Advanced Design Studio: Aureli
Immigrants - both documented and undocumented - operate from a cultural, economic or legal periphery from which they cannot take access to urban and natural resources for granted. As it stands, documented immigrants lucky enough to be offered housing are usually placed in unsuitable converted apartment buildings that hide them from the city. Meanwhile, undocumented workers are an unrecognized but hugely significant part of our labor force. Our project, then, is to design a new housing typology that, through land access and opportunities for self-sufficiency, addresses issues of integration and visibility. We seek to make the immigrant community and their productive labor visible within the city, and to create a third condition between exception and assimilation (the usual choices offered to new arrivals), one in which the migrant is granted both a right to be a stranger and the right to place and home.
The scheme consists of a sequence of bands, comprising residential bars (formed from a repeated module of 30 private cells sharing generous communal kitchens and two courtyards for outdoor living and working), labor bars (equipped for agricultural production and storage), kitchen gardens, farmland, and un-programmed open spaces that allow for the activities of the informal economy. All these spaces are connected by a central spine, planted with live oaks, creating a space of non-vehicular circulation shaded from the Texas sun. The spine is lined with market stalls where the produce of the land and the products of the informal economy can be sold to the city. In this way our project opens up access to the city, subverting the prevalent spatial structure of Houston, the isolated subdivision, and making visible the labor of an otherwise invisible population.
Inner Worlds: The Politics of Affect
This project explores the potential of affective design to disrupt and alter the feeling of an existing space. Walter Benjamin said of architecture that “it has always represented the prototype of a work of art the reception of which is consummated by a collectivity in a state of distraction”. He did not mean this to detract from architecture, far from it: “A man who concentrates before a work of art is absorbed by it. In contrast, the distracted mass absorbs the work of art.” Architecture has this distinct power, precisely because it can insinuate itself into, and hence shape, the being of those who use it without requiring their conscious attention. Through this project I sought to establish specific affective devices and a theoretical framework to understand their operation on the subject.
The site is an underpass in London, below a busy road, that connects two neighborhoods and provides a shortcut along the route to the local tube station. The space is cold, lit by a dirty greyish light, and promotes a sense of suspicion and unease between those who use it. The insertion of a soft topographical form manipulates the ‘social field’ of the space, gently pushing people together at a compression point, forcing some interaction even if fleeting. This modulation of a space that was previously undifferentiated and purely one directional, also alters the perception of time as one moves through it, creating a liminal moment. Along the edge, heating elements replace the lights, with the temperature peaking at the moment of compression. Hence, those passing each other at this pinch point are literally warmed and perhaps also metaphorically ‘warmed’ towards each other. The sense of the space is quite dramatically altered through minimal means.