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South Boston

2016-spring semester

GSD Core IV studio

Design Team: Paul Mok, Jenny Shen, Troy Chen

Critic: Jeanette Kuo

Architecture describes and proscribes human relationships from the scale of a house to the scale of a city. 

We begin with a Bauhaus-era diagram from the 1920s - contemporaneous with much of South Boston’s construction. Diagram claims that “good” unit layouts make circulation seamless, and you must eliminate unnecessary collision between members of the house. This diagram can be interpreted to reflect two ways of space-planning in general. The first, a chamber, in which movement and program are conflated. The other, the corridor, isolates movement from destination. 

South Boston is the city of corridors. This represents highly individualistic cultural attitude: circulation is a matter of efficiency, and the private room is the basic unit of organization, and the rules of the game tell you to solve your plan so that each room has a window, and you can access it as quickly as possible.

The spirit of individualism also organizes the urban scale: streets for circulation deliver you to your lot. Each block is subdivided so that you can fit as many lots as possible along the street. Each lot is just wide enough for a double-loaded corridor with rooms on either side. 

All this reflects a mentality which prioritizes privatization and efficient allocation of land. 

Immediately, you recognize the limits of these rules. First, the plan of the house, which maximized privacy and views for each room, doesn’t work at all when you pack them so closely. Suddenly you have dead alleyways, bedrooms with no light, and views straight into your neighbor’s house.

And streets, when their sole purpose is to deliver you to your destination, have no life at all.

Since there are no readily accessible urban spaces in which you can interact with your neighbors. Right now, they exist at the thresholds between the house and the street - a space that for some is literally only the thickness of your doorway.

South Boston is where “corridor circulation” is celebrated to the most extreme: to an extent where it fails in all scales. When a task is given to design new housing typologies in South Boston, a  different circulation strategy shall be chosen as a new starting point. Dedicated circulation shall be eliminated from the houses, the blocks, the streets and the city. It shall be a city without corridors.

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