In March 2021, the Biden Administration released the American Jobs Plan, earmarking $213B for “quality” and “affordable” housing, yet the bill lacks specificity on how houses are to be built. Here housing’s problem is split into two: a social one of accessibility and equity, and a material one of wood, metal, and rocks. Architects can play a unique role in bridging abstract policy ambitions to real construction as these connections are made every day in practice.
Although accessible housing has been cast in many forms, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) have been a catalyst for including architects in direct policy development. For the first time, cities are directly contracting with architects to provide designs for private property through pre-approved ADU programs. These programs reflect a plurality of ideas, though without rigorous consideration for how the costs of site work, labor, materials, and energy make quality housing sustainable.
Small Infrastructures is an exhibition at the University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design of ADU designs that uses the economics of building assembly as the groundwork for experimentation. Ten architects teaching at Harvard GSD and Berkeley CED consider the overlaps between academia, where cost is often external to conceptual work, and practice, where budgeting is an integral task. The exhibition is curated by Michelle Chang and Rudabeh Pakravan.