How do we live?
Santiago, London, Shanghai – Suzhou
Jocelyn Froimovich, Johanna Muszbek

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How do we Live? Santiago, London, Shanghai – Suzhou is a collaborative research and pedagogic programme launched by Jocelyn Froimovich and Johanna Muszbek in 2015 looking at current housing production spanning three continents. In collaboration with three universities, (University of Liverpool, Universidad Católica de Chile and Xi’an Jiaotong University of Liverpool) How do we Live? looks at housing types and the notion of crisis particular to each metropolitan context. Students of these three Universities have participated since 2017 in a series of workshops yielding a comparative study, a classification exercise on housing design problems and potential solutions at different scales.

Since market dynamics have taken over housing production, the architect’s role has weakened. Architects operate in the urban fabric and work within its rules, and thus architects need to challenge them. In today’s context, the status quo has to be discussed; Housing design—both policies and buildings—is a public affair. In order to face this challenge, How do we live? divides the current debate on housing design into three themes:

Language – Politics

In the real-estate framework, housing has become a commodity or an investment. Therefore, beyond functionality, advertisement plays a decisive role. We examine how a particular housing type is presented as a lifestyle choice.

This research proposes to reutilise the language of advertisement in two ways: to analyse the perception of the type and to produce an argument. The language and the way in which we represent our projects is understood as a political tool that allows us to increase our reach to wider audiences and expand the housing design debate.

Crisis – Method

“Crisis” is understood as a turning point, a time when a difficult or important decision must be made. The term forces us to recognise certain design “problems” so as to propose design “solutions”. Although this approach might sound obvious and is simplistic, it pushes designers to: engage and defend a particular position (“I” designed this and not that) and envision anew (this design is “better” because of this and that).

What defines the housing crises of Santiago, London and Shanghai- Suzhou today? By forcing the notion of crisis as a methodology, we analyse specific housing types in their specific contexts so as to propose alternative designs for each of them.

Types – Context

The history of housing design can be understood by analysing the mutation of housing types particular to each metropolitan context. How do we live? ventures into a typological investigation, with the expectation that types can provide a framework to deal with complex urban variables. By understanding the particulars in the production of a housing type, the architect can manipulate and reorganise—invent.

The exhibition discusses today’s banal housing types, exemplary of a particular city in its making. 

One side of the panels looks at the market offer in these three cities, while the other proposes design interventions. . Rather than dismissing examples of the current housing offer as “bastard” architecture, it is assumed that these housing types portray specific subjects, their living and urban conditions; the politics, policies, and socio-economic factors that lead into developing a particular urban setting. We have grouped 108 case studies into 6 categories: High Rise, High Rise compound, Medium Rise, Medium Rise Compound, Low Rise, and Low Rise Compound. The three cities run in rows and the categories in columns. This comparative study allows to point out current general trends, while the city specific classification highlights how particular typological aspects are distinct to each metropolitan context. 

On the other side, we exhibit design exercises that intervene in existing buildings (exemplary or typical housing projects of each city) proposing a repertoire of solutions to the themes being discussed.

You can find postcards by the model that analyse themes, guiding you through the housing production on display. These themes link to the other side of the panels, which present design operations. The themes discuss specific metropolitan types in a state of crisis and confront them with a potential solution. The goal is to observe, analyse, participate and hopefully to intervene in the urban production system.