Type vs. Difference: The Function of a 21st-century Residential Block

The studio is concerned with the politics of architecture and its agency in everyday life. This semester, we will address the subject of housing in relation to the individualized society of the 21st century. We will use the work of the French architect Jean Renaudie (1925–1981) as our laboratory.

Renaudie began with the dwelling and rejected any form of repetition in housing, above all the “standard apartment” that CIAM and the French State had advocated in the large housing estates, or Grands Ensembles, that were built on the outskirts of French cities during the 1950s and 1960s. Each dwelling designed by Renaudie was unique, and he saw the inhabitants as actors, encouraging them to appropriate these spaces as their own. His aim was not only to promote a less segregated society but to challenge the conventional boundaries between architecture and urban planning, and between urban life and nature. Most importantly, he foresaw the move toward particularity and difference in the 21st century. Yet housing continues to be designed in a way that ignores these radical changes.

Our site is located in a dense historic area of Paris. Each student will be asked to design a large-scale housing project that responds to the needs of our individualized and ever-changing society. The first two weeks will be devoted to research on contemporary forms of domesticity. Analytical drawings will be used to explore their individual and shared needs. The remainder of the semester will be devoted to the development of individual projects.


This course has an irregular meeting schedule.

Farshid Moussavi will be in residence bi-weekly: on August 29, 30; September 2, 3, 4, 17, 18, 19; October 1, 2, 3, 15, 16, 17, 29, 30, 31; November 1, 19, 20, 21; and for final reviews.

The instructor will also be available via Skype to account for “off week” missed time. Students should maintain their studio schedule and attendance in the intervening weeks as this is when the instructor will schedule Skype calls. 

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