Necessary Architecture [M2]

Our cities are filled with buildings–why more? With our discipline about to split into activists and professionals, we need to find purpose for architecture. We propose to question if what we design is truly necessary. Moreover, as necessity implies a gap between reality and desire, we must survey and understand both before designing as architects.

This studio will focus on the homeless population near Gund Hall—a specific group of people with, no doubt, several necessities.

A Housing First approach to the problem would make us believe they urgently need a roof, a house (which may equate to a home). This response is indeed very architectural, but it is easily grabbed out of our hands by the fields of real estate, public policy, and finance.

A systemic approach would make us understand these people may not only be homeless because they lack a place to stay during cold nights. They may even have one but do not return to it because something (or someone) prevents them from doing so. This approach to the problem seems out of reach for architects, closer to the field of social workers. In addition, this systemic understanding requires us to comprehend these subjects as people living on the streets instead of homeless people.

So what can architects do to help people living on the streets–to fulfil their necessities? It is up to the students, through their projects, to respond to this question. They must also expand their positions into the state of our discipline, in how an architecture of necessity may contribute to its expansion, shrinking or demise.

Studio Structure:

Students will work in teams during this module studio.

Our first meeting will start with a brief lecture by the instructors on the topic of necessity. Students will then read a selection of materials on homelessness and, before the end of the first session, the group will share information gathered to profile the first ideas on what to do next–the project and its site. At the second studio meeting, students will provide a first version of the diagram of the social system they uncovered at a particular site near Gund.

At the next meeting, the studio will gather in Gund and walk to sites chosen by each team of students who will explain the reasons behind their decisions that are illustrated by the initial diagram of the social system identified. The studio will regroup to discuss how students will tackle their project and represent it through a model and updated digital diagram.

In subsequent meetings, students will develop and present a 1:20 scale model of their proposal to fulfill a particular necessity of people living on the streets. The proposal must be understandable by the student's oral presentation and model, accompanied only by the diagram of the social system uncovered for their project.