Expanding Market Share One Car at a Time

Tata, the maker of the $2000 Nano car is breaking into the housing industry with a number of VERY small units that range in size from 218 SF to 373 SF.  The units will cost between $7,800 to $13,400 each and are to target the suburban outer ring of Mumbai and other major cities in India. Although I am not very familiar with Mumbai, it’s housing needs, or it’s demographics, I am all for trying to address affordability issues though market rate means. Poor graphics aside, these units seem difficult at best to occupy.  I say this based not so much on size but more on the fact that they are trying to take a more traditional post war unit plan and simply scale it down by 50%. I would think if you are going to re-pose the question of a living unit through the limitations of +/-300 SF you would want to rethink most if not all spatial and programmatic relationships.

I am assuming that these are intended to be pre-fabricated since an auto maker is proposing the concept, although Tata is not advertising the mode of production. What I really find interesting about this particular venture is that a car company is trying to develop suburban housing typologies that when aggregated will create more demand for their cars. The master plan and aerial are in no way attempting to plug into any larger urban condition and notice the prominence of the garages in the renderings!




Non-Realistic Representation



As Utile continues to collect non-realistic modes of architectural representation as potential illustrations for a future book on the subject,  I was sent this image by Rachel Hsu, a student at Yale.  It depicts the proposed renovation of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford by Rick Mather (Mather is also the architect for the renovation and addition to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond).   It reminds me of the illustrations drawn by David Macauley for his delightfully didactic books on the city, infrastructure, and historic buildings.



Wood Site Model


MichaelDennis and Nader Tehrani co-taught a design studio at MIT that looked at urbaninfill sites in Palermo.  Yap Zhang presented a beautiful woodmodel of an infill project comprised of “P” and“9”-shaped housing blocks with continuously sloping roofs. Each of the buildings was rendered in a different species of wood, distinctfrom the bass wood of the base model.  Guest critics Steven Peterson,Barbara Littenberg, and Erik Thorkildsen (a Principal at Michael Dennis’office) all hated the sculptural roof strategy.  I thought the interactionbetween the roofs produced some very interesting urbanistic effects at eyelevel.  The roof lines aligned with neighboring buildings at key points tocreate a continuous (albeit sloped) cornice line around the new piazza createdin the center of the project and at the thresholds to new streets.  Atother places in the scheme, the roofline created picturesque disjunctions.


Public Pools in the Charles River


I attended the thesis reviews at the New School/Parsons on Thursday, May 7 and saw an inspiring proposal by Margot Otten for a series of public pools along the Hudson River.  The main pool was an enclosed Olympic-sized pool that could be opened to the weather during the summer.  The other pools in the complex were more directly connected to the Hudson River, whether as basins of filtered river water or as framed sections of the Hudson River itself.   The pools that used river water also took advantage of the two foot tidal change in the cross-section of the pool edges.

This proposal reminded me of discussions we had a few years ago about proposing a similar facility in the Charles River along the MIT embankment. Former Governor William Weld could take the first dive.


Odors, Restrooms, Design, NYC

As the team on the South end of the table grapples with the possibilityof integrating a public restroom into their project, I thought of thisguerrilla installation by designer/planner Candy Chang: a notepad withtear-off maps of semi-public restroom locations in nyc. Click herefor more.