiencing homelessness. Cities in California and across the US are looking to surplus land, or underutilized publicly owned land, as a resource to develop new housing. One of the obstacles with this effort is the inconsistency of the surplus land parcels. Challenges these sites might be facing can include a lack of zoning, contamination, and a lack of connection to residential or pedestrian-friendly zones. With surplus land presenting a viable option for developing new affordable housing, Architects will be a key component to reimaging these sites to contend with the challenges they face and to integrate this new land use into neighborhood contexts.
Listening as a Methodology, Longevity as a Goal: London’s Tustin Estate Master Plan as a Case Study for Community-Led Design DevelopmentVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 453 - 476 published: 2023-01-13
This essay explores the relationship between a group of design professionals, a community of residents, and a local council in the early stages of the Tustin Estate renewal project – a Master Plan and Phase One Regeneration for a south-east London post-war housing estate. In 2021, the estate’s residents voted in favor of demolishing and rebuilding its low-rise buildings in a residents’ ballot. This essay positions Tustin Estate’s engagement phase as a notable case study for community-led design, providing an overview of London’s introduction of resident ballots in estate development, leading onto the example of Tustin Estate’s ballot, which initiated its engagement strategy. Interviews with key members of the engagement process form the central research to this essay, which explores the role of ballots in estate regeneration; approaches to building authentic engagement; the importance of community ownership; and how listening enables knowledge transfer and creates a blueprint for longevity. The essay defines longevity as the culmination of design and build solutions based on principles drawn directly from residents’ needs, each of which being robust enough to avoid demolition for the long-term.
Five Esthetics of the Global Development Industry: Building Low-Cost Housing in RwandaVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 477 - 502 published: 2023-01-25
This paper argued that, in parallel to financial feasibility, the esthetics play a powerful role in swaying the donation and investments away from low-cost housing projects in the development context. The paper analyzes the development industry’s structure and its players and asks how architects could ally with the End Users by understanding their self-building practices. The architect in the global development industry works with at least five clients. They are the Funders (often from the global North), the Local Government (often in the global South), the Architectural Disciplines in the funder nations, the Local Building Sector, and the End Users. Our survey of 370 self-build homes in Rwanda attests that not all actors represent their values equally, and the End Users, the actor with little resource and leverage, may be rendered silent in this process although they have the most at stake. While the global development industry tries to eradicate self-building activities, the End Users continue to claim the built environment by tapping into their social capital, and share labor, materials, and knowledge. Their architecture simultaneously protests and participates in development.
Incremental Development Manual: Toward a Cooperative Model of Housing in Ulaanbaatar (Mongolia)VOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 503 - 527 published: 2023-01-20
The population of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, has increased by 197% in the last twenty years, resulting in the creation of sprawling districts with no basic infrastructure that house over 60% of the city’s population. Current development plans are proving ineffective as they require huge investments toward land-owner compensation and infrastructure, and rely on developers for implementation. As an alternative, we have developed a strategic framework for sustainable and affordable district upgrading for these sites as an Incremental Development Manual. The manual offers a strategy for in situ development that accommodates incremental growth and collective improvements to residents’ shared plots. It operates on a small scale, working on the mutual benefits of four households working together as the basic unit for all further transformation. This paper will demonstrate how this strategy reflects the diversity of housing needs and incomes of ger district inhabitants, and discusses potential financial tools for housing and infrastructure provision, including the potential for cooperative development.
Experimenting with Mass-Housing Regeneration: Two Pioneer Actions in Bolzano (Italy) as Part of the SINFONIA ProjectVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 529 - 552 published: 2023-01-19
The public housing sector in Italy faces a generalized crisis, which does not spare the issue of architectural and urban quality, both in the (relatively few) new buildings realized over the last three decades, and in increasingly frequent regeneration actions. The latter – the subject of this essay – generally do not go beyond conventional maintenance and are typically limited to applying essential technical solutions for energy efficiency. They miss the opportunity to update the building stock to address current housing needs. Against this backdrop, the case of SINFONIA – a five-year project financed by the European Union – represents a relevant exception. The paper presents two recent housing renovation actions developed within SINFONIA and conceived by AREA Architetti after winning two design competitions. Both actions interpret conversion in the most inventive ways, demonstrating an aptitude for a real aesthetic rethinking that changed the appearance of the buildings experimenting with two profoundly different design approaches: reinterpretation and metamorphosis. In presenting the two actions, this essay reflects on the procedure and design lessons to be learned from this experience for transfer to other situations.
A Modular Approach to Colonia Landscapes in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande ValleyVOLUME 7/2022 - Issue 2 [The Right to Housing], Pages: 553 - 576 published: 2023-01-30
The Lower Rio Grande Valley (LRGV) is a transborder region that lies in the floodplain of the Rio Grande/Río Bravo River. The region, which covers four Texas counties and the northern portion of the Mexican State of Tamaulipas, is home to more than 900 colonias on the Texas side of the border. These informal, unincorporated settlements–which house more than 400,000 people–are characterized by substandard housing and a lack of civil infrastructure including sewers, paved roads, and potable water. Many of the colonias flood regularly. This proposal imagines a modular, transitional approach to designing housing and landscape in LRGV colonias. While typical modular housing projects are standardized, prefabricated, packed, shipped, and assembled onsite; the following proposal extends modular efficiencies to the entire site, incorporating landscape, flood control, and canal systems. The holistic, modular approach allows for the flexible growth and decline of the community over the course of one hundred years. Ultimately, the transitional, modular model challenges the adversarial environmental, social, and economic arrangements that exist in colonia developments, imagining a more sympathetic relationship between people, water, and land.