Integrative Studio will focus on the development of an architectural project with regard to site relationships, structure, systems, materiality, and building codes, meeting the NAAB accreditation requirements for comprehensive studio. The agenda of 'integration,' however, will be understood in a more fundamental way: rather than a phase of project development, in which a set of skills is applied to an initial idea, we will be exploring the systemic side of architectural production in a constant feedback loop between intent and material manifestation. If architecture is a material practice as much as it is a social practice, it can be assumed that material decisions directly inform human (inter)actions. On the other hand, any social intent will need to find adequate form through the tools of architectural production, including structure, material, and space. 'Integration' throughout the studio will thus be regarded as the careful calibration of intent, form, system, material, and technology. This relationship is never unidirectional: while intent certainly influences form, we will mine materials, systems, and technologies for inherent potentials and unanticipated possibilities.
This fall's Integrative studio will address the housing question through the theme of urban infill housing. As economic and ecological imperatives for more sustainable ways of urban life become ever more pressing, further densification is often sought through infill construction within existing neighborhoods rather than "from-the-ground-up" construction. As zoning restrictions are loosened, new potentials for typological innovation have emerged in established urban contexts. One obvious advantage of such retroactive densification is that infrastructures in these areas are often well established, and an increase in housing density will further encourage a vibrant urban life and counteract the car-dependent land grab on the peripheries. But infill housing also comes with several challenges: As most cities' housing fabrics have evolved from distinct social, economic, and material conditions and established housing types are the "logical" result of these conditions, any intervention in this context is always as much a singular intervention as a piece in a systemic puzzle. The seemingly simple task of the "infill" of an existing lot can present substantial organizational challenges: Spatial constraints, lot sizes, physical access, or access to light or ventilation are thus both spatial qualities and systemic parameters of urbanism.
The idea of retroactive densification has in recent years become popularized as "Missing Middle Housing" and focuses on working towards sustainable densities in established suburban neighborhoods. However, all too often, an emphasis has been for new developments to "fit in" - visually, materially, and arguably socially - thereby implicitly elevating the existing (suburban) image to an unquestioned ideal. This studio by contrast aims to understand the constraint of the infill not so much as a visual cue but the opportunity to react to spatial and organizational pressures by inventing living environments that may deviate from expected solutions and therefore open up new opportunities to envision how to live in an American city.