Mass support: flexibility and resident agency in housing

How can cities and neighborhoods meet their housing production goals while responding to the needs of different households and communities?

Join us for an international online symposium on flexibility, occupant contribution and modular construction in contemporary housing.

From new models of social housing in Berlin and Barcelona to new uses for prefabricated housing in Beijing and Brooklyn, panellists will share architectural strategies that connect to the broader, structural issues of today’s housing, including local construction labor economies, suburban densities and new models of cohabitation and resident-led development.

This symposium expands on the topics explored in the exhibition Mass support: flexibility and resident agency in housingNow on view at the Spitzer School of Architecture, City College. Exhibition – organized by A curatorial research collective and designed by office approx— explores the legacy and contemporary relevance of Stichting Architecten Research (SAR), a Dutch architectural think tank founded in 1964 to propose a radical new way of thinking about housing, combining the efficiency of industrial construction with the flexibility of user customization. Initially run by John HabrakenSAR suggested new features for the construction industry, for households and, most importantly, for architects.

Today, in the midst of a major global housing crisis, we need many new ideas to address the quality, accessibility and affordability of shelter. We also need to explore the promises and pitfalls of overlooked knowledge from the recent past. The work of John Habraken and the SAR offers useful paths to consider a range of seemingly contradictory contemporary imperatives. How to balance the desire for self-determination of residents with the need to build more apartments quickly and economically? How do we use our deep understanding of the finer details of zoning and building regulations to serve bold visions to transform our cities and suburbs? How can we use the constant observation of demographic changes and household diversity to formulate concrete proposals for housing projects that will empower their users, overcome the political and financial inertia that change predicts?

Join practitioners and researchers from around the world to discuss these questions in light of a range of contemporary design strategies designed to increase housing supply without sacrificing occupant self-determination. New York State CEU and AIA are available to all symposium attendees.

The curator of the exhibition is the Curatorial Research Collective of the Eiindhoven University of Technology. The symposium is co-hosted by Bernard and Anna Spitzer School of ArchitectureThe City College of New York (CUNY) i Architectural League of New York. This program is partially supported by US Dutch culture program of the Consulate General of the Netherlands in New York.

Conference programme
Marta Gutman, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College
SAR historical context: Sergio Figueiredo from the Eindhoven University of Technology
The modern meaning of SAR: Cassim Shepard, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College
Open building today: Tom Frantzen, Frantzen et al Architects and Lemniskade

Session I: What can resident control do politically?

New organizational forms of (social) construction, lessons on the policy of sharing space, cooperation with municipalities and co-design for flexibility.

Critina Gamboa, Lacol / Christoph Heinemann, ifau / Juliane Greb, Juliane Greb’s office. Panel discussion, moderated by Susanne Schindler, ETH Zurich.

Session II: What can modular construction enable in terms of architecture?

Modular building is about more than efficiency and cost: the perspective of modularity as a strategy for preserving neighborhoods, making decisions for residents and revitalizing local labor economies.

Deborah Gans, Gans & Co / James Shen, Office of Folk Architecture / Tim Swanson, Inherent Homes. Panel discussion, moderated by Laura Wainer, Spitzer School of Architecture, City College.

Session III: What can neighborhood-scale flexibility enable?

Flexibility is more than design and construction: understanding the redevelopment potential of the suburban fabric requires a deep understanding of the policies that perpetuate unsustainable and inflexible settlement patterns, as well as the local adaptations that enable change.