Included is a proposal I have made to help solve International housing problems.
It is an ambitious proposal but one I believe we should spearhead. Please let me know your thoughts,
October 20, 2019
A world population of 1.6 billion, or more than 20% of the total world population, has inadequate housing. This is about the size of the North and South American populations combined, or close to the total population of China. Inadequate housing includes lack of the following basic human necessities: water, sanitation, protection from the elements, ventilation, comfortable living space, safe cooking methods, and much more.
In 1948, Eleanor Roosevelt presented to the United Nations a Bill of Rights for all citizens of the world. This included the right to housing, emphasizing that housing should be a human right, not merely an amenity. However, 70 years later, this problem not only remains unsolved, but has become worse, due to the movement of citizens to urban settlements and large increases in world population.
As architects, we are best suited to deal with the problem, because designing the fundamental, universal necessity of a roof over one's head is a large part of our profession. Yet we remain underappreciated by the general public. Often the word "architect" is used to explain an event such as "the architect of the war," "the flawed architect," or "the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks." Nor are we always given proper credit for what we do. A rendering of a new building that may have taken years to design is often called "an artist's conception of a proposed project" rather than the design, by an architect, of an actual building or house awaiting construction.
Perhaps if we had a larger role in the world and addressed issues that are important to the physical world, this might change the public perception of architects and their central roles in society. For we are, along with planners and landscape architects, the custodians of the physical world, providing what everyone needs most to survive and thrive: shelter and housing.
This proposal is for architects to take on the task of creating adequate housing for the entire world population. Although this is a large assignment, we might be able to start the process, as we are a very creative profession.
And we need to start the process urgently, as numerous types of housing are desperately needed: homeless, migrant, disaster, family and senior housing, to name a few of more than twenty types of necessary shelter and protection.
We, as architects, must not produce a general, cookie-cutter solution of the kind that might have been presented in the past. We must advance housing proposals that are designed, tailored and customized for specific cultural conditions, geographic locations, local materials, climate change conditions, and particular human needs. More than 150 conditions around the world must be met, and each requires an individual solution.
I thereby propose a three-year program that would begin in the academic world but would be in coordination with practicing architects. Every school of architecture has a first-year design project, usually containing abstract problems for students to solve. Instead of asking them to design only abstract projects, we could present them with a concrete problem: to design a house for a particular location with specific housing criteria, to build it with local materials that will withstand, say, hurricanes and earthquakes, and to relate the construction to the local culture as well as regional geographic and climatic conditions, including issues of climate change. A person from that area who is well versed in its physical, topographical and meteorological characteristics would be brought to the school to act as a consultant to each project.
As North America has approximately 150 schools of architecture, they would generate more than 5,000 solutions. Students could work in teams with faculty and practicing architects to produce a large number of solutions from each school. These designs could be compiled into an exhibition to be presented at the United Nations, along with a booklet describing, detailing and illustrating each solution. During that year, other advanced studios could focus on global housing and encourage thesis students to pursue this as a topic for their research and creative design solutions. The faculty at each of these schools and studios would be joined by a local practicing architect in a targeted region or community to help guide the development of the needs-specific housing there.
In the summer, selected students, faculty and practicing architects could visit the country to construct a prototype of the housing to be built there, with extensive input from local residents to make sure this prototype meets local needs.
Funds for this research project could come from schools, local AIA chapters, private donors, and selected countries providing in-kind contributions such as housing and food. The project would be repeated for the next two years using different housing types, and selected solutions would be showcased in an international exhibition. Funding for construction of these designs might come from our government, local governments in the countries where the housing is to be built, private individual and corporate donors, and the national AIA headquarters.
Housing is the key first step to begin the improvement of the lives of the underprivileged. Once people have adequate homes, the next step would be to design affordable education, medical and daycare facilities through the same academic and fieldwork process by which we designed their housing.
This would bring architects further onto the international stage and suggest a strong focus for our profession. This focus would propel us to use our unique expertise in adaptation of time-tested design/build standards to specific social, economic, topographical and ecological conditions so we can eliminate homelessness, displacement from disasters, slum conditions, residential overcrowding, and other hindrances to the livable, affordable housing we all need.
Our new mission might be - to help those who urgently need our help.
Hello, Jan.I am Dean of Woodbury School of Architecture and was interested to read about your proposal. In fact, I and my colleagues have declared this academic year the Year of Housing at our 420+ student School. Here is a link to our School-wide Housing+ initiative, and below is the call that I sent to our community at the beginning of the year. As part of this initiative, not only are many of our design studios are focusing on housing, our San Diego campus recently hosted a campus-wide charrette, (sponsored by AIA Academy of Justice), and our Burbank campus hosted the 'Frontier Housing' symposium at Gensler featuring some remarkable designers who are addressing our local housing crisis. Housing+ will culminate in a School-wide exhibition on our campus next spring, coinciding with the AIA National Conference here in Los Angeles. As a small, non-profit, majority minority institution located in Southern California (our two campuses are in North Los Angeles and in San Diego), with over 70% of our students identifying as minority, this issue hits very close to home for all of us. Please reach out to me directly at email@example.com if you are interested in supporting our initiative. I would love to see our initiative continue.Sincerely,Ingalill Wahlroos-Ritter, FAIAHere is the call we sent out in August at the beginning of our academic year:
HOUSING + is a year-long program of lectures, exhibitions and studio inquiries focused on a topic that is of particular relevance to Woodbury School of Architecture. We invite all faculty to address the topic of housing in their courses in the next academic year, 2019-20.
THE HOUSING PROJECT
Eames, Schindler, Neutra, Morgan, Greene & Greene, Wright, Williams, Gehry, Lautner; dingbats, craftsman bungalows, courtyard apartments, McMansions: From avant-garde to vernacular, Southern California's best-known architecture is unquestionably domestic. Paradoxically, in a region where over 80% of our cities are zoned R1, the scale of California's housing crisis is striking. The shortage is estimated at 3-4 million housing units, with over 130,000 homeless, constituting a staggering quarter of the national total. It's time for architects and designers to rethink California's housing typologies.
And yet, many in the design professions have remained notoriously absent from the discussion, claiming that architecture cannot solve the housing crisis. In her introduction to the book Housing as Intervention, Karen Kubey states that "though it was Modernism's central project, 'housing' is often considered separate from 'architecture.'" She cites Susanne Schindler in stating that housing is a 'socioeconomic product to be delivered at the least possible cost', while architecture is considered a 'cultural endeavor.' With regulatory constraints, financial and developer pressures, and community NIMBYism, the traditional role of the architect in housing design, particularly affordable housing, has eroded. As author Sam Lubell observes, "All it takes is a visit to the Inland Empire, Orange County, the outskirts of Sacramento or many parts of Silicon Valley to understand that the mass-produced housing stock in our country has become, with a few welcome exceptions, architecturally, urbanistically, and morally bankrupt."
Woodbury School of Architecture, a school that importantly incorporates architecture, interior design, and real estate development programs, believes that affordable housing is a critical architectural question and a basic human right.
THE FUTURE OF PRACTICE
We invite our faculty for the 2019-2020 academic year to define the 'plus' in their housing projects as a means of examining the future of practice. Recent calls to action that ask architects to help with the housing crisis contain within them a larger critique of the discipline and profession of architecture. It is not housing per se that we have turned our backs on (every school teaches housing studios) but rather the processes and values, embodied most vividly in housing as a project, that are currently throwing the whole discipline into question. Indeed, most buildings are now shaped by non-architectural parameters embodied in housing: policy, economics, the rule of the marketplace, bureaucracy, techniques of construction administration, and codes. That we have turned our backs on housing is simply evidence that we have turned our backs on broader pressures facing the profession.
Implicit in the call for new models of housing is a call for new models of practice. Housing + aims to develop projects that positively transform the built environment while identifying new opportunities arising from an examination of the traditional objects of our domain (buildings, cities, landscape, interior environments) from the perspective of new modes of design activity, new value systems, new procurement models, and new clients operating in ways that we might not yet recognize. How do we respond to the challenges posed by tools that are changing, stealing, or eliminating entirely the tasks that have traditionally characterized practice, by new models of project financing, and client operations demanding new expertise on the part of consultants, and by technology that offers not only a new means to an aesthetic end but entirely new aesthetic value systems?
TOPICS + PARTNERS
Please work with the dean and chairs to identify a housing project, community, and/or professional partner with whom to collaborate.