The brief: Affordable housing that’s both contextual and funky

Brick building with art work

In the fall semester of 2022, a cohort of fourth-year students enrolled in the undergraduate architecture program were presented with an opportunity to explore the issue of housing justice as the project in their final studio, Advanced Design Workshop.

In Philadelphia, as in other US cities, federal redlining, restrictive racial covenants, and predatory lending have created racially segregated neighborhoods with poor living conditions. Previously redlined communities are more likely to experience extreme heat and higher levels of air pollution than other areas of the city. Philadelphia’s low-income neighborhoods are plagued by an aging and rapidly deteriorating housing stock, presaging a precarious future for residents. Moreover, development and investment in these communities is too often followed the physical and cultural displacement of gentrification.

Under the guidance of Rashida Ng, Chair of Undergraduate Architecture, and Brian Szymanik, Lecturer and Principal of Studio 6mm, the students to explore ways to address past racial disparities in housing while also encouraging sustainability, adapting to climate changes, and cultivating well-being within communities.

This community engagement studio worked in partnership with the Northwest Community Land Trust Corporation on the project, which was sited in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.