Modern architects have focused on housing as a prime site for experiments to improve people’s lives, yet they have long been ambivalent about the comforts and exigencies of dwelling. This term evokes both universal human needs and a diverse panoply of forms, desires and physical as well as social conditions. Living is a third gerund: the individual and collective experiences that begin with the unit, encompassing various forms of daily life and human well-being. While most studios and classes on housing focus on the building, this lived experience is at once more intimate and more public.
This seminar covered a broad spatial and experiential scope. We honed in on the individual body, the room and the wall and outward to larger composites of housing complexes, technologies, landscapes and social services. Site plans became crucial here, extending to a range of services within and beyond a specific site. We also focused on various cultural issues–both nations and subgroups–as one instance of this public realm. After a brief historical exploration of architects’ efforts to balance these priorities, we analyzed more recent examples, ranging from prefab prototypes in Sweden, barrios in Caracas, new suburbs in China, “green” apartment buildings in Malaysia, and debates about immigrant living patterns in the mix of market-rate with social housing in Amsterdam and New York.