Dual-Use: The function of a 21st century urban residential block

The studio is concerned with politics that is latent in architecture- which is carried out through making aesthetic decisions regarding everyday spaces- as it can have profound consequences on people’s lives. This semester, we will explore the subject of housing combined with working from home. 

The coronavirus pandemic has fast-forwarded a scenario previously thought impossible: billions of people have adapted to working at home. Not commuting has increased their personal time. But many have encountered distractions and become conscious of social isolation and inequality: not all work can be accommodated in the minimum space standards or configurations of the modern apartment. 

Although the long-term impact of Covid-19 on the environment is unclear, working from home has contributed to the lowest carbon emissions recorded in years. But its immediate effect on our home and work environments raises the following question: can the architecture of a residential block provide a supportive live-work environment for diverse households – professional workers, the curtain-maker, the child-minder, the artist, as well as those on a low income that need to supplement their earnings with home-based work? 

If inhabitants are able to carry out their home-based work openly, the residential block can foster social capital, and even reset the gendered division of labour: reversing the repercussions of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City plan which continues to characterise contemporary cities. In doing so, it could generate a radically different urban model, one with enlivened neighbourhoods and local economies.

Our site is located in Paris. Each student will be asked to design a large-scale residential block with a variety of live-work configurations and private outdoor spaces. We will benefit from the research of two previous housing studios examining flexibility vs. spatial diversity through the lens of the Georges-Eugène Haussmann block system and Jean Renaudie’s architecture respectively. A history of architecture combining dwellings and workplaces will be included in our investigation. We will also take virtual trips into homes of people engaged in various types of work to discuss the relationship between their domestic and work spaces.

Yotam Ben Hur, MARCH II with distinction, who participated in the Fall 2017 housing studio, and was TA to the Fall 2019 housing studio, and has worked with Farshid Moussavi at FMA, will join this studio as a Teaching Associate. The studio will meet for group pin-ups and presentations by guest speakers every Tuesday and individual crits every Thursday 9-11am and 2-6pm ET.