WHAT'S IN @ Stantec Hosts Panel at HUBweek 2017 on Workforce Housing

Housing the Workforce - Typology, Technology & Techtonics. Friday, October 13, 

As our city’s population continues to increase, there’s a lack of variety in the housing supply that will serve the city’s shifting demographics and interests. What are the solutions that make our urban communities more livable?

Joining WHAT'S IN co-founder Aeron Hodges on the Panel are:

  • Tamara Roy Principal, Stantec Boston, 2016 president of the BSA
  • Kent Larson Director, Changing Places Research Group & City Science Initiative, MIT Media Lab
  • Gwen Noyes, Partner of Oaktree Development, COO of GreenStaxx
  • Marcy Ostberg Director, Housing Innovation Lab, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics

Read more about the panel from this Boston Globe article: Boston Globe: Boston’s housing future? Compact living spaces, no parking.

Hubweek Rendering.png

[re]ACTIVE selected as winner for QUAD 2017

QUAD 2017 seeks proposals that capture the essence of social sustainability by addressing the various factors contributing to the three pillars of sustainability: Environment, Economy and Equity. The winning team from Gensler Boston will execute their design [re]ACTIVE at Greenbuild / ArchitectureBoston Expo (ABX 2017)

QUAD 2017 Winner:  [re]ACTIVE

Artem Batuyev, Timothy Choi, Joel McCullough, Sinead Gallivan, Abigail Jones, Danielle Lax, from Gensler Boston

[re]ACTIVE distills the essence of the quad and interprets it as a series of open spaces with interactive boundary edges and loosely defined paths; a place that allows users the ability to define their own space within the greater area. The agglomerative impact of these personalized spaces form the overall holistic experience of the pavilion, so that all users contribute to the form and spatial experience at any given moment.

Interactive walls reinvent the traditional New England shingle as a movable, user-engaged tectonic system, constantly shifting, changing, and broadcasting activity from one side of surfaces to the other. The ever-changing skin system, combined with exhibition material and seating areas create layers of engagement which provide myriad opportunities for social interaction.

Runner Up: Colored pavilion

Christophe Cormy, Marilyn Donat, Martine Nicoletti, Edouard Saussac

The pavilion will be built entirely from sustainable materials and re-purposed plastic bags woven into brightly colored, intricate panels. The form and detail of the building will naturally intrigue viewers, enticing them to take a closer look. Upon inspection, visitors will see the familiar logos and brands of their favorite supermarkets and clothing stores, woven into the fabric of our building. The kaleidoscope installation will intrigue, educate, and engage visitors, inspiring them to rethink their habits and redesign their lives. The project will first and foremost demonstrate the power of recycling. Informative write-ups and displays will educate visitors on the production process. The pavilion will serve as an exhibition venue, featuring a report on plastic pollution and a video projection illustrating the stages of construction.

Runner Up: Mirror Mirror

Katie Donahue, Katharina Hoerath,

The more we learned about waste and recycling the more we realized being green isn’t as obviously green as it seems... or in some cases, even green at all. It reminded us of unique vibrant pink lakes in places like Utah and Australia. While they look might look bright and unnatural, they are in fact the environment’s response to high salt levels and they are habitats to bacteria that thrive in otherwise harsh environments. We didn’t want our walls to suggest green washing. We wanted them to suggest a new type of investigation into what it could mean to be green - to come together to improve our planet, and to do it through fun and playful ways. Pink is the new green

Mirror Walls reflects on suggested themes that walls can be the things that bring us together rather than divide us, and that they can be a platform for dialog that becomes an agent for change and improvement, growth and development, forward progress – regarding the way we consume resources and the way we look at ourselves and one another.


This year we selected 6 finalists to continue to the second round of judging to select the winner for the QUAD 2017 competition. This round included a budget to create a mock up of the re-designed installation, taking the judge's comments into consideration. We are proud to say that the BSA Space was gracious enough to lend us some space to share these mock ups with the public! If you are in Boston, make sure to stop by and see the pieces for yourself! The installations will be up until the 21st of August.

WHAT'S IN joins District Hall for Cafe Night

WHAT’S IN joins District Hall for the second Café Night of the year to share our research in Compact Urban Living. Our own Aeron Hodges and Natalia Escobar lead a workshop to introduce the idea of “Living Small and Sharing More”. Among the 15 attendees, most lived in the city and shared an apartment due to the high rental cost.

When asked to prioritized shared amenities as a method to reduce individual living areas and rental cost,  most preferred outdoor spaces, gyms and access to public transportation. The participants also brainstormed ways to meet their neighbors and come up with interesting ideas including “Happy hours with pets”, “programming through common interests”, and “multi-purpose laundry rooms”.

WHAT'S IN is thrilled to continue to have this relationship with District Hall and looks forward to future collaborations and discussions about social spaces and housing in Boston. Stay tuned for more!



After 4 years of research and design work, WHAT'S IN has finally published its work in a condensed book! Get a more in depths view of what we do and our research beyond what's posted online! It is a great resource to understand and learn about the housing issues that face Boston and other urban cities. Look forward to more work from us and check out the book here!

Read More


This year WHAT'S IN  is proud to announce 6 finalists for the QUAD 2017 competition. We were proud to receive almost 60 entries from across the globe with varied and thoroughly different approaches and concepts to the challenge. In the second phase, the finalists will receive $300 to produce a mock up and incorporate judging feedback. Check back again in July to see who the winner is!

WHAT'S IN submits Hearth House in response to affordable housing

In partnership with Corcoran Jennison Associates, WHAT’S IN was pleased to submit its response for the design and development of a parcel at 24 Westminster Avenue in Roxbury (a neighborhood of Boston) as part of the Garrison Trotter Housing Innovation Competition. Our design is rooted in the longstanding tradition of community living that is the trademark of Roxbury. In the triple decker units that housed the city’s 20th century working-class families, smaller living quarters was a relatively new concept, and resources were shared among the residents. The plan presented was designed as a modern-day interpretation of the triple decker, as the city seeks yet again to find the most efficient way to house its growing population.

QUAD re-installed at BSA Space

QUAD joins the BSA exhibit OneRoomMansion at 290 Congress St. The installation, featuring the winning entry from KiKi Archi, includes series of hang-out zones and hosts the research from WHAT'S IN on "designing meaningful social spaces".  The exhibit will be on show until January 30, 2017.

QUAD Opens at ABX2016

After 4 weeks of fabrication, WHAT'S IN opens the QUAD exhibit at ABX2016. The installation is a winning design by KiKiArchi and Kohji Kawabata, the structure is made of 372 folded paper pyramids, and the design is inspired by sunlight filtered through a tree canopy. Visit our "Exhibits" page for photos of the finished installation. 

QUAD 2016 Installation Coming to Live at ABX

Our WHAT'S In team has been working hard the past few weeks with students from Wentworth Institute of Technology and MassArt alongside KiKi ARCHi to have this installation come to live at ABX Nov 15-17. "Folding Paper", the winning submission, is composed of 40" x 60" sheets of paper folded into origami-like triangular shapes assembled together through the use of card board tubes, zip ties, staples and round lumber pieces. The lightness, flexibility and affordability of the structure aligns with our continued research on innovative affordable micro-living in urban environments.

We would like to extend an invitation for everyone to attend our award and reception ceremony for QUAD 2016 at the BCEC (Boston Convention and Exhibition Center) on Nov 16th 5-6pm. There will be tons of food, drinks and interesting conversations about meaningful public spaces in urban living environments.

Kohji Kawabata, on the top right hand corner, folding and creating paper pieces with our team

Card Board Tubes Everywhere! Our dear Erick and James having a fun afternoon with band saws and card board tubes

It is nice to see the fruits of several hours of work. The first rows have been assembled and are getting ready to be packaged and shipped to BCEC.

After long hours of work a family meal is well deserved!

Winner Announced for the Quad 2016 Competition

The Quad Competition is an international call for a social space installation. Proposals were challenged to envision a meaningful and impactful installation occupying a 20'x70' area that enriched the experience of social interactions. Proposals were asked to employ thoughtful and innovative exhibition and fabrication methods without sacrificing cost and feasibility of construction.

KiKi ARCHi, a Tokyo-based architecture design firm led by Yoshihiko Seki, was selected as the final winner among 6 finalists. The judging panel was impressed by the proposal's inventive use of a light-weight material, the thoughtful integration of research display, and the spatial quality the design is able to create. it is an elegant solution that's both sophisticated architecturally, and simple to fabricate.

WHAT'S IN engaging Boston communities

Our team join has joined forces with the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab and Boston Society of Architects to bring the concept of compact urban living to six Boston neighborhoods. The outreach effort brought to life a 385 sf apartment called uhu (Urban Housing Unit), with prefabricated exterior and a sleek and functional interior, all of which designed with affordability in mind. 

WHAT'S IN designed a series of interactive games around the theme of communal spaces, compact living areas, and cost of renting a place in the city. The goal is to help the city find out what the neighborhoods are looking for in terms of housing affordability and what types of new living arrangements people would be comfortable with. 

Roslindale residents exploring the concept of compact urban living

Roslindale residents exploring the concept of compact urban living

The team also designed a board game that invites residents to consider the trade-offs among apartment sizes, access to transit and urban amenities. We found out that, so far, majority of our participant prioritize the balance between all these elements over size alone.  

Who's up for a board game? 

Who's up for a board game? 

The uhu welcoming guests from different neighborhoods. 385 sf could be very cozy when well designed. For more information about the uhu, visit www.liveuhu.com

The uhu welcoming guests from different neighborhoods. 385 sf could be very cozy when well designed. For more information about the uhu, visit www.liveuhu.com

ABX 2015

Our hard work finally paid off!  On November 17-19th, the Urban Living Lab exhibit welcomed its visitors with research data in Boston housing, small living design solutions, robotic architecture from MIT media Lab, and a virtual mock showcasing all the designs WHAT'S IN came up with over the past year. 

The exhibit structure is composed of 17 bays L-Shape 2x4 lumber connected on hinges. When each bay is expanded and placed at 3 ' apart, the structure takes shape of a series of truss-like gable pavilions. The display boards, painted on the exterior and laminated with our graphics on the interior, acts as a rigid diaphragm for the structure. Overall, each pavilion is themed with a research topic and is turned open on plan to allow entrance into the interior.

Each of the four pavilions take on a specific topic from WHAT'S IN design research.  Pavilion one asks "how to address growing housing demands by year 2030", revealing the dire shortage of housing stock in Boston and the rapid increase in rental prices. Pavilion two proposed using "small-living" as a model for more affordable urban living, surveying exiting projects and proposing new designs in this relatively new typology. This pavilion also includes the studio work from the Roger Williams University students on their designs for a small-urban living project in South Boston.

Pavilion three looks for technology solutions to make small living spaces feel larger, showcasing the Architecture Robotics project from MIT Media Lab, and the Multi-wall product that could be customized with a variety of purposes. Pavilion four investigated solutions to building more small-living for affordable workforce housing in Boston, including policy changes proposed by the Mayor's Housing Innovation Lab, prefab and modular construction methods comparisons, as well as a discussion on the appropriate scale and structural system for this new housing typology.

Great many thanks to everyone that made this exhibit happen. We are really grateful for the Boston Society of Architects for including us again for ABX,  Castle OS, HIL, Cubiq, RWU and MIT Media Lab for content collaboration, Whitney Veigas for donating time and resources for our graphics application, HBF/Davis/Lowenstein/Bernhardt/Redthread for their beautiful furniture pieces,  and Stantec for all its continued financial support and much more beyond.

Making our cities affordable and livable will take more than just design, We had a lot of good discussions during the exhibit with students, housing experts, disruptive innovators, and policy makers. As a research group, we will keep exploring key aspects of the topic, and keep a platform of discussion going across different fields. See you next year!

ONEin3 Impact Award

Aeron Hodges Receives ONEin3 impact award from Mayor on behalf of the WHAT'S IN team

Aeron (left) with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other OneIn3 award winners. (Photo by the Mayor’s Office/Don Harney)

Aeron (left) with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other OneIn3 award winners. (Photo by the Mayor’s Office/Don Harney)

We are ready to change the city, are you?


As part of the crowd sourcing effort, WHAT'S IN organized a design workshop with the architects and interior designers from ADD Inc. / Stantec. Everyone was asked to design a 300 sf dream unit for themselves.

What's your ideal 300 sf? 

* drawings produced by Animish Kudalkar