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ARQ (Santiago)

versión On-line ISSN 0717-6996

ARQ (Santiago)  no.98 Santiago abr. 2018 

Works & projects

How do we live? Housing Studios - Santiago Workshop

Johanna Muszbek1 

Jocelyn Froimovich2 

1 Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.

2 Miembro del programa de investigación en pedagogías de vivienda 'Project Home', Liverpool, UK.


Housing is a permanent question for architecture: not only is always scarce, but it must also adapt to changes in the ways of life, the market and the urban expectations. Assuming this condition as an endemic crisis, this academic project uses urgency as a catalyst for proposals that update the architecture's responses to massive housing.

Keywords: Bauhaus; type; advertisement; metropolis; crisis

Urban housing today demands architects to take a stance. Since market dynamics have taken over housing production, the architect’s protagonism within this system has weakened. Architects operate in the urban fabric and work within its rules, thus should be equipped to challenge them. In today’s context, like in any other moment of political inflection, the status quo has to be discussed; housing design - both policies and buildings - is a public affair.

The Bauhaus’ 1926 film Wie wohnen wir gesund und wirtschaftlich? (How to Live Healthily and Economically?) incited a series of workshops.3 Its first stint was held at the UC in Santiago, August 2017. If a century ago architects raised the question “how do we live?”, today, should urban housing still be addressed from a design perspective? Can the discipline question and ultimately impact the status quo of housing production? In order to face these questions, the workshop “How do we live?” discussed this topic by fragmenting the current debate on housing design into three themes:

Language - Politics

In the real-estate framework, housing has become a commodity or an investment. Therefore, beyond functionality, advertisement plays a decisive role. Through the lens of advertisement it is possible to see how a particular type is construed as a metropolitan lifestyle. The workshop proposes to reutilize the language of advertisement in two ways: to analyze the perception of the type and to produce an argument.

Crisis - Method

For these workshops, the notion of ‘crisis’ is used as an operative term. ‘Crisis’ is understood as a turning point, a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. The term forces to recognize certain design ‘problems’ so as to propose design ‘solutions.’ Although this approach might sound obvious and simplistic, it pushes designers to engage and defend a particular position (‘I’ designed this and not that) and envision anew (this design is ‘better’ because of this and that). The question for this workshop is: what defines the housing crisis of Santiago today? By forcing the notion of crisis as a methodology, each student questioned a specific Santiago housing type and proposed alternative designs for each of them.

Types - Context

Housing design never starts afresh; housing design operates through variation, iteration, and/or mutation of prior examples. The series of workshops “How do we live?” venture into a typological investigation, with the expectation that types can provide a framework to deal with complex urban variables. By understanding the particulars in the production of a housing type, the architect can manipulate and reorganize - invent. The workshops discuss today’s banal housing types, exemplary of a particular city in its making. By looking at the market offer, the goal is to observe, analyze, participate and hopefully interfere in the production system of the urban.4 Rather than dismissing examples of the current housing offer as ‘bastard’ architecture, it is assumed that these housing types portray specific subjects, their living and urban conditions: the politics, policies, and socio-economic factors that lead into developing a particular urban setting.

Housing - the sort that is massively repeated, not the one-of-a kind client-tailored house - is the stuff cities are made of. As housing is the primary occupation of architects, re-thinking housing studios and their design outcomes should have an impact in society. As housing studios are part of every architecture school’s curriculum, they are the perfect environment to question preconceived notions of spatial efficiency, program, private versus public segregation, and other modernist inheritances. Nowadays, when metropolitan lives have changed significantly, has housing in the city followed these changes? The analysis of an existing housing type, its critique, and reformulation through an eloquent argument that addresses all stakeholders will allow to re-establish design authorship and bring the disciplinary discussion back into the public sphere.

Figure 1 Housing Types Catalogue. 

Source: Walter Gropius, Humboldt Film GmbH, 1926

Figure 2 How to live healthily and and economically? Film series in four episodes.  

How do we live? Housing Studios - Santiago Workshop

* Johanna Muszbek M.Arch Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design, Budapest, Hungary, 2006. MSc in Advanced Architectural Design, Columbia University, USA, 2010. She is an architect and landscape architect, currently lecturer at the University of Liverpool. Co-founder of Ujirany Group, designers of the Millennium Park in Budapest. Her work has been exhibited at the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Glasshouse Hungarian Architecture Today, among others. She received the Golden Cross State Award of the Hungarian Republic. She is a curator for Hello Wood, an award winning independent educational platform in Hungary. Currently she is working on an international collaborative research and pedagogic programme titled Project Home.

** Jocelyn Froimovich Architect, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, 2007. MSc. in Advanced Architectural Design, Columbia University, USA, 2010. Has taught in both Universidad Católica de Chile and Columbia University. Licensed architect in Chile and New York State, has worked for Bernard Tschumi, Weiss Manfredi, and Izquierdo Lehmann Architects. Was a collaborator for MoMA’s Young Architect’s Program COSMO, exhibited in 2015 at MoMA PS1. She is currently part of the research program on housing pedagogies ‘Project Home.’

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