See Affordable Housing at the National Building Museum

General / People / Places / October 12, 2022

Always on point when it comes to relevant issues affecting the design world, the National Building Museum is now laser-focused on one of this nation’s most pressing needs:

Affordable housing.

A new exhibition, A BETTER WAY HOME: The Housing Affordability Breakthrough Challenge will open on Friday, Oct. 21.

It’s part of the museum’s Equity in the Built Environment series of programs and workshops focused on actions to promote justice in the built environment.

A BETTER WAY HOME features the work of six winning teams from a three-year, $20-million initiative launched in 2020 by the nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners and the Wells Fargo Foundation. It aims to close the economic gap in available housing by transforming housing affordability innovations into real solutions.

The exhibition was designed by Boston-based MASS Design Group. It focuses on three areas of experience: Resident Services and Support, Housing Finance, and Housing Construction.

MASS Design is a firm that reaches beyond exhibitions, architecture, and design. “We were founded on an understanding that architecture reaches beyond building,” says Maggie Jacobsen Stern, a director at the firm. “It creates community, shapes narratives, and creates new possibilities for the future.”

The exhibition features six housing innovators that were awarded $2.5 million each to execute their solutions in the three areas. The 1,500-square-foot exhibition tells the stories of their ideas through building models and multimedia – including photography, illustrations, and videography.

“The challenge was an opportunity to identify, accelerate, and scale these breakthrough ideas for urgently needed housing nationwide,” she says. “We want to encourage the audience to get involved and solve the country’s affordability gap, to leave with an increased awareness of the innovators – and to act.”

The designers shows visitors how to work together for a collective solution. It’s a framework to show the public how constructive housing modules can express and demonstrate system changes – and envision a new future for housing.

“It’s an active space where people can move through the housing modules and the three themes – and learn about an imagined future,” she says. “You move from individual ideas to the collective – through an active, dynamic experience.”

And while none of these solutions offer a magic bullet against today’s soaring housing costs, these innovations do offer new approaches to how affordable housing is built, financed, and serves and supports residents. Taken to scale, the innovations have the potential to expand the rental and homeownership landscape across the country.  

None of the solutions are pie-in-the sky; rather, they’re much-needed, real-world innovations.

For more, go here.

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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.




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