Modern Housing and Urban Districts: Concepts, Cases and Comparisons

This seminar course deals with ‘modern housing’ covering a period primarily from the 1900s to the present. It engages with ‘urban districts’ in so far as housing projects under discussion contribute to the making of these districts, and are in turn shaped by the districts in which they are placed. Cases will be drawn from different contexts, with emphasis on Europe, North America, and East Asia, although also including examples from the Americas, South and Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Oceania.

The course begins with discussion of several broad topics germane to the issue and design of contemporary housing, including ideas of community and what constitutes a dwelling community across the span of historical time and cultural perspectives; territories and types dealing with underlying urban conditions that play host to the housing; and interiors and other landscapes that chart the diversity contemporary living, including expressive and representation issues concerning place-specific and inherently situated aspects of dwelling, alongside the dynamic, perennially future-oriented dimensions of living.

These broad topical discussions will be followed by case studies, roughly categorized by underlying urban conditions and characteristics of architectural projects. Within each category, two contemporary examples will provide the primary focus, while precedents and other contemporaneous projects will be introduced to flesh out historial lineages and paths of development. These categories will include: 1) urban block shapers, 2) housing and landscapes, 3) superblock configurations, 4) tall towers, 5) big buildings, 6) infrastructural engagements, 7) infill and puntal interventions, 8) housing special populations, 9) temporary and incremental housing, and 10) mat buildings. 

The concluding discussion will examine various dimensions across projects and urban conditions, in part to identify opportunities and limitations for housing design, but also to set contemporary housing aside from that of modern and pre-modern housing in prior eras. Student participation will be by way of attendance, discussion, and especially the detailed analysis and presentation of case study projects.

In Spring 2021, the course will each week consist of three parts: 1) a pre-recorded lecture to be viewed asynchronously (60 min), 2) a live presentation of two case study projects by a pair of students (60 min), followed by 3) a live class discussion focused on the weekly theme (60 min). Beyond weekly participation and contribution to in-class discussions, the main deliverable of the course is the documentation, analysis, and presentation of two case study projects. Students will be paired and assigned the cases at the beginning of the semester. The pair of students will meet with the instructor and TA for office-hour one and two weeks before the presentation date. Short readings and/or videos may also be assigned to facilitate weekly discussions. 

Note: the instructor will offer live course presentations on 01/19-01/21. To access the detailed schedule and Zoom links, please visit the Live Course Presentations Website. If you need assistance, please contact Estefanía Ibáñez.