We live in a moment of increasing pressure on cities as urbanization drives large populations into more and more densely populated areas. More than 70 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. 1 Contemporary life is in a state of constant evolution as cities try and accommodate these new populations, and as sharing economies disperse ownership of resources such as cars, access to nature and technology. Contemporary life is blurring the line between what happens in a home and in the public sphere.

This studio will study the concept of the commons as a tool to apply to new housing typologies. The commons can be defined as a shared resource that is sustained, supported and improved on by participants that contribute to its maintenance. Applied to housing, it creates the arena for collective living dependent on success through social contracts and the flexibility to evolve with shifting needs. We will study the viability of collective housing through a series of precedents. Examples such as the modernist development of a shared kitchen in multifamily housing in Sweden in the 1950s draws together both architectural innovation and the sociological phenomenon of releasing women from domestic duties empowering them to join the workforce.

The studio will challenge students to designing places made for change and adaptation as a tool to increase the longevity of a project.

Mexico holds a unique position in the global context of housing, as housing is a constitutional right, yet there exists a housing crisis. In an attempt to alleviate the demand for housing, 2.5 million homes were built in 6 years beginning in 2000. Building this impressive number of homes led to the sacrifice of livability—creating expansive neighborhoods of monotonous identical box houses, devoid of character and type, weaving a repetitious fabric that ruptures the capacity of community building through sameness and invisibility of the individual.

Using the research on commons, this studio will propose new ways of living. Proposals will expand the dictionary of housing typologies to integrate the unique and particular needs of people, a critical reality to engage with. Reimagining domestic spaces as productive areas of life can be used to empower social and economic minorities such as women, the disenfranchised or the elderly. Frequently urban and architectural plans ignore these people groups, or attempt enforce conformity. This studio will engage with other fields of study to encourage diverse thinking and support architecture proposals.

Shared, collective and flexible housing has the capacity to make spaces in cities for alternate needs of different people. It questions the traditional family unit and opens up social engagement and redefinitions of households, such as those composed of working youths, single parent families, multigenerational households etc.

“The living space of new generations is declining. Each person living in the private rented sector now has on average eight square meters less space than they did in 1996.”2 This studio will ask, How can collective spaces enhance living conditions and allow for more area for individuality. Redistributing space has the potential to relieve the demand on private spaces. Examples such as work-live housing, communal kitchens and community gardens add a dimension of productivity.

Increasing the housing stock is not enough, we need to redefine the metrics by which we measure the livability with a home.


Students will select a site to locate their projects in the neighborhood of Santa Maria de la Ribera in the center of Mexico City. Designated a Barrio Mágico, or enchanted neighborhood, in 2011, Santa Maria represents a microcosm of development in the capital of Mexico. Originally developed with Beaux Arts mansions for wealthy families in the late 19th and early 20th century, the neighborhood has undergone many transformations reflecting urban, social and ecological shifts in the nation.


  1. Students will study the trajectory of rhetoric surround the commons, beginning with the seminal Tragedy of the Commons by Garret Hardin text which promoted a neo-liberal and capitalist agenda while becoming the touchstone for dismantling sustainable collective activity in regards to resource sharing. Since its publication in 1968, the commons have been debated, and even proven to be viable through extensive economic and sociological studies. In addition, students will study global examples of collective living, unpacking their urban and interpersonal impact.
  2. Travel to Mexico City will provide the foundation for site specific study in Santa Maria de la Ribera. The trip will acclimatize students to urban and smaller scale living conditions in the context of Mexico. The trip will include visiting sites of seminal architecture, housing projects and a work shop in the office of Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO, but also and very intensive contact with key actors, lawmakers, architects and citizens.
  3. Students will create a housing proposal for 10-20 ‘family’ units using their research on the commons and needs identified in contextual analysis.

(1) Wendell Cox, “World Urban Areas: 1,064 Largest Cities: 2018 Update”, March 11, 2018. http://www.newgeography.com/content/005933-world-urban-areas-1064-largest-cities-2018-update
(2) Michael Savage, “Millennial housing crisis engulfs Britian”, Aoril 28, 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/apr/28/proportion-home-owners-halves-millennials

All Semesters

Spring 2022
Advanced Design Studio: National Slavery Memorial in Washington, DC
Rodney Leon, Doriane Meyer
Spring 2021
Advanced Design Studio: De-Colonizing Indigenous Housing
Chris Cornelius, Aaron Tobey
Spring 2019
Advanced Design Studio
Paul Florian, George Knight
Spring 2018
Advanced Design Studio: Reworking the Green Prison Complex
Tatiana Bilbao, Andrei Harwell