This year Sarah Dunn, associate professor at the University of Illinois School of Architecture and co-partner of UrbanLab, came across […]

This year Sarah Dunn, associate professor at the University of Illinois School of Architecture and co-partner of UrbanLab, came across a New York times article profiling a group of four men living in Queens, NY and call their shared apartment Fortress Astoria. What is interesting about this group of four men is that they started out as college roommates, and now approaching their early forties, they continue to live with one another despite having long term girl friends, jobs, and many other standard requirements that normally allow people to break off on their own. But no, these four men refuse to take on the responsibility of marriage and family or the prospect of living alone and instead seek the comfort of the pack.

The New York Times article became the perfect jumping off point for Sarah Dunn to develop a third year graduate studio whose main focus is to mine social relationships and program hybrids for their formal possibilities. We started the semester with two assignments that we developed simultaneously. One was to research a community that employed a subversive living arrangement. Some of the communities chosen by my peers include the Amish, Doomsday communities, an assortment of Hippie communes, Mormon Polygamists, a Turkish religious community in Cappadocia, a group of homeless people who live in the flood pipes under Las Vegas, cruise ships, nudist/naturists and much more.

Now, while researching and analyzing our communities we also tackled a second assignment. I speak for myself mostly, but I know from my peers that this was a difficult one. We were asked to combine two elements that are thought of as being separate however, through their combination still work independently and produce a third unexpected but useful outcome. These elements can also vary in scale, from furniture, to building, to community. Here are some examples of the “mashups,” as they became fondly known in our studio (Images soon to follow!):

-        Bed/ stove (Exists in Russia)

-        Sofa/ staircase

-        Bike/ washing machine

-        Library/ ski lift

-        Ice rink/ supermarket

-        Escalator / restaurant

-        Ferris wheel / wind turbine

-        Skateboarding ramp/ House

-        Water tower/ swimming pool

-        Public swimming pool / suburban house

-        Suburb / football stadium

-        Breast pump / cradle swing

-        Restaurant / crematorium

-        Public toilet / flower shop

-        Suburban house / office building

-        Suburban house / bridge

The techniques utilized in producing the mashups and the intelligence excavated from our community research will with any luck work together to assist us in creating new convincing communities. Our hope is that, as a studio, we will be able to project new possibilities through form and program. So come back next week and find out what this truly wonderful yet completely experimental approach will yield!

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