As citizens, we can blame developers of building housing for maximum profit and our governments for investing too little on building affordable housing. But is housing in the 21st century not also an architectural problem? Just what is it that should make living in today’s apartment block so different, so appealing? The studio will address this question using London as its site of investigation. Ever since the 19th century, when London became a powerful political, financial and trading capital, the city’s struggle with increasing its housing stock has served as a great laboratory for new models of housing. Architects' preoccupations in the 19th century with sanitation, ventilation, daylight and privacy produced unique architectural models which were superseded in the 20th century by other models that were concerned with access to nature and community building. However, throughout both centuries, the provision of housing remained class based, and catered for a single type of household. In the 21st century, London has been described as the world's foremost ‘global city’, hallmarked by its dynamic financial market, as well as its diverse and growing population. The ever-increasing dissolution of live-work divisions owing to the omnipresence of digital technology, the rise of social media and an aging population are also other forces impacting the city’s housing stock. These have led to a shortage of housing, and extreme inequality amongst the citizens. The existing housing models have also become ineffective in catering for the diversity of contemporary households, in offering the necessary flexibility to residents whose lives continues to be subject to change, and in finding meaningful links between them. This studio will adopt an optimistic position that the degree of change in the way Londoners cohabit the city today compared to the last century is an opportunity for a radically different approach to the architecture of the multistory residential building. It will draw inspiration from an earlier high-density 'continental' model developed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann, as well as architecture’s potential to embody diversity, inclusivity, and social mobility.
Harvard GSD | Fall 2017 Co taught with Farshid Moussavi