Skid Row, as a neighborhood is filled with reactions to homelessness. By ending up in the area, you have fallen through almost every crack within the existing social, political and economic systems. Homelessness is not the result of a single action, but a complicated and layered consequence that requires an equally complicated and layered solution.

We begin with critical questions. What can be done that prevents homelessness while solving homelessness? Rather than just provide services to maintain or stabilize, what can be done to empower the community? Can we stabilize residents then mobilize residents out of poverty, to make space for new residents?

Rather than permanent supportive housing, can we create permanently empowering housing?

By exploring the neighborhood of Skid Row and the social issue of homelessness through affordable housing projects based on existing buildings in the Trust’s portfolio, can we create a new design and financial typology of housing to address the homeless issue through innovations in design? Students will investigate existing housing types, intensively evaluate the design responses to site and the needs of residents and then begin to propose both retrofits of existing housing and new proposals.

Working closely with Milano, students will investigate the relationship between design and finance and look to develop design strategies that offer the Trust and the clients the best design value for the budget. Proposals will include interior and architectural designs and an exploration of the urban landscape and context for the projects, acknowledging that this is “home” for many. Students will engage with local “Ambassadors” to gain from their wisdom and experience, work with local school children to understand their perception of the neighborhood and seek insight from local artists and designers

Fundamentally the studio will try to propose design for homes as a sanctuary for the individual, as a way to introduce the collective to individuals and as hopeful and inspiring places to rebuild lives.

This design studio course has a number of critical partners who will help the design studio navigate the complicated social, political and economic terrain that defines affordable housing. These include The Skid Row Housing Trust and our friend Theresa Hwang, Rose Architectural Fellow at the Trust, Milano’s Finance Lab, our academic collaborators, who will investigate innovations in finance and policy, and a number of other advisors who will all help us understand how we, as designers can make real contributions to this complicated urban and housing issue.

Through design research, conceptualization, iterations and development, students will produce a sustainable and financially viable proposal that the non profit can implement in their future plans for the site.  It is important that the Milano/Parsons proposal be structured in a way that gives it the highest probability for implementation. The design should incorporate, confront and resolve critical neighborhood issues. The Parsons students will be developing the design component of this proposal in close collaboration with the Milano students.


One comment

  1. Melinda Wax

    This is an amazing project and one that I will use as an example to show my students in Design and Management how complex issues like homelessness and shelter can be approached in a collaborative, thoughtful, design-oriented way. Having grown up in Southern California and being familiar with “Skid Row”, much like the Tenderloin in San Francisco, I am so impressed with the beauty of the work being done. My father worked in downtown LA for 40+ years, he is now 90 years old, and I look forward to sharing this positive ongoing story with him. melinda wax, adjunct professor, Parsons/New School, D+M, SofF, IDP

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