Required of: 
MArch students; optional for SMArchS/Urbanism students

Significant economic, environmental and development demands are being placed on many coastal US cities from exponential population growth, demographic change and climate adaptation.  Within these scenarios, the issues of urban health, ecology and resources, and housing affordability remain as major design challenges. In particular, the tight housing market, as seen in Boston and other major US cities, is highly affected by ongoing residential price inflation which, in turn, calls for more design innovation in the typologies and figurations of urban housing models. At a moment when cities face these dramatic shifts, innovating and testing ideas for new green urban hybrid housing is more essential than ever.  

Taking this scenario as the broad context for design, the studio will work with two major pedagogical axis:

Firstly, responding to the case for housing demand, the studio will engage in the research and design development of hybrid urban housing types for a new urban economy. Projects will take on issues such as: hybrid programs to sustain the activities such as of health /work /play /art; the notion of sharing versus ownership; micro versus macro scales of habitable space; questions of urban density, physical mass and formal figuration; and the means to make development self-sufficient in resources and energy. The integration of these design agendas will begin to define new scalable prototypes for city living.

Secondly, with the rise of the Mass-Timber movement in North America, developers, manufacturers, federal and local governments, are turning towards this timber based design and construction technology as a potential solution for affordable and sustainable housing in cities. In Boston in the development sector there is interest in the work of the studio that may inform future urban projects. Mass-Timber can also enable the creation of lighter, carbon-negative buildings to sustain more economical increased densities in waterfront contexts. The studio will explore new models of mid-rise affordable housing that utilize mass-timber technologies, and in parallel investigate design innovations in digitally prefabricated solutions engaging volumetric + flat-pack hybrid assemblies.

The locational context for the studio will be different adaptable urban waterfront sites in Boston harbor context where the interface as the constructed edge between water and land has a rich and progressive history of development both as land infill and as land transformation. There will be scope in studio design projects for rethinking the relationship between land and architecture- and housing form as a scalable figure with public space. While the new demands for design ‘resilience’ have to be accommodated as design parameters for the future impacts of climate change, certain urban edges and piers also call for rethinking the nature of place, urban landscape and associated infrastructure.

There will be a studio travel trip to Helsinki, Finland over the Spring Break (March 22-28). This expedition is intended to broaden the knowledge of both Mass-Timber applications and technologies – and also to experience bold ideas in the planning of waterfront projects. The studio will learn first-hand about sustainable forestry practices and timber manufacturing processes. In addition, connection will be made with a local university school, and visits will be made to notable built architecture projects in Helsinki and the region. The travel for the studio is being sponsored by MetsaWood, an international timber company based in Finland.