ADS1: The Domestic Imagination

Sam Jacoby, Tarsha Finney and Maria Giudici

Housing design is perhaps architecture’s most common but also greatest challenge. It is in housing that architecture is confronted and shaped by specific forms of life and ideas of productivity. Housing is where political, economic and social ambitions become materialised; however, it is also where their constitutive disputes emerge most clearly. That is why housing is seen as being in constant crisis, in constant need of reform.

Housing has, since the 1920s, generally responded poorly to the complex demands of the specific life cycle needs of its occupants. While the single family dwelling or even apartment caters well to the raising of small children within the intimacy and care of the modern family, it responds less well to the demands of a multiplicity of generations beyond children. How are we going to respond to the complexities of ageing, to the transforming demographics of single-parent households and their need for a different ecology of support, or to the rise of people living alone? How can we understand the fundamental division between the public and the private if there is no private life of home as the space of intimacy, familiarity and care?

There are many contemporary experiments into domesticity within architectural and art practices that recognise and attempt to push away from the boundaries of generalised conditions and the events described in the histories of housing. They all look at the eccentricity of the domestic subject, or the transgression of the object, through a lens familiar since the nineteenth century and established by the posters by the New York City Housing Authority (1936-38) human sciences: sociology, psychology and anthropology. So how can we understand housing differently as architects? How can we make it work harder to ameliorate some of the problems of ageing in place: isolation and loneliness, for example, while also producing opportunities for new kinds of collectives?

The issue of multi-generational housing is crucial today as it challenges architects to imagine new kinds of social interaction before anything else: before form, before tectonics, and before function itself. In this sense, we expect projects to develop a personal position vis-a-vis what it means to live in the city. Our challenge is to learn to look differently at the way we live today: not to take for granted what we think is ‘normal’, and question all preconceived ideas on housing.

So it might also be time to reconsider a form of housing that rather than being antagonistic towards the city, is designed to be a part of it. In this sense we imagine every project as exemplary. As possible beginnings to a rediscovery of the hidden links between housing and city, production and reproduction, and public and private. Therefore, we encourage multi-scalar thinking: housing projects will tie together the cultural understanding of interiors with typological research, understanding of economic models, and a personal and original position on the future of the city. We believe that in the end, reimagining the citizen might very well mean to reimagine the city itself. 

Led by Sam Jacoby, Tarsha Finney and Maria Giudici