Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Live Work Grow

By Kyle Fountain

Not long ago families and neighbors contributed to the construction of a house.  Today, Amish families still have barn raisings and build their home with the help of their community.  In urban contexts, the best designs are limited to the wealthiest occupants.  A few examples which come to mind are a single family residence in Chicago’s Lincoln Park designed by Tadao Ando which I walked by on my way

Figure 1 - Private Residence designed by Tadao Ando, Chicago Illinois

to my favorite taco joint, Del Seoul, probably 10 times before I investigated what was beyond the plain fifteen foot tall concrete wall.  As it turns out, the home is not only an original Tadao Ando masterpiece, but a single family residence.  Other examples, on a different scale and density are condos and hotels within the Trump Tower Chicago, or Gehry’s 8 Spruce Street tower in New York.  All three of the aforementioned buildings are closed off to the public, and unless you can spare roughly $3,100 a month for a studio apartment, you most likely won’t get past the concierge.1   Alastair Parvin, co-creator of WikiHouse, on the other hand has begun a new architectural innovation strategy for the 100%.
Parvin, in his TED talk reminds us that architects typically design for 1% of the population, and follow a design strategy of “form follows finance.”2  On the flip side, lower income mass produced housing is a product of “one size fits all” design.2  WikiHouse was the catalyst for solving those two issues.  The idea is that a person could build their own CNC machine, which could later build their own house, or portion of their house.  As they acquire more financial freedom, or grow their family, they could, in turn, build onto their house.

Figure 2: A WikiHouse project under construction

If a mixed use, mixed income development had the shared vision of improving upon a building whether adding units, floors, or amenities in an urban neighborhood gradually growing as well, a new social and innovative working class culture may form.  For the same reason we get pleasure from eating vegetables from our own garden, assemble IKEA furniture, contributing to a piece of the building we inhabit will be the ultimate rewarding experience.  Throughout the next several months, I will be walking you through research and case studies relative to my thesis topic which isn’t necessarily the idea of open source design, but a development which can grow along with a building’s occupants, and the context that surrounds it.  The Near West side of Chicago is a perfect location for this exploration.  Currently there is an interesting mixture of urban planned development gentrification, and wholesale industrialization.

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