Modern Housing and Urban Districts: Concepts, Cases, and Comparisons

This course deals with ‘modern housing’ covering a period primarily from the 1900s to the present. It engages with ‘urban districts’ in so far as the 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 draw from an international survey 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 introduces approximately 240 cases along with frameworks for organizing and thinking with this corpus.
We begin with two broad surveys of concepts germane to the discussion and design of contemporary housing, including 1) ideas of community and what constitutes a neighborhood across historical contexts and cultural milieu, and 2) territories, types, interiors, and other landscapes dealing with the constraints and dimensions of the external context and internal life. These are followed by cases, organized by key characteristics of the building or external context they engage. In each, contemporary examples provide the primary focus, while precedents within and adjacent to architecture are introduced to contextualize historical circumstances and trace the evolution of ideas. In Spring 2024, the categories include: 1) urban block shapers, 2) superblock configurations, 3) tall towers, 4) big buildings, 5) mat buildings, 6) housing and landscapes, 7) infrastructural engagements, 8) infill and puntal interventions, 9) housing special populations, and 10) temporary and incremental housing.
Each class is organized around a i) lecture, ii) student presentation, and iii) discussion. Beyond weekly participation and contribution to in-class discussions, the main deliverable of the course is the research, analysis, and presentation of case study projects. Students will be paired and assigned the cases at the beginning of the semester. The presenting students will meet with the instructor one and two weeks before the presentation. Short readings may also be assigned to augment weekly discussions.