A Generosity Beyond Means

View towards courtyard from within apartment

by Jonathan Ng (MArch I '22) and Edda Steingrimsdottir (MArch I '22)

Mass housing faces the persistent challenge of creating economically accessible living spaces in increasingly densely populated cities. Housing units are often devoid of elements that contribute to one’s quality of life, being perceived as indulgent rather than essential. Through the manipulation of the ground, the interior wall, the facade and the roof, this project creates the perception of an expanded lived space.

In contrast to the densely packed triple-deckers in Boston’s Jamaica Plain (JP), the four housing bars of this project are lifted to create a generous open ground floor. Within four housing bars, the units are deliberately arranged heterogeneously, resisting the overly hierarchical or repetitious nature typical of housing blocks. The manipulation of interior walls creates spatial generosity unique to each unit type.

The facade is not just an external face for the public. It is a projective frame through which residents can establish connections beyond the limits of their units. This evokes a new definition of community, one that transcends proximity and forges new relationships from within, across, and beyond each unit.

The roof of the four housing bars is unified by a spherical subtraction, inverting the typical condition of a perimeter by establishing different horizon lines throughout the roof. It offers a generous new private ground for residents to form connections to the horizon, the sky, and the city beyond.

This project invites us to consider how the manipulation of space can be used to enhance our quality of life. It shifts our perception from an absolute scale or material wealth to the relationship between the subject and their surroundings. Expanding our definition of a quality living environment to one no longer limited by economic ability, the project provides for all, a generosity beyond means.