Around the world, cities are experiencing a profound, international housing emergency. While we need many new ideas to address the condition, availability, and attainability of shelter globally, we also need to examine the promise and pitfalls of overlooked knowledge from the recent past.
Mass Support: Flexibility and Resident Agency in Housing is an exhibition that explores the legacy and contemporary relevance of the Stichting Architecten Research (SAR), an architectural think tank active in the Netherlands between 1964 and 1990 that proposed a radical new way of thinking about mass housing, one that fused the efficiency of industrial construction with the flexibility of user customization. Initially led by John Habraken, the SAR suggested new functions for the construction industry, for households, and, crucially, for architects.
After premiering at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) in the summer 2022, an updated version of this exhibition opened at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College, City University of New York (CCNY) in March of 2023. An international, virtual symposium on flexibility, resident input, and modular building in contemporary, residential architecture will complement and extend the exhibition’s themes, exposing students, academics, and practitioners to the under-examined interface of robust user consultation, new develoment models, and innovative construction technology.
For this exhibition, officeca designed a modular, flat-packed, collapsible wall prototype that can grow infinitely and achieve millions of different configurations. The walls are help together with precision cut interior ribs and ratchet straps; no hardware is involved. Content is held in place with velcro, allowing it to be repositioned and altered.
A related online symposium was held on April 26th, featuring many of the practices featured in the exhibition alongside leading scholars and practitioners committed to new ways of introducing more flexibility and more resident agency into the design of our housing and our urban and suburban neighborhoods. Click here to watch videos of the symposium presentations and panel discussions.
The exhibition and symposium are the products of a unique collaboration between the Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY, the Architectural League of New York, and the Curatorial Research Collective of the Eindhoven University of Technology.
This work relates to my ongoing project, Self-Help Housing. In addition to the historical material on view about the legacy of the SAR, the exhibition also connects the themes of this research to contemporary practices in architecture, research, and advocacy. Recent projects on display include:
+ Superlofts, by Marc Koehler Architects
+ Patch22 and Top-Up, by Lemniskade / Frantzen et al Architecten
+ Build it Back Modular, by Gans & Co
+ Plug-in Houses, by People’s Architecture Office
+ La Borda, by Lacol
+ San Riemo, by Arge summacumfemmer / Büro Juliane Greb
+ R50-cohousing, by ifau und Jesko Fezer / Heide & Von Beckerath
+ Housing Multitudes, by Richard Sommer, Michael Piper, and Simon Rabiniuk
+ Mutable Minima, by Cadaster
+ Neighbors for More Neighbors, N4MN
Check out some press coverage in The Architect’s Newspaper, World-Architects.com, (in print) the New York Review of Architecture, and in the podcast, Unfrozen.