“What, we now ask, would happen if we were to begin instead to put care at the very centre of life?” — The Care Collective, The Care Manifesto: The Politics of Interdependence
In the introduction to The Care Manifesto, the Care Collective, a London-based group theorizing the radical possibilities of care, provides an expansive understanding of the care required for our broken world: “By care however, we not only mean ‘hands-on’ care, or the work people do when directly looking after the physical and emotional needs of others—critical and urgent as this dimension of careming remain. ‘Care” is also a social capacity and activity involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of life.” In this definition, care is a form of radical interdependence that can mitigate against the overlapping social, economic, and environmental crises that have become increasingly common in the narratives that define contemporary life. Care, in essence, is a coalitional proposal, a radical perspective, and a means for working together to form a more just, equitable, and sustainable world. Care goes beyond the normative understandings of health, child, or other types of strictly defined care. It goes beyond the consumerism of self-care. Care is a set of relations that binds communities together and can be the means for forging new types of social organization.
Taking this more expansive notion of care seriously, this studio sets out to ask and provide answers to the question: What does it mean to create spaces for care? Who are we caring for? How can we represent it? How does architectural pedagogy operate within these relations of care giving and receiving? How does the architectural profession? What are new architectural forms of care? What are new architectural practices of care?
In attempting to answer these concerns (or at least more clearly identify the questions),we will focus our efforts on designing a small-scale institution/facility/intervention/space to provide services, mutual aid, and structures of care for survivors of trafficking in southwest Houston. We are focusing not on a population who is vulnerable, traumatized, and “in need,” but on a population of survivors who are experts in their own experience and experts in navigating complex systems of migration, healthcare, justice, and often, mutual aid. What can architecture and architectural thinking offer to these groups? And how can architecture be part of a coalition working towards new forms of care?
A specific concern in creating spaces for care is to create a place that fosters delight. In the course of the semester, we will explore architectural means of providing delight, both in terms of phenomenology and in terms of different cultural experiences. Delight, in this sense, becomes an additional feature of the studio, to not just provide needs and services, but to imbue them with delight.
The studio site will be in southwest Houston. Houston is a global city, in an important, border state. And the southwest neighborhoods have gone through decades of change including a suburban boom—complete with a unique, bungalow style housing typology—depopulation, and multiple phases of migration. Migrants from many countries in Asia, South Asia, Mexico, Central, and South American have made this part of Houston one of the most ethnically diverse areas in the state. Combine this with Houston’s notorious lack of zoning and the state’s spirit of deregulation and you have both a complex site and one of immense possibility.
This studio follows the fall 2023 seminar, Slavery, its Legacies, and the Built Environment – Places of Safety and Healing, a joint course offered between the Yale School of Architecture, Yale Law School, and University of Michigan School of Law. This course was the third in a series of joint classes focused on developing tools and resources for architects to consider and eliminate the persistent presence of forced labor within the building material supply chain. Much thinking and professional attention has been paid to the development of “sustainable” materials and building practices—regardless of the myriad critiques of institutions like LEED. Creating proposals to serve trafficking survivors and reduce the reliance on forced labor within the building supply chain is, admittedly, a tall task. But the studio believes in an expansive understanding of sustainability—both in the traditional environmental sense—and that “sustainability” should encompass human, community, economic, and political stability and empowerment.
The concluding report to the spring seminar, The Ethical Construction of a Healing Space for Survivors of Modern Slavery: A Case Studio for Design in Houston, Texas, will guide us through thinking at multiple scales, from Texas as a border state, to recent histories of migration and neighborhood change in southwest Houston. The report will help provide foundational language to think through questions of survivorship, agency, and the needs and desires of vulnerable populations. And the report will outline issues in material sourcing and procurement. The link to materials will give the studio a grounding in architectural practice, and the impetus to think differently about the role of architecture within larger systems of material extraction, labor exploitation, and the global circuits of finance that fuel it.
By the end of the semester each student (or group) will establish a community of interest, create focused definitions and protocols of care and delight, and realize their designs to a high degree, taking into account the multiple human connections linking an architectural project from designer, to user, to building, to manufacturer.