Homes for Hope: The MADWORKSHOP Homeless Studio at USC School of Architecture

The MADWORKSHOP Homes for Hope Studio

The MADWORKSHOP Homes for Hope Studio Presentation

By: Lois Lee

Our Balcony Hour Thursday, April 13th featured a presentation by R. Scott Mitchell and Sofia Borges, the studio instructors spearheading the MADWORKSHOP Homeless Studio at the USC School of Architecture. Together with students Jayson Champlain (former CO intern!) and Jeremy Carman, they presented projects from the fall studio and their plans for moving forward.

Unlike undergraduate architecture design studios that pose hypothetical “problems” to design megastructures, parametric pavilions, or large, urban sprawl designs, fourth year students in the Homeless Studio designed for a problem too real and tangible. They were forced to think with their hands and work on their feet to create a solution for a real and pervasive problem in Los Angeles: the exponential growth of the city’s homeless population. Together, they built full-scale mock-ups; met with homeless, artists, and a number of organizations to better understand life on the streets and in shelters; and learned about building for the city—codes and all.

The students were given three projects in the semester. For their first project, they were asked to develop full-scale, collapsible nomadic shelters. Students re-envisioned the shopping cart, tent, and bike typologies that homeless people across Los Angeles were already utilizing. In these dire situations, Sofia explained, people are forced to be creative and work with what they have to create shelter.

The second project started with a pile of trash (collected by students) in the Watt Hall Courtyard, the center of the USC School of Architecture. The pile of trash was eventually transformed into three “Tiny Homes” for homeless shelter. Scott and Sofia explained that many students didn’t know how to work with these full-scaled materials—they only knew how to build with tacky glue—but that it was amazing to see how quickly they started bringing found objects together to create forms they hadn’t imagined.

All of these smaller projects eventually influenced the final Homes for Hope project: a studio-wide group project to develop a modular shelter for a real client, Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission. Students designed the 92-square-foot module inside and out to function as a stand-alone module or stacked together in an aggregate community, complete with courtyards, communal spaces and terraces.

Scott and Sofia made it feel like the Homeless Studio was truly about the students; it wasn’t about themselves or their practice. It was refreshing to see how empowered the students were in speaking about their work.

Stay tuned–The Homeless Studio is waiting on funding to get things up and started. The Studio received a lot of press attention,  and Jeremy and Jayson will be building a home at Dwell on Design 2017, live!

Read more about The Martin Architecture and Design Workshop (MADWORKSHOP), The Homeless Studio, and other thought-provoking projects by their fellows here:

CO Presents is an in-house lecture series where invited guests join us during Balcony Hour to present their work and ideas in a casual format where thoughtful discussion can occur. Architects, artists, technologists, educators and innovators bring fresh, inspiring perspectives to the CO community.

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