The new American Dream: 100K(+ 20) | Starter Home


Welcome to the class blog for Prof. Thomas Kearns’ advanced architecture studio at the Illinois Institute of Technology.  Students will be using the blog as repository for research and ideas related to the problem of designing a progressive affordable single family house.

With the present state of the economy and continuing crisiis in real-estate markets + financing, it is critical that we re-examine the nature and design of affordable housing. Be it rural, suburban or urban, families and individuals of middle or lower incomes face growing divides between the supposed ideals of american living (most often portrayed damagingly by bloated housing of bad design) and what is available to them.

Studio Focus
This studio will develop critical and progressive strategies for the problem of affordable housing through the design of prototypical single family housing solutions. The goal will be to design projects within a 100k (+20) budget, where the (+20) is used specifically for a special condition or technologies that will advance the living experience beyond contempoary standards. Emphasis will be placed on architecture which addresses and promotes the expression of identity, both of the architecture itself (material identity) and the inhabitants (personal identity) as a direct critique of the blighted american housing landscape and it’s beige boxes. A smaller than average square footage will be seen as a positive move away from bloated mcmansion aspirations, where a smaller footprint is more envrionmentally friendly and hopefully adds value to the cost per sq foot of the living conditions. For the studio, the smaller size will enable students to take a more intimate approach to design and detailing, ultimately seeing the documentation of the project further within the semester. As alluded by the +20, the studio will promote the integration of advanced technologies, be they sustainability systems with increased upfront costs usually out of reach for affordable housing, or embedded digital/interactive technologies that transform the way a house is occupied. Each project within the studio will be developed as if it were a real prototype for the contemporary housing market, with time spent developing marketing strategies and related web based media.

Project description
Students will be asked to independently design a single family home for one of three typologies of owners; middle income or lower income families with children, or single professionals with or without roomates. House designs should be less than 1500 sf. The projects are intended to be developed as prototypes, as such the students will research and design to a specific context of their own selection, with an actual building site chosen for use as a model.

Studio Type + Requirements
By nature of program and building size, this studio will qualify as a “space problem” studio. However, students will be required to comprehensively design and document their projects, including material, structural, and systematic scope. To validate the target budget for the project, students will be required to develop design documents sufficient for estimating the expected cost. In addition to conventional project presentations, students will learn the skills necessary to apply web designs for the production of market ready presentations promoting their prototypical residences.

The studio schedule will be broken into 5 parts, beginning with a two week group research project in which students will use online collaborative media to create an information portal to relevant sources of precedent, building technology and market data. Following the research, the students will work independently to create prototypical projects originating from a unique conceptual approach. Through a design development phase students will revise and extend the designs to include the full range of systems and technologies and further develop the material and spatial strategies to fortify the concept. In the fourth phase of the project, students will create detailed drawings sufficient for understanding the essential details and materiality of the project. For the final part of the project students will create web-sites which disseminate the semesters work as viable prototypes for the market, including conceptual, design, and technological components to both potential builder as well as future owner.

Format + Techniques
Most weeks the studio will have an in class group review with individual desk crits between. Conceptual lectures will be delivered as appropriate to the phase of development and current focus. Most weeks, as needed by the studio at large, workshops on digital media technolgies will be held. There will be formal midterm and final reviews with outside guests.

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