Urban Housing for the 21st Century 

ARCH 573 | Fall 2015
Associate Professor Scott Murray 

This studio addresses an enduring challenge of architecture: the innovative design of residential spaces within dense urban contexts. Through design, we strive to address two of this century’s most pressing societal needs:  (1) confronting the growing need for affordable, engaging places to live in city centers, and (2) advancing the performance of these buildings beyond the status quo. The primary project is the semester-long design of a new residential building located in a city of the students’ choice.

This course approaches the design of affordable housing with special emphasis placed on the energy performance of multi-unit residential buildings in urban settings. We explore the potential relationship between high-performance building envelope systems and affordable housing.  Through large-scale wall sections and modeling, we study material assemblies and their dual roles—both technological and aesthetic—in defining the building envelope and its performance.

The semester begins with research into housing typologies and case studies, incorporating analysis of the technologies, history, and theory related to housing design. In order to develop collaboration skills and to enable a high level of depth and detail in the projects, students work in teams of two on the semester-long design project. Each team has the freedom to select a suitable site in an urban location of their choice, anywhere on earth, and to develop a unique program and design proposal for multi-unit housing that addresses issues of advanced performance. The scale of the projects vary depending upon the selected sites, but may be low-, mid- or high-rise and may also accommodate mixed-use programs, although the focus of the project will be on residential space, including the detailed design of apartment units.

The studio emphasizes mastery of technical principles as well as more intangible qualities such as spatial experience and architectural character, stressing quality over quantity of space. The studio process is based on experimentation with form, structure, and enclosure, developed through iterative design proposals using detailed and large-scale physical and digital modeling.