2023 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part XXVI

In Part XXVI of the Study Architecture Student Showcase, the featured projects support and serve marginalized populations – from a thesis that presents a series of fictional architectural scenarios to critically question ableism in architecture to multigenerational housing for minority groups to promote cross-generational solidarity. Each project confronts a systemic issue by offering tangible architecture-based solutions.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture by Matthew Schrage, B.Arch ‘23
Virginia Tech School of Architecture | Advisor: Andrew Gipe-Lazarou

This thesis is a manifesto for Anti-Ableist architecture.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture is uninterested in supporting or ascribing to dominant modes of thinking on the topic of disability in architecture. It is uninterested in furthering the endless search for more practical “solutions,” more checklists, or more “easy” answers to further obscure a deeply rooted political and historical problem.

This thesis presents a broad critique of the topic of disability and ableism in architecture. It aims to break architecture from the tired ways of thinking that it sparsely ever questions. It calls on the discipline to critically question and reconsider why it must address disabled bodies in the peculiar ways it does.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture seeks to properly understand the topic of disability and ableism in architecture as a centuries-long political and historical project. It aims to reveal the ways in which architecture has relentlessly dehumanized, erased, patronized, and shut out disabled people while denying our bodies, experiences, cultures, communities, and histories any contribution to architecture itself. It seeks to retire prejudicial ways of thinking that see us as merely a set of functional aberrances, whose bodies are to be paternalistically “granted access” by a unanimously nondisabled profession.

Towards an Anti-Ableist Architecture addresses a discipline that designs its buildings for the mythical norm and views our perspectives as exterior to architecture entirely. It critiques a discipline that universally assumes its subjects to be able-bodied and to unquestioningly possess the qualities of able-bodied people. It attacks architectural histories and theories that aestheticize the able-bodied person as architecture’s definitive human, as “universal,” “pure,” “harmonious,” and “standard.” It critiques a discipline that normalizes our discrimination and nonchalantly allows the production of inaccessible buildings with little to no alarm.

Following the established legacy of “paper architecture” as a tool of ideological critique, this thesis’s main design project, The Ultimatum, formulates a satirical narrative about disability and architecture in a sequence of ten “Acts.” Through a series of fictional architectural scenarios, The Ultimatum parodies the discipline of architecture, calling on it to properly confront its ongoing complicity in the oppression of disabled people and other marginalized groups.

This project received the Undergraduate Thesis Prize for Critique of the Architectural Discipline.

Instagram: @mschrage99 

A STOP WORTH WAITING FOR: designing a better DART bus shelter by Sumayyah Abdullah, Bamluck Abera, Victor Almaraz, Sandra Calzadillas, Marvin Diaz, Maryam Hashim Jacqueline Hernandez, David Hine, Vanessa Huerta, Vanesa Lopez, Diandra Osorio, Kennett Rivera Ayesha Shaikh, Berenice Velasquez, Richa Verma & Tasfia Zahin, B.Arch ‘23
University of Texas at Arlington | Advisor: Julia Lindgren

Public transportation networks impact how our cities function, enhance the quality of life for their residents and stimulate economic development. A good bus shelter is an essential part of any successful urban mass transit system. What constitutes “good,” however, depends upon your point of view. This design-build project proposes a future Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) bus shelter that re-imagines the design of existing infrastructure to optimize public benefit.

DART currently services 13 cities through 6,800 bus stops that accommodate over 20 million riders annually. Under its new bus network plan, DART calculates that 75% of people located in DART’s service area live within walking distance of a bus stop. This offers an opportunity to expand resources to areas that are currently underserved by public amenities, parks, and artistic expression. “A Stop Worth Waiting For” showcases the work of the University of Texas at Arlington’s architecture students who worked in collaboration with DART and AIA Dallas to design and build a prototype to explore what the metroplex’s next-generation bus shelter could be.

UTA’s College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs design-build program works to engage students with communities to tackle our most challenging urban issues. By coupling direct public engagement with design and making, the new bus shelter enhances rider experience, responds to environmental conditions, and expands neighborhood amenities. The prototype and complimentary exhibition were developed during the fall 2022 semester with input from DART bus riders, front-line workers, advisors, and leadership. The prototype was shared publicly on social media to solicit additional public design input that will inform its next iteration. This project was generously supported by DART and AIA Dallas.

This project received the ASLA Texas Student Honor Award

INNER CITY by Sierra Grant, M.Arch ‘23
University of North Carolina at Charlotte | Advisor: Thomas Forget

Inner City creates a connection between neighborhoods. Typically American suburbs are split by socioeconomic segregation and ethnic lines. The original inhabitants of the American suburb have suffered not only from white flight in the 1950s but also from urban revitalization that’s led to our current state of mass gentrification. People are divided and communities are disconnected. Inner City aims to stitch these gaps by creating a suburban green loop throughout the city with a new typology of alternative flex-housing that inserts the city’s nontraditional and underserved occupants into the suburbs while also implementing an intense interplay of public space into private living.

This project was recognized as “Exploration Excellence in Critical”

Instagram: @_sierragrant_

Housing for Youth by Sara Serrano, B.A. in Architecture ‘23
University of Illinois at Chicago | Advisor: Alexander Eisenschmidt

Little Village is one of the densest neighborhoods in Chicago. It has an estimated population of 73,826 people with 17,000 living per square mile. The population is mostly made up of minority groups who co-live with relatives in increasingly dense conditions. Therefore, the proposal envisions collective multigenerational housing that gives each generation an apartment but also encourages interaction between the younger and elderly generations. By organizing their units across from each other and implementing large entrance doors that can swing open to connect to the opposite unit, an interface is created that at least facilitates social exchange and, at best, cross-generational solidarity. Each individual unit is conceived as a single space with alcoves for secondary rooms to sleep, cook, and bath. When the doors to the secondary rooms are closed, a single open space appears while opening the swing doors from one side of the unit transforms the apartment into an enfilade.

Instagram: @Eisenschmidt_a

American Conditions by Pedro Aguero, M. Arch ‘23
University of Nebraska–Lincoln | Advisor: Zeb Lund

In this representation of an American Foursquare house, each side represents different realities that too often simultaneously occupy the same space. 

The contrast between these two conditions raises questions about the impact of short-term rentals on the price and quality of housing for low-income families. When short-term rentals exceed the profitability of long-term rentals, there is an incentive for landlords to book their properties as homestays, reducing the supply of long-term rentals in a city. Furthermore, as the available affordable long-term rentals wane, overcrowding and subpar housing become the only alternatives for the most vulnerable segments of the population.

50/50 Co-op by Yufei Wang, M.Arch. ‘23
University of Southern California | Advisor: Sascha Delz

In response to the escalating housing prices and the evolving demands for living arrangements, 50/50 COOP presents an innovative housing model that facilitates adaptable interior spaces. The limitations imposed by conventional houses on people’s space requirements are now a thing of the past. In here, SPACE breaks into SPACE ELEMENT. Each element represents an essential living experience of housing. By offering a dynamic marketplace, 50/50 COOP simplifies the process of acquiring these space elements, likening it to purchasing a pre-owned car. This unique marketplace for space elements not only enables individuals to reduce their cost of living but also grants them unparalleled flexibility in choosing their desired living arrangements. 

The 50/50 Cooperative will gradually grow from VENICE in Los Angeles to a project that spans the United States. It has four main stakeholder entities, community land trust, 50/50 COOP, members and space elements market, and the COOP keeps the organization running by taking in government funds, community donations, dues and rental stores. All 50/50 COOP facilities adhere to a unified standard that facilitates the seamless movement of space elements within the organization. 

This design philosophy aims to liberate individuals from being bound to a specific house. With the support of 50/50 COOP’s widespread facilities across the country, people can effortlessly relocate their living spaces. This mobility empowers individuals to embrace a more flexible lifestyle, where they are not confined to a fixed location but can freely and easily move their homes within the network of 50/50 COOP facilities.

This project received the USC Master of Architecture Distinction in Directed Design Research

Instagram: @yufei__w, @coop_urbanism

See you in the next installment of the Student Showcase!

2022 Study Architecture Student Showcase - Part IV

We are back with week four of the 2022 Student Architecture Student Showcase featuring five more projects from schools around the world. This week’s projects focus on improving the quality of life for marginalized communities ranging from Puerto Rico to Saudi Arabia and beyond. Each project showcases the unique context within the country of the project’s location.

For more student work, please explore Part I, Part II, and Part III.

Hanapbuhay: Remaking Manila by Romilie Calotes, M. Arch, B. EnvD. ’22
University of Manitoba | Advisor: Lisa Landrum

This thesis investigation probes at the matters of identity, dignity, and stability within spaces that the city and surrounding community traditionally perceive as “informal,” this often refers to “non-legal” settlers. Manila City’s collective memory vis a vis identity is being examined with a focus narrowed on a reclaimed land in the coast of its bay; currently known as “BASECO Compound”. Entangled within colonial, political, and religious presence, the site has gradually become the home to Manila’s largest urban poor “barangay” community. The design of pragmatic and incremental, community-inspired eco-hub will line the entire neighborhood, which may be successfully achieved by the barangay themselves, for themselves.

I have always wondered why and how “slums” formed near where I had lived as a child. I would go to school with people who live in homes where their roofs were made of scrap corrugated metals (yiero), thin light-penetrated wood flooring that would screech with every footstep, and walls made of patched thin wood sheets and metal panels showing multi-colored gradation caused mainly by weathering. Yet when we came to school, we all wore the same uniforms, and we as I perceived, were all equals.

Hanapbuhay is a tagalog word, rooting from “hanap” meaning to search and “buhay” meaning life. The two words together, hanapbuhay, means livelihood. Many informal settlers come to the city in search of livelihood, but in exchange they live in unimaginable (to the western society) living conditions, often near creeks, garbage dumps, and dangerous sites.

In hopes of revealing latent memories prompting revelation of the BASECO’s identity, thus creating a space of sanctuary amidst a past that is founded in impermanence. The thesis addresses the rapid densification of cities in Metro Manila, The Philippines’ capital region which was accelerated by a phenomenon exacerbated by the martial law induced by a dictator president: Ferdinand Marcos from 1968-1987 in the Philippines¹. He ruled with an authoritative regime, removing the democratic rights of the Filipinos, and implementing curfews to restrict unwanted movement of people. The “squatter” population grew since the president prioritized economic growth to “improve” the global image of the country—thus meant constant relocation and displacement for people living without land titles, and deep disregard for social and ecologic wealth.

Once Marcos’ rule came to an end, the informal settlements referred to as “slums” began to expand at an unparalleled rate². This has arguably resulted in cruel living conditions, with people remaining in the margins of society and the city, as is typical of many “informal settlements”.

The study focuses on the local scale of Metro Manila, bringing a deeper understanding of the informal-incremental housing strategy, as well as a method of working with existing ecosystems, within a focused site. As Manila is surrounded by the Manila and Laguna Bays, this suggests the inescapable reality of working with water, as a river, ocean, and source of ‘hanapbuhay’.

Augmented by retrospect and latent memories of Manila, the investigation will conclude with addressing a deep-rooted personal curiosity to learn about my home country, inscribing stability through architecture. Learning from these settlements to help regenerate a more resilient future for Manila’s struggling communities. And offering a thought-provoking and careful proposal that will evoke transformation in the unchanging environment of Philippines’ socio-political and environmental landscape.

Instagram: @romiliecalotes, @faumanitoba, @lisalandrum.arch

Mercado Salado by Claudia Crespo, M.Arch ’22
University of Puerto Rico | Advisor: Regner Ramos

“Mercado Salado” by my student Claudia Crespo, is part of her M.Arch dissertation: “Villas Pesqueras: Documenting the Coastal Culture of Puerto Rico Through Architectural Discourse”. Claudia’s committee heralded her work as the best dissertation they’d ever seen, a story-teller that gives voice to a marginalized community, and highlighted how she was able to navigate complex issues with such elegance, maturity, and poise.

“Mercado Salado” inserts traditional Puerto Rican fishing villages in direct confrontation with public policies that exclude locals from access to our coasts, while granting access to the tourism industry. In this way it challenges issues of community displacement, legislation, and the right to our land. The imminent rise of sea levels is here used as the framework to destabilize existing zoning codes to further her agenda: of safeguarding the existence of a local fishing community, while recognizing that eventually Mercado Salado and its site will be lost to the waters.

Instagram: @uprarchitecture, @claudiacrespo6

Embodied Morphologies by Grace Ann Altenbern, B.Arch ’22
University of Tennessee | Advisor: Jennifer Akerman

As our society is a product of the patriarchy, architecture anticipates and produces a scale figure that adheres to the “mythical norm.” This institutes a rigid and unyielding architectural framework, constructing a hostile environment for everyone who lies outside of the presumed scale figure. Therefore, we must deconstruct architectural thought and design prosthetic interventions that defy the residual hardness of the built environment as we know it and expand to create a revolutionary future.

I am exploring the intersection of architecture and fashion through the lens of critical theory to challenge design practices within our patriarchal capitalist system. Through a perspective rooted in gender studies, I have identified architecture as being designed by and for Audre Lorde’s “mythical norm”: a white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, Christian, financially secure patriarchal product. Instead, I aim to study bodies in motion and find diverse scale figures for designing architecture.

Beginning with these revolutionary scale figures, I ask myself: what apparatuses could assist the modern scale figure in dwelling among marginalized spaces? In exploring this question, I have identified the prerequisites that define my prosthetics as tools to redistribute power to those that architecture has otherized. Utilizing this as a new framework to begin designing, I have created body architecture that aims to defy the rigidity of spatial practice. With these prosthetics drafted, I have represented them in environments that traditionally disregard anyone considered other.

Throughout these studies, I have found that design solutions must exist on a spectrum, utilizing bodies outside of the designer’s own privilege in order to create a more inclusive future: an embodied utopia.

Instagram: @graceannaltenbern, @j_akerman

“روح جدة” – Jeddah’s Soul by Baraa Al Ali, B.Arch ’22
American University of Beirut | Advisor: Carla Aramouny

The city of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia has witnessed, since the mid-20th century, urban changes and shifts at a rapid rate with the complete neglect of the city’s historical core. The proposed development strategies, that are part of an unclear plan, claim to seek the development of the area in a manner that enables it to perform its strategic role as a major center for business and housing, with an emphasis on the need to preserve historical, cultural, and architectural value. Yet, the ongoing works in the heritage site present the area as a fragment of the past for tourists to consume, completely disregarding those who are behind the city’s survival over the past decades: the foreign workers.

The research examines the current situation in Al Balad, Jeddah, looks at case studies that have tackled restorations of heritage sites as well as attempts to create a national identity for the locals. The aim is to determine the medium and the methodology through which the soul of the city could be potentially retrieved.

The project is an attempt to follow an alternative unconventional approach that is focused on space rather than buildings, on the soul of the area and the neighborhood; so instead of mummifying the bodies, it opts for the “reincarnation” of the collective soul of the neighborhood.

This can only be done by working on the spaces and the public programs and the human factor who are the residents.

The design stresses on the concept of tissue and fabric because it is problematic to stress the sculptural, free-standing, autonomous entities, at the expense of the fabric & the tissue. Therefore, the method consists of working on the external spaces, stressing the public over the private, the exterior, the open and the leftover, consequently the soul rather than the bodies.

This approach is appropriate because it allows to work with something not traditional or bound to existing buildings, without compromising any of the existing structures or their identity and historical value. The outcome is a social hub that consists of indoor and outdoor functions which serve mainly the current community.

Instagram: @baraaalali, @ard_aub

Architecture As Actant for Protest: Solidarity with Amiskwaciwâskahikan’s (Edmonton) Unhoused Community by Robert Maggay, M.Arch ’22
Laurentian University | Advisor: Aliki Economides

Conditioned by neoliberal imperatives and settler colonial impositions of ‘property’, architecture is complicit in upholding spatial and social inequities. The neologism ‘houselessness’ foregrounds housing as a human right, which must be addressed through the provision of accessible housing, yet this process is slow. Moreover, unhoused individuals are disproportionately affected by pandemics. Their aggravated health risks owe to crowded shelters, comorbidities, and pandemic-related restrictions of supportive services. While COVID-19 has worsened the pre-existing houselessness crisis, some immediate effects may be addressed locally through mutual aid: a form of rapid response and community care that demonstrates both the need for bottom-up solutions and interim approaches to houselessness. This thesis explores how architecture might challenge existing frameworks of power to act in solidarity with houseless neighbours. The series of design interventions proposed for Edmonton, Alberta, focus on socio-spatial relationships – related to water, sanitation, and hygiene – that act in solidarity with houseless people.

This thesis draws from various interviews with local mutual aid volunteers who work to address the immediate needs of houseless neighbours. Based on these interviews, a series of architectural program pairings were established to satisfy two functions: to improve upon existing site uses, and to embed programs and functions that address limited access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities for houseless people. The political forces in public space and architecture limit the ways in which houseless neighbours engage with the built environment, such as the enforcement of property, displacement, security and police, and people who are less sympathetic to the experience of houselessness. An understanding of an ontological violence facing houseless neighbours is the primary driver for this research. This thesis explores the design of a public amenity building that co-locates café, bike repair shop and laundromat programming while embedding functions that mitigate harm among houseless neighbours and their limited access to water, sanitation, and hygiene facilities. Through this proposal, access to washrooms, bathing facilities, laundry machines, day use lockers, public phone rooms and places of respite from extreme weather conditions are explored.

Instagram: @robertmyguy, @aliki.economides

Check back next week for Part V of the Study Architecture Student Showcase.