On behalf of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, especially the students who now present the culmination of their M. Arch education through their thesis, we extend our gratitude to the guest critics who have generously joined us on Thursday, December 22, 2022:

Erin Besler, Garnette Cadogan, Sean Canty, Beatriz Colomina, Natalia Dopazo, Jenny French, Antonio Furgiuele, Caroline Jones, Ang Li, Diana Martinez, Lauren Pacheco, Julian Rose, John Todd, Ivonne Santoyo Orozco, Hans Tursack, Matthew Okazaki, Mark Wigley, and Alpha Yacob Arsano.

MIT Master’s
of Architecture

Fall 2022

Towards Public Housing: Architecture as (Prop)aganda

Jayson Kim

Thesis Committee 

Arindam Dutta

Ana Miljački
Marcelo Coelho
Mark Jarzombek

Capitalism sustains crisis, most acutely the housing crisis. The only way out is to de-commodify housing, since a building alone, despite architects’ aspirations, cannot tackle a system. This thesis claims that built architecture alone ineffectively challenges regulatory systems. Resistance’s power, then, lies not in the physical, but in the psychological. To work towards de-commodifying housing, architects need to envision themselves as engaging in psychological warfare. We need to adopt propaganda as a method to rewrite the cultural narrative where single-family homeownership antagonizes public housing. We need to shift paradigms from homeownership to home-usership.

This thesis proposes collaborations with tenant advocacy groups to create propaganda in the form of guerrilla theater that engages in psychological warfare against prevailing conceptions of homeownership.The architect designs stage sets that advocacy groups will weaponize. Orchestrated together, the guerilla theater performs at town hall meetings. Borrowing Bertolt Brecht’s techniques of the epic theater, in particular critical distancing, each act works with architectural props to challenge the role we, inside the belly of the whale, play in this theater of the housing crisis. The thesis proposes sets for three acts, three scenes each. Act One, “A City is Born,” depicts the optimism and prosperity that came with the suburbanization experiment of post-WWII United States. Act Two, “Welcome to the Neighborhood,” describes housing today. Using approaches from the volumes Neighborhood Defenders and Thoughts on Building Strong Towns, this act paints a portrait of competing interests involved in the landscape of housing in Los Angeles. Act Three, “All That is Solid Melts into Air,” sketches the inevitable doom that forces the audience to reconsider homeownership in favor of home-usership. Questioning representations of public housing as matters of economic necessity, Towards Public Housing works to destigmatize public housing and home-usership and emphasize a more equitable future of American housing.