Aging in The American Dream: Suburban Design Typologies for Tomorrow's Healthy Homes 

ARCH 572 | Spring 2017
Studio Instructor: Associate Professor Lynne Dearborn                                                                                               Studio Consultants: Professor Wendy Rogers (KCH), Maurita Harris, Tom Loew                                                                   Studio Panel of Elders: Mary Stallmeyer, Marlene Fiedler 

Key Theme: Contemporary demographic trends in the US and globally have significant implications for healthy housing environments of the future.

Description: To explore models of the “House for the Twenty First Century,” this studio critiqued contemporary US housing development and by extension its globally exported suburban model. Through investigation, documentation, evidence-based analysis and design, projects responded to converging demographic, social, and economic trends, public health concerns, and the pervasive typologies of US residential development that motivated this evidence-based studio’s design explorations. Semester studio projects (a self-contained 350-square-foot ADU & a single or duplex-family home) explored the role smart technology might play in contemporary and future healthy homes as well as how the home can be a tool to increase well-being and reduce our individual and collective resource footprint. Using residential neighborhoods in Champaign and Urbana, Illinois as the basis for historical analysis and design context, students developed all-inclusive proposals for a 1 or 2-family dwelling and site. Upon completion, students submitted their design proposals to ACSA’s 2017 competition, A House for the Twenty First Century.

Target Trends: As a global population, where we live is making us unhealthy and unhappy!

In 2016, the Pew Research Center identified 5 US trends that demand attention through better housing design.

1) The American family is changing and now little resembles the nuclear-family households idealized in 1950s & 1960s sit-coms.

2) One-in-six American kids now live in a blended family.

3) Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in a record 40% of all US households with children.

4) Many Millennials are struggling with student debt and find themselves back in their parents’ homes. They should be buying their first homes but are unable/unwilling to shoulder debt associated with a housing mortgage.

5) The US population is aging. Between 2010 and 2050 population profiles are expected to tip strongly to the oldest age groups (65+). In the US, this demographic will double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060.

What role do we have as designers in responding to these trends?

Forming the premise of this studio’s semester-long housing design focus, these trends, coupled with contemporary housing misfits, prompted the innovative responses of studio participants. While responsibly addressing the needs of occupants, context, climate, culture and ecology, final proposals were required to respond to the increasing desire of many to age-in-place rather than move to retirement communities, and to several accelerating environment-linked public health epidemics. Student proposals fully integrated spatial, technical, and material considerations while respecting diverse demographic sectors served by speculative housing development.