Housing Initiatives

Credit: Gilbert Santana

Housing is a universal need. Yet the immensely complicated, very expensive status quo of how we finance, build, and occupy housing is neither effective nor just. The Architectural League’s housing initiatives seek to explore why we are so stymied in our efforts to provide decent housing for everyone in our society. We present ideas and projects that address our multiple housing crises—of availability, cost, access, mismatched needs, and more.

The League has long taken an interest in questions of contemporary living. In 1931, the League was the first to exhibit the Aluminaire House, a prototype for low-cost, mass-produced, modern housing; in 1975, the League presented entries from the Roosevelt Island housing competition to stimulate discussion “about the nature and possibilities for sensitively designed…housing for all income groups.”

Over the past three decades, the League has particularly emphasized the topic and regularly produced projects, organized events, and written articles grappling with questions of housing. How can we be responsive to the varied housing needs of people experiencing homelessness? What are the implications of changes in construction technology? How should we adapt, develop, and fortify our neighborhoods most vulnerable to climate change? What can we do to preserve and expand public or nonprofit housing? How can we maintain and expand the diversity of available housing typologies and types?

These projects advance ideas to increase housing affordability and reduce housing inequities, using architecture and design as the lens but encompassing topics of development, public policy, social welfare, public safety, and more. Of particular interest is the intersection of design, broadly conceived, with policy and politics. What are the roles of architects in housing, and where are the opportunities to push beyond the traditional professional bounds? While the work’s focus is on New York City, the lens extends nationally and internationally.

A selection of past League housing initiatives is presented here. Collectively, these efforts try to envision a more desirable, more equitable, more sustainable future around one of the most critical issues facing us today.