We initiate this project by reflecting on the limitations of the traditional housing model. By creating a volume through a sheer multiplication of a given site and dividing the massing into the floor and then into the unit, this model generates a market-oriented system that leverages the footprint by making the space as generic as possible. Micro-housing projects, such as WeLive and Caesura, add to this system by trading square footage from housing units to create shared amenity spaces, which presumes the presence of interactions would generate collectivity among residents. Micro-units are compressed to the basic necessities of living while domestic activities, such as cooking, laundry, and entertainment, are removed from the home and reformed into larger public spaces.

However, when these previously semi-private functions are pushed into large public areas, their operations are alienated from the space of the home, losing their sense of domesticity and privacy. The presumed collectivity is never realized as shared spaces become underused due to their isolation from units and dispersion across floors. Such qualities of home life and community are sacrificed for economic models of efficiency that limit the functionality of the micro-unit and compartmentalize the theme of "collectivity" into leftover plan space. Combined with the standardization and serial repetition of the unit and floor, there is a subsequent loss of spatial identity, ownership, and agency that a user has over their domestic territories.

To create an alternative micro-housing model, this project employs a different approach by subverting the traditional definition of such housing projects. Instead of the typical procedure that starts from the massing to the floor to the unit, the project begins at a medium scale "cluster" of units, which then aggregate together and inform public and private spaces. Within each cluster, five units shift sectionally and intersect, becoming formally differentiated through the thickened poche spaces that define the interior spaces. The poche spaces perform as domestic elements in the unit, which maximizes the space and self-sufficiency of a unit. For instance, wall poches act as murphy beds, micro-kitchens, cabinet storages, and contain plumbing and ventilation pipes.

When clusters are aggregated in a stepped manner, a stairs-cape is created, which subverts a typical housing model that contains flat interior elements, such as the corridor. When the aggregations are mirrored to create a looping cluster logic, an open atrium is generated adjacent to the entrance and platform for each cluster. The atrium enforces a type of public intimacy as it allows for constant and differentiating visual connections across different clusters and levels. Ultimately, a gradient of privacy is created in the building: the units become the most private, edged by semi-private kitchens and living rooms, connected by public stairs and atrium. These privacy boundaries can be blurred once the doors are opened, as they create continuous connections between public and private.

As such, the ambition of this project is not simply challenging the typical housing model but rather exploring a new approach that returns collectivity, specificity, and domesticity to the space and inhabitants of micro-units. The central stair-scape and atrium become defining features of the project that generate new types of collectivity at all scales of the project, while the poche spaces of the units imbue micro-housing with different types of individuality and functionality.

Ground floor plan
Typical floor plan

Section A-A

Section B-B

Structural diagram

Rice Totalization Studio
NYC, US, Fall 2018
Instructor: Troy Schaum
Teammate: Neha Sahai

Cargo Collective 2017 — Frogtown, Los Angeles