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05.16.19 – Students research the design of multi-unit housing in cities around the world

Taught by Katy Chey, ARC3712 "Multi-Unit Housing in Urban Cities: From 1800 to Present Day" explored the development and evolution of different types of multi-unit housing in cities around the world.
At the start of the semester, students were introduced to a different housing typology in a different city each week. Examples include Haussmann apartments in Paris, tenements in New York, tong lau in Hong Kong, or high-rise condos in Toronto. An examination of case studies highlighted the historical, social, economic, and political circumstances that lead to the development of each type.
The students also had the opportunity to work on their own semester-long research project focused on a multi-unit housing typology of their choice. "There was so much incredible and in-depth research that went into these projects," says Chey.
For their chosen multi-unit housing type, students examined the characteristics, historical context, building components, building organization, and construction materials. They drew floor plans, sections and elevations, and researched how residents lived in the space. They also looked at government policies and regulations and the influential individuals who helped shape the design. In addition, the students explored how their housing type functions in the present day. For their final project, they were required to submit a written document and present a slide presentation to the class.

Images above: 1) Dingbat, Los Angeles by Andrew Harvey; 2) Four-Plus-One, Chicago by Nicholas Ager; 3) Microdistricts, USSR by Francesca Lu

"Since none of the typologies had readily available information, the students had to  learn to be resourceful and be detectives following leads to uncovering the information they required and piecing it together," says Chey. "Learning how to research, is extremely important because not everything is Google-able, and if it is is, it may not be trustworthy. If one takes the time to investigate, one can be rewarded with deeper, undiscovered information, which was what my students found with their projects."
The course was based on Chey's recent book Multi-Unit Housing in Urban Cities: From 1800 to Present Day, published by Routledge. The book emphasizes the importance of understanding the direct connection between housing and dwelling in the context of a city, and the manner in which the city is an instructional indication of how a housing typology is embodied.
"Housing has the ability to make cities and can define much of a city's presence and mood," says Chey. "It is important to try to learn from the good housing precedents and not repeat any bad examples."

Multi-Unit Housing in Urban Cities is available in-stores at the U of T Bookstore, Swipe Books + Design, Type Books on Queen Street, and Indigo in the Eaton Centre, and other major online retailers.

Image, top, Microdistricts, USSR, by Francesca Lu