WHAT'S IN
WHAT'S IN: innovation in emerging urban living environments

DESIGN RESEARCH

Design research

As its 6th exhibit held at ABX in 2017, WHAT’S IN continues to make a case for Compact Urban Living as a model that is affordable, sustainable and social. We invite you to explore the lives of five fictional compact dwelling families in the format of architectural comics, to imagine how it’s like to live creatively in a small space, sometime with other people too!
Regardless how small our own living quarters become, it is still essential to create spaces that facilitates genuine social interactions in urban living settings. We’ve gathered the experts to tell us what they’ve learned over the years, and help us create social interaction prototypes that could be deployed into various neighborhoods to help people forge stronger communities.
To help you visualize what we think the future of affordable and sustainable urban living could look like, we included a prototype project: Hearth House, our entry for the Housing Innovation Competition hosted by the Department of Neighborhood Development in the Roxbury Neighborhood. We designed the project with smaller living areas across all unit types, and choreographs shared spaces to encourage social interaction among its residents. The result is an affordable, inter-generational living model that facilitates informal care, builds community, and adds much to the existing neighborhood.
With each year’s research work to influence design and policy, we hope to be one step closer to achieving true housing affordability in our cities.


In order to balance the overall experience in a compact living setting,  more design thoughts need to be given to shared social spaces.  As housing demand in cities like Boston  increase  in future years, more high-density development will take place. As these projects rapidly take shape in our city skylines, we have to consider a few things, 1) the ability of our designs to truly create a sense of place, and contribute to positive shared living experiences  2) the affordability and feasibility of these shared spaces for our typical urban dwellers. 3) the programming of these shared spaces to build stronger communities overtime.

In this exhibit from 2016, we took cues from sociological theories and historical examples, and examined many successful open spaces in non-housing settings. We then studies many highly-regarded housing projects and how they achieved at building a strong living communities. We hope to start a dialog among all who desire affordable urban living, and influence other designers, developers and policy makers to create more Meaningful Social Spaces in this emerging Urban Living Environment


In the past exhibits, WHAT’S IN demonstrated how a well-designed 300 square foot apartment can be very livable through a full-scale mockup; we also investigated transit-oriented neighborhoods in Boston, and revealed their high potential for future compact living developments. The exhibit, called “Urban Living Lab”, showcased new technologies in robotic architecture and mobile apps to aid living in a small space. “Urban Living Lab” also made the case for compact living as a viable solution to affordable urban housing.

 2015 Research - poll-up boards for focus group sessions

2015 Research - poll-up boards for focus group sessions

 2014 Research

2014 Research

 2013 Research

2013 Research

 2012 Research

2012 Research