Team ········· Yotam Ben Hur
                     Braden Young
Type ········· Housing
Year ······ 2015
Status ······· Academic

NYC Pratt Institute Dormitory®
Housing is a subject inextricably interwoven with the city. The 20th century re-consideration of housing had to do with “the normalizing of the residential environment” and began as a reaction against the congestion and squalor of the industrial city. In New York City, early legislation focused on public health, safety, and fire protection and resulted in the institutionalizing of minimum standards which in turn promoted a larger set of social reforms aimed at improving the quality of urban life. The new law tenement act of 1901 set the first minimum requirements for light and air in order to call a space habitable. It also restricted how much an owner could build on his lot to within 70% of the total area. These are laws that remain in place today. The public housing act led to the government sponsorship of the construction of housing estates which were typically based on European models. In post-World War I Europe, housing and the house were the programs of modern architecture. Ideas of community settlement, standardization and mass production were embraced in this climate of rapid reconstruction, economic growth and political change. For Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, JJP Oud, Le Corbusier and Alvar Aalto, housing was the program par excellence that consumed them.

A part of the research that went in to these projects was the need to determine minimum standards, and then create new typologies that were dense but at the same time performed as social condensers. From built-in storage and fold away beds to shared spaces like communal kitchens and exercise areas, innovations came from the parameters of the problems of housing. Le Corbusier went further in redefining the modern domestic interior by means of a sectional complexity. His overlapping volumes interrelated interior spaces but more importantly incorporated the exterior space of the garden and the street.

In New York City, state sponsored housing came to be typified by the projects of Robert Moses that are now our legacy – housing that was built primarily in concert with his new roadways. The demolition and removal of urban infrastructure and the introduction of isolated super blocks oriented against any immediate context were intended to provide an abundance of dwellings that guaranteed the basic standards and quality of life. These projects were generally embraced by a lower middle class public as great opportunities. Later there would be a reaction to this typology and scale as exemplified by the social engineering, financial mismanagement and ultimate demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St Louis. Categorized as a programmatic failure, John McMorrough describes this as “what architecture has been least equipped to face, the inhabitation of the social after the realization of the schematic.” Housing research, however, has seen resurgence in the last 20 years as cities continue to be the locus for economic, educational and cultural production.

Several questions might then be asked of the urban housing program: 1. How might a design methodology be developed that can “accommodate the force of necessity (function, program), without becoming repressive of the other unforeseen purposes and activities” that the dormitory type can engender? (see Jones, Towards a Loose Modularity) 2. How can it do so as to promote social interaction at many scales from the individual to the collective? 3. What are the expressive spatial and tectonic potentials of this approach?

The project for this course is to design a dormitory, a graduate housing community of 55 two bedroom apartments. Design of the dormitory will be done in teams of two students. A corner site in Brooklyn of 15,000 square feet will be assigned. Students will be required to engage design issues at the scale of the individual dwelling unit, the assembled building, and the shared perimeter block. A final design is expected to perform not just as a formal and tectonic invention but as a critical investigation of social culture.

The design of a medium density dormitory housing is an opportunity to investigate three problems:

1. What it means to dwell within an urban area: Internally – the apartment typology, the nature of its household composition, an articulation of the live/study arrangement and the promise of shared communal spaces. Externally – the visual and physical relationship to outdoor space and surrounding context.

2. An investigation of form as a response to multiple limitations: Formulating a building project from the opportunities presented by the safeguards and restrictions that governmental authorities prescribed for multiple dwellings.

3. The idea of an architectural identity expressed through façade:
Understanding the external skin as a unique overlaid system of relationships – environmental, social, organizational, tectonic, etc.