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. The school brings together students, faculty, administrators and community partners to address the topic of housing in the 2019-20 academic year. Implicit in this call for new models of housing is a call for new models of practice.
Faculty & collaborators are invited to define 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.
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.