“The housing of our time does not yet exist, however the transformation of the way of life demands its realization” —Mies Van Der Rohe, Die Form No. 7, June 1931

A house is a fundamental architectural component that structures everyday life and definesrelationships with our bodies and other people. Thus, the house continuously remains a contested space manipulated by social, political, and economic forces. Contemporary domesticenvironments are highly commoditized and shaped around formal preconceptions. They often reinforce existing social biases and discriminatory practices and exclude whole social groupsfrom fair access to adequate housing. At the same time, a definition of the house and composition of the household is often predefined in outdated local building codes and regulations, further reinforcing inflexible models in the production of housing. Architectural practice has long been a complicit vehicle in the reproduction of these models.

A contemporary domestic space needs to consider new forms of living. In 2015, Denmark’s Statistics Bureau [1] identified 37 different ‘family’ types representing contemporary human associations. In contrast to the nuclear family model, these households are often made of independent individuals, single parents, elderly, migrant, and multigenerational groups living together. A natural outcome of co-habitation is a continuous negotiation of pooled resources, community rules, and acts of commoning [2], which create a dynamic social structure. Those new social contracts force us to discuss the power structure, reproductive labor, and the economy of care within the household. It is an opportunity to reclaim the house’s lost commons, which are not based on shared material resources, but rituals, habits, and needs of everyday life.

With the reformulation of the household, the form of the house needs to be challenged as well. A contemporary house is more often considered a product than a living space. The domestic environment has been gradually normalized into limiting formulations of a single-family house and individual apartment. Areas of reproductive labor have been packaged into separate rooms and hidden from the public eye, while social activities have been outsourced outside of the house. There is an urgent need to reclaim the commons of the house and invent a new paradigm for their architectural expression.

How can we recreate a domestic space that accommodates all Ways of Life3? How can architecture open new channels by reinventing spaces that can determine changes? How do we build housing of our times?

Site / Context

The studio will not work with a designated site and instead will consider a social rather than physical context as the basis for the design. Students will be asked to understand and work within the social context of their choice, including but not be limited to -students, seniors, empty nesters, migrant communities, housing cooperatives, and other co-habiting groups. The design will respond to the community’s specific character and needs and propose spaces of overlap between different groups.

Method

In this studio, we will be challenging the current definition of a house. We will bring forward different possibilities for living that will create a platform for new social contracts erasing discriminative acts in the domestic environment. Every student will design a specific space for adetermined social context and develop its premise through a directed methodology instructed by the professors.

The studio will focus on reproductive labor and domestic rituals as building blocks of the house. It will work against contemporary atomized living space made of rooms with pre-assigned functions. Students will be asked to deconstruct the house in a physical and abstract sense and rebuild it based on human needs and necessities. New domestic spaces will be organized around social activities -like eating, cooking, bathing, educating, working, cleaning, relaxing, sleeping, socializing -rather than formalized and labeled rooms.

The first exercise will focus on architectural typologies that correspond with specific human activities relating to the body and the economy of care. Students will be asked to identify key architectural features and organizational principles of these rituals performed historically in thecommons:

  • a bathhouse (hygiene)
  • an academy (education)
  • a cloister/chapel (spirituality)
  • a collective kitchen/farm (sustenance)
  • a washhouse (domestic labor)
  • a garden (relaxation)

The second part of the research will interrogate alternative household compositions not based on a traditional nuclear family unit. Students will be asked to research different examples of communal living and articulate conditions that differentiate them from traditional housing habits:

  • a student dorm
  • a monastery
  • a nursing home
  • a collective housing unit of no more than 25 people
  • a cooperative
  • a community land trust

Focusing on selected rituals and household compositions, students will develop a domesticprototype that can exist independently and/or in combination with other prototypes.

Media/Delivery Format

The studio will explore alternative modes of representation and encourage students to develop new skills. Students will be asked to format their findings and formulate ideas through collages, maps, drawings, and mixed media formats. Each proposal will be represented in a physicalmodel made of materials available at hand. The studio will rely on photography and video as adocumentation tool to translate physical artifacts into a digital format. At the end of the semester, student work will be formatted and compiled in a miro-board / website / booklet / onlineexhibition. The review format will allow critics to preview the work beforehand, post commentsand questions, and set up a stage for discussion during the actual review.

Logistics

The studio will accommodate remote and in-house students. Tatiana Bilbao hopes to travel twice to New Haven for two-week workshops in person at the school. Workshops would ideally occur at the beginning and towards the end of the studio. Bi-weekly classes will be performed in a hybrid format through Zoom and in-person sessions. The in-person class will be simultaneously broadcast for the students joining remotely.

Bibliography

Giorgio Agamben, The Coming Community (University of Minnesota Press, 1993)

Massimo De Angelis, Stavros Starvides, On the Commons: A Public Interview (An Architektur June 2010)

Maria Shéhérazade Giudici, Pier Vittorio Aureli, “Islands: The Settlement from Property to Care” (Log No 47, p. 175-199, Fall 2019)

Pier Vittorio Aureli, Martino Tattara, Paint a Vulgar Picture. On the Relationship Between Images and Projects in Our Work (Piano B. Arti E Culture Visive, 4(2), 2020)

Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958)

Friedrich Engels, The Housing Question, 1872

Sylvia Federici, Re-enchanting the World: Feminism and the Politics of the Commons (PM Press, 2018)

Sylvia Federici, The Great Caliban The Struggle Against the Rebel Body (The Commoner, 2002)

Sylvia Federici, Wages Against Housework (Power of Women Collective and Falling Wall Press, 1975)

Stefan Gruber, An Atlas of Commoning: Places of Collective Production (ARCH+, Summer 2018)

Dolores Hayden, A Grand Domestic Revolution: A History of Feminist Design for American Homes (Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 1981)

Dolores Hayden, Seven American Utopias, The Architecture of Communitarian Socialism, 1790 – 1975 (Cambridge MA: The MIT Press, 1981)

Louis I. Kahn, The Room, The Street and Human Agreement (1971)

Niklas Maak, Living Complex: From Zombie City to the New Communal (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015)

Alison Smithson, Peter Smithson, De la casa del futuro a la casa de hoy (Ediciones Polígrafa, 2007)

Stavros Starvides, Common Space: The City as Commons (London: Zed Books, 2016)

1 Statistics Denmark, www.statbank.dk/BRN12, Accessed 4 December 2020

2 Massimo De Angelis, Stavros Starvides, On the Commons: A Public Interview (An Architektur June 2010)

3 Ways of Life, House in Lake Edersee, Tatiana Bilbao ESTUDIO


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