Special Subject: City Form— Cooperative Conditions: Boston (summer)

Permission of instructor


  • Workshop occurs in Summer 2020 but registration is for the Fall 2020 term.
  • Expected number of work hours per week: 9
  • To enroll, please contact the instructor or TA of the class first.

COVID-19 has revealed how inadequate and architecturally limiting a primarily market-based housing system is, especially in high-cost coastal areas like Boston.

In contrast, Zurich, a similarly high-cost city, has recently realized a number of highly experimental new forms of permanently nonprofit housing cooperatives in the past 25 years. These experiments build oncentury-old traditions; clusters of micro-units, large households for up to 50 residents, traditional family apartments with access to generous shared amenities. What is of interest here is not only the architecture, but the fact that this housing is available at “cost rent” to anyone (irrespective of income), that it is financed through conventional lenders, and that it has been successfully scaled. Today, more than twenty percent of Zurich's housing is considered outside the market. See article explaining key aspects of the Zurich model.

What would it take to adapt Zurich's cooperative conditions to work within the context of Boston?

The goal of this workshop is to articulate a series of “how to's“ to transfer this model from Zurich to Boston, while identifying what hinders this form of design and development from happening here. Toward that goal, students will analyze and compare Boston-area precedents with global examples; dissect planning regulations, fiscal, legal, and financial frameworks, and interview key actors. Together, students will come up with a textual and graphic format to convey these findings for an audience of architects, planners, policy makers, and voters. (It is an election year!)

The class builds on research I am currently conducting together with Anne Kockelkorn and students of the MAS program in history and theory of architecture at ETH Zurich. Read a short description of the project.