Rendering of Sanctuary living by Cami Quinteros

Future100: These Students Channel Personal Narrative into Supportive Housing

Seven undergraduate and graduate architecture students reflect on their personal experiences and lineages to design ethical, supportive, and sustainable housing projects.

Among this year’s Future100 students, some express a certain interiority of personal experience through residential architectural forms. Ethical concerns pervade their portfolios. These projects are not technocratic solutions to general problems of housing and programs for institutional clients; rather, they are extensions of an inward search for meaning and a turn toward the particulars of things that matter on a social and existential level. 

For example, when Syracuse University undergrad architecture student Kristabel Chung designs migrant domestic worker accommodations, reflecting on discriminatory labor laws in her mother’s native Hong Kong, her research process involves in-person interviews and quantitative surveys asking workers to evaluate and draw their own spaces. One of her projects performs a forensic study of the 23 holes, tears, and stains on a hoodie her mother wore while doing domestic chores, attempting to replicate the force required to create them, and dissecting the marks through diagrammatic representations. 

Subversive engagement with the digital as it interacts with human environments is a particularly salient theme throughout the portfolio of University of Massachusetts Amherst MArch student Cami Quinteros. They explore fluid dynamics, mass burial sites in Chile, codesign with computers, and migration patterns in Chiapas, Mexico, through computational line drawings that challenge the political neutrality often attributed to numerical processes. 

rendering of high rise apartment and the moon
Brook Boughton’s residential high-rise proposal, Vallée Verticale, “investigates the dichotomy between the [residential] and public spheres” by incorporating amenities and public spaces throughout the tower rather than at street level. Each floor is characterized by an open atrium and lobby space, while circulation is organized through a series of tubes that dissect the entire building. COURTESY BROOK BOUGHTON

Meanwhile, their use of color and organic forms (in psycho-geographic collages and a community housing concept for migrant workers in western Massachusetts) brings a seductive beauty. Sanctuary Living shields undocumented workers from capture by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency by sheltering them in quasi-religious sanctuaries that resemble personalized SANAA housing pods. Being encouraged by professor Pari Riahi to move away from the rectilinear was a moment of epiphany for Quinteros that propelled them into a search for form and meaning through native sources of knowledge. 

“I was like, ‘Oh hell yeah, I can do that,’ ” Quinteros says. “Because my existence, as the existence of every other migrant in this country, means that we can change the form and the shape of everything around us. I’m from Peru. We have the Andes, and we’ve made all of these different steppes. There’s no reason this needs to be a cube.” 

rendering of interior of housing unit
For Laneway Housing, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona students Noah Lemus and Kimberly Carlisle inserted a multifamily structure within a block of single-family homes behind a commercial strip in Toronto.
rendering of housing from above
An extensive double-skin facade and other strategies insulate and power the building and conserve energy, while a complex program serves multiple generations and user groups. COURTESY NOAH LEMUS AND KIMBERLY CARLISLE

Materials, landscape, and systems thinking animate the design arguments of Elina Chen’s portfolio. For Mycelium as Connective Building Tissue, Chen addresses agricultural waste, worker housing, and industrial production of nontoxic insulation through her concept for a factory that makes insulating panels, sustainably houses workers, and protects the ecology of the El Paso–Ciudad Juárez valley.

The portfolio of Peik Shelton moves dramatically from incredibly nimble but somewhat mechanistic black-and-white drawings to photo-realistic color renderings. His adaptation of a socialist housing block for the 1980 Moscow Olympics into Intergenerational House makes some clever spatial gestures, carving out a central courtyard to encourage greater community and reorienting the apartment terraces in multiple directions to generate more dynamic views and experience. 

section of housing tower
Chung’s portfolio shows an equal commitment to her original motivations as a visual artist and a phenomenological connection to experience.
housing tower clad in colorful mural skin
Her design for a housing development in Flatbush, Brooklyn, won first place in the NOMAS Student Housing Design Competition for its innovative blend of senior housing, affordable housing, and market-rate apartments. COURTESY KRISTABEL CHUNG

Noah Lemus’s portfolio shows an aptitude for spatial thinking and the adaptation of leftover urban voids to create infill housing. In the case of Laneway Housing, Lemus and fellow student Kimberly Carlisle inserted a multifamily structure within a block of single-family homes and behind a commercial strip in Toronto. An extensive double-skin facade and other strategies insulate and power the building and conserve energy, while a complex program serves multiple generations and user groups.

Student work sometimes falls into a trap portrayed by a widely circulating meme that says something like “Society has collapsed and nothing is functioning anymore, but the typical studio assignment is still ‘design a mixed-use multifamily housing development.’ ” Brook Boughton’s portfolio investigates Sardinian terrain, industrial ruins, and the division between public and private in high-rise housing in Vallée Verticale, layering his drawings with overlapping uses and an interplay between human and natural environments. But one senses the limits of the assignment here: In the absence of larger policy measures, what is the meaning of another mixed-use multifamily project in Downtown Brooklyn?

rendering of housing units burrowed into hillside
Sanctuary Living merges housing pods for migrant workers with underground hideouts designated as sacred space that offer protection during immigrant raids by the government. Nestled in a tiered organic structure built with traditional rammed-earth construction, the units draw from the vernacular of Quinteros’s native Peru. COURTESY CAMI QUINTEROS
rendering of small house illuminated in dark field.
Shelton’s early drawings have the feeling of precision of industrial machines, but as they progress into real-life projects, they become hyperrealistic and saturated with color. The Bank Barn imagines a traditional rural structure in Pennsylvania converted into a warm home for an empty nester, influenced by a project contemplated for his mother as well as a year spent working in the Peterson Rich Office before returning to school. COURTESY PEIK SHELTON

Several of the portfolios include visual artwork begun before the students entered the university and continuing afterward. It indicates a desire to maintain connections to the qualities of personal expression, craft, and materiality that first drew them into architecture. This may be a hopeful and healthy impulse, given the rigors of coding requirements, office culture, and client service that can put a damper on the artist inside, and we hope it will be sustained as they make their way into the profession.

Plywood models four a housing shed
Materials, landscape, and systems thinking animate the design arguments of Elina Chen’s portfolio. In her proposal for Stitch & Glue Shed, the student creates a plywood housing prototype that repurposes stitch-and-glue kayak-building technology for Mahama Refugee Camp in Rwanda. COURTESY ELINA CHEN

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