A House for Almost Everything [M2]

The studio will focus on fundamental elements that comprise a building as a premise for making architecture. We will examine the ecology of a building, through the design of a 30,000 square feet environment for a community building as a collection of 40 rooms for meeting, work, community archive, storage, and display in West Philadelphia, at the threshold of several historic neighborhoods.  Contemporary notions of the interior and the demands for adaptability challenge us to investigate temporality of use in new and urgent ways today.  While seemingly paradoxical in outcome, we will respond to this need for flexibility and associated notions of the generic with a focus on the specificity of the elements of architecture in geometry, material, and detail, as a means to engage our current conditions. 

As a collection of rooms, we will examine how the volumes nestle together and study how the primary architectural components such as stairs, doors, windows, walls, floors, and ceilings can bind and connect them. In our focus on these everyday elements of architecture (and the materials of which they are comprised), we will speculate on how the specificity of architecture can offer new ways to relate to our built environment and blur the boundaries of everyday social inhabitation and the formal and material contours of these environments. In developing each building, we will focus on construction materials as a source of transformation and will consider assembly details to address specific disciplinary questions and engage contemporary conditions of use and building performance. To the extent possible, we will consider the material histories and potential futures of the components we specify, and imagine how details assemblies can engender their eventual disassembly and reuse into the future. Our primary kit of parts will focus on super structure systems of timber; from framing, to paneling, and finishes.

While our focus in the studio module will be to develop our buildings from the inside out, we will be open to discrete and deliberate investigations of the thresholds from interior to exterior. Such junctures may amplify productive disjunctures between the interior and exterior. Within the buildings, we will focus on spatial sequence as defined by movement, and examine historic precedents of the Raumplan, enfilade, among others, as typologies of flow and order. We will consider the infrastructure systems that serve each building—from structure, to passive and active ventilation, and mechanical systems— to design buildings that are adaptable to programmatic evolution and climatic shifts.

Our site is an open plot in West Philadelphia in a zone of active redevelopment adjacent to a new middle school and elementary school, an urban university campus, and the historic Black neighborhoods of Mantua and Powelton Village which are experiencing both promising bottom-up redevelopment while negotiating the pressures of market driven development. Members of these local communities will participate in our studio conversation in pin ups and other meeting formats. Student projects will be developed with individual responses to the problem; our results will be viewed together as collective knowledge and an inventory of strategies. We will commence with building design at the outset of the studio to optimize our seven week module. Participation in weekly studio meetings, readings, and collective diagrams will be the basis of evaluation.