In 1976 a group of architects lead by Oswald Mathias Ungers proposed a project for new housing in Berlin. Facing the 1970s West Berlin urban crisis, Ungers’ project was a rescue attempt focused on the introduction of a kind of housing that was neither the large-scale housing block, nor the privately owned single-family house: the urban villa.
This type is rather elusive: neither small, nor big, neither high-end, nor low-end, neither beautiful, nor ugly. Its origins are rooted in the compromise between petit-bourgeois aspirations and real estate speculation. The urban villa is a bastard offspring of a villa and an urban block. There is nothing utopian or socially progressive about the urban villa (far from it), and its numerous permutations, as the Italian Palazzina and the Greek Polykatoikia, can be considered some of the most eloquent examples of the commodification of housing. And yet its form, scale, flexibility and adaptability to different contexts make the urban villa not only a highly desirable form of housing, but also a potential type for collectivized forms of housing beyond family and private property. This advanced studio asks students to revisit and redeem this bastard type in New York as the ideal form of social housing.