Modern Housing and Urban Districts: Concepts, Cases and Comparisons

This seminar course will deal with “modern housing” covering a period primarily from 1990 to the present. It will engage with “urban districts” in so far as housing projects under discussion contribute to the making of these districts or are shaped by the districts in which they are placed. Examples will also be drawn from different cultural contexts with emphases on Europe, North America, and East Asia, although also including examples from Latin America, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Course format:

The course will begin with discussion of several broad topics germane to design issues in contemporary housing, including ideas of community and what constitutes a dwelling community from various cultural perspectives; territories and types dealing with underlying urban conditions that play host to contemporary housing; interior and other landscapes that chart the diversity of contemporary living; and expressive and representational issues particularly concerning place-specific and inherently situated aspects of dwelling alongside dynamic, perennially future-oriented dimensions of living.

This broad topical discussion will be followed by case studies, roughly combining underlying urban conditions and characteristics with architectural projects. Within each case study, two particular contemporary examples will provide the primary focus, although others will be introduced to flesh out necessary historical circumstances and lineages of housing development.

Along with some selected textual readings, these topics will include:

1. Urban block shapers;

2. Housing and landscapes;

3. Superblock configurations;

4. Tall towers;

5. Big buildings and submultiples;

6. Infrastructural engagements;

7. Indigenous reinterpretations;

8. Infill interventions;

9. Housing of special populations; and

10. Mat buildings.

Concluding discussion will examine various dimensions across projects and urban conditions, in part to identify strengths and weaknesses, but also to set contemporary housing aside from that of modern housing in prior eras. Student participation will be by way of attendance, discussion, and especially case study presentation and documentation.