James Binning and Paloma Strelitz
Unit 15: Home Economics
Leandro Erlich, 'Pulled by the roots'; Art project 'The City is the Star', 2015; (c) Artwork / visualization: Studio Leandro Erlich
HOME ECONOMICS What is the future of housing in a city where traditional ideas about the house and the household are out of date and out of reach?
Our conception of the family unit is in radical flux. The twentieth century nuclear model is now not just a quaint conservative throwback but an anachronistic cultural pariah, dictating the terms of domestic development despite its dwindling relevance across generations.
Meanwhile British housing has become an urban and economic catastrophe with average London rent consuming three quarters of the average wage. The crisis displaces the poor and impoverishes the well off. Our political leaders are at best powerless and at worst complicit while businesses close, homelessness spirals and anodyne luxury developments erode civic life.
Housing provision is high on the agenda of public debate but tangible alternatives to the mainstream are sorely lacking, with a near total reliance on big development to roll out piecemeal stop-gap solutions rooted in archaic familial assumptions. The result is a transient and disempowering domestic realm organised in a series of homogenised anti-civic housing silos, too few, too small, too inflexible and too dull to meaningfully engage with changing social conditions.
In this urgent context, Home Economics will interrogate the new relationships between individuals, families and communities grounded in economic reality and hands-on practice. We will test what agency our abilities as architects equip us with to challenge the status quo and address the crisis. Our proposals will be based in London where we will develop expansive architectural models which revitalise the relationship between domestic space and civic life for a diverse contemporary society in which change is the only constant.
We believe that architectural practice should combine direct making with critical thinking. This approach underpins the work of our studio Assemble and will inform the tactics and teaching of this unit.
In Home Economics we will take London as our source material; a dynamic laboratory of culture, economics and politics. We will have no fixed site and instead will explore locations, opportunities and situations neglected by conventional forms of urban development. We will combine rigorous research and design with large-scale models and 1:1 prototypes. Each project will begin with a specific urban scenario i.e. high-street tenure, new transport infrastructure, green belt regulation or section 106 agreements. From there we will focus in on site-specific proposals with the potential to become the prototypical models of the future.
Above all we will run a course that is exciting, critical and practical. We will expect you to explore broadly, read deeply, experiment radically, and to be bold in your and ideas and ambitious in your propositions.
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