Designing Affordable Housing
Affordable housing is near the top of the social problems afflicting contemporary America, and it's something to which architects and designers, both inside and outside universities, can contribute valuable ideas. The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina organized a design competition that challenged architects to propose innovative designs, using Habitat for Humanity’s basic three-and-four bedroom house as a point of departure, but also including the use of environmentally friendly and sustainable materials, technologies, and methods.
The 25 winning entries to the competition, made into a traveling exhibition called the HOME House Project: The Future of Affordable Housing, are currently on display in an exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum (WAM) on the University of Minnesota's East Bank campus until April 30. The exhibition "showcases one hundred innovative design approaches that use sustainable materials, technologies, and methods. Local affordable housing efforts [which supplement the SECCA award-winners] are highlighted in drawings, scale models, and building sections." Some intriguing images are on the web at http://weisman.umn.edu/exhibits/homehouse/images.html
The commentary on the web site notes:
Participating architects offer a range of design solutions from the adventurous and visionary to more traditional approaches. Design proposals make use of prefabricated structures and elements; recycled, organic, or innovative manufactured materials; passive heating and cooling techniques; and filtered rain and gray water, among other ideas. The number and variety of entries demonstrate the interest of architects in addressing pressing social issues and prove that as technology changes, so does our ability to consider and actualize new solutions to housing problems.
According to the WAM web site, "SECCA is known for its 'Artist and the Community' series, with projects that revise ideas about contemporary art and design, insisting that they can address pressing social concerns and engage directly in community issues." In this way it is an exemplar of the philosophy behind Imagining America.