While developing research for this project, MacDonald found that as urban populations grow, many cities are experiencing booms in multifamily housing, a phenomenon compounded by aging housing, declining rates of home ownership and ubiquitous technology that can cause social isolation and decline of communal spaces.
“Students often struggle to design forward-thinking housing because they have such strong associations with the homes that they experienced growing up. Many housing studios focus on the aggregation of units, with communal zones occurring in the leftover space, if at all. In this studio, I was interested in how housing might instead be driven by the public spaces between neighbors,” MacDonald said.
The project leveraged film as a vehicle for the study of multifamily housing design. “I brought in film as a kind of MacGuffin to free students from their preconceptions and illustrate how daily, public life might unfold beyond one’s front door,” MacDonald said. “Students analyzed and modeled shared spaces from a series of critically-acclaimed films in which housing becomes a character within the drama.”
MacDonald’s students analyzed shared spaces featured in the films then created new models of residential living that featured the spaces between living areas as much as the living areas, themselves. By creating communal spaces first, students refocused their expectations on designing for today’s urban dwellers.
To better convey their designs, students used analog techniques and animation software to create films that staged their designs.