For Everyone a Garden: The Evolution of High-Rise Modular Housing Systems [1-unit, Module 2 course]

High density urban housing remains one of the puzzling unresolved issues of our time. Many experiments confuse issues of typology with those of construction methodologies. Many formal experiments appear to be detached from considerations of their impact of quality of life within the buildings.

In three lectures, each followed by a discussion, we will explore the evolution of High-Rise Modular Housing Systems in the past fifty years. We will first review the prevailing high-rise housing typologies, assessing their relative qualities and challenges. We will assess their environmental/quality of life issues inherent in these typologies, and discuss the attributes and particular features and characteristics that modular housing systems might effectively address: Scale, privacy, identity, community, climate adaptability, sustainability, creation of private and public outdoor spaces, etc.

Drawing on our projects of this period, both realized and unrealized, we will study a series of case studies, assessing their relative success in addressing this issue. We will survey experiments in load bearing modules, frame supported structures, deploying concrete, steel, timber and evaluate their industrialization potential, accommodation of open outdoor private and public spaces, stacking and massing possibilities.

Specifically, we will assess the impact of diverse housing typologies in their aggregate form on the public realm. Every distinct typology, no matter of which density, implies a particular concept of Urban Design. Mixed-use development greatly expands the possibility for the design of the public realm.

We will conclude by a study of the potential of mixed-use developments and its impact on the quality of housing as compared with single-use developments.

Finally, and to close out the series, we will invite course participants to the Safdie Architects studio in Somerville to see drawings, models and other artifacts from the Safdie Archive, and to discuss the projects in detail with the firm’s Partners and in-house Processing Archivist team.

To receive credit, students will be required to attend each of 4 sessions.  After each lecture, there will be a discussion session. At the end of the course, students will prepare a paper.

This 1-unit course meets four times: March 22, March 29, April 12, and April 19. Attendance is required.