jacob comerci – Built-in, Fit-Out

Co-Taught with Mick McConnell

Concurrent with the US’s steady rise in cohabitation is an ever-shrinking gap between our life and our work. It is well understood that the reductive dichotomy of public versus private space is inadequate in describing an increasingly nuanced relationship between the two. For instance – the bedroom – once understood as among the most intimate of spaces of the home, dedicated to sleep and sex, has expanded to accommodate space for labor and commerce and leisure and political resistance, as long as one has access to a phone or laptop connected to reliable Wi-Fi. Reasons for the shift toward cohabitation and the collapse of life and work are complex, and enmeshed; access to affordable real estate in dense cities like Chicago, Los Angeles and New York continue to decline. In the gig economy, job protections decrease, and wages remain stagnant, all contributing to a condition of precarity and widespread insecurity.

But there are hopeful reasons for the increase in cohabitation, too. Companies like WeWork, Ollie, Coven and PodShare provide a way for people to save money while maintaining a higher quality of life in cities they would otherwise be unable to afford.  Additionally, non-traditional family structures, decreasingly stigmatized, have found the flexibility of these spaces more fit to adapt to their needs.  Some are interested in cohabiting because their fellow residents offer mutual support for one another — sharing the responsibilities of cooking and cleaning or caring for each other’s’ children so that parents don’t have to choose between work or parenting. Others are interested in sustainable living practices, rejecting the redundancy of utilities – that is, one toilet, one oven, one sink, one washer/dryer per person (not to mention the bills associated with these redundancies).  And still others find common ideological ground through things like sexual, religious and dietary identification.  These burgeoning issues and demographics have produced a need for spaces which traditional domestic architecture is largely unequipped to accommodate, revealing a new space for architectural innovation.  Yet despite the obvious role architecture has to play in this developing market and field of research, the most prevalent co-working/living companies have been largely unimaginative, producing architecture more resembling ascetic adult dormitories with millennial pink furniture, exposed concrete walls, shuffleboard tables, and IPAs on tap.  

Imitating these methods of major corporate co-working/living companies – that is, renting existing office space, fitting that space out with patented equipment and technology and renting the space back for a profit – this studio proposes to explore the space of co-living/working with a fit-out architecture residing in the grey area between traditional “hard” construction, furniture/industrial design and product manufacturing. 

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Student Work

Li Myers – “Button Mash”

Li Myers – “Button Mash”

Button Mash

Button Mash is a co-gaming incubator for up-and-coming professional streamers, providing access to equipment and a community for amateurs to move into the space of professionally produced content creation. Gaming culture is ever-growing and becoming increasingly complex as computer graphics become more advanced, broadband speeds increase, and video sharing platforms like YouTube and Twitch provide entertainment outlets for a range of audiences. Over 11.6 billion hours of gaming were viewed in just one year, and this number keeps growing. Of those hours, about 75% of the content is from video game streamers. By occupying floors nineteen and twenty of a high rise in the heart of Chicago, Illinois, the project questions what it means to “live” and “work” in our internet-oriented culture.

Button Mash is composed of arrangements of individual streamer pods, group streaming pods, food booths, streamer education space, and event space designed at a scale that hovers in between the furniture scale and the architectural scale. These activities are arranged with various different adjacencies in mind, providing various levels of interaction between users. Unlike other models of collective gaming, the project provides overlapping modes of gaming to allow for social interaction between users. Button Mash embraces and accommodates a specific constituency, offering a physical collective space for a digital collective.

Meredith and Majd – “Cucina”

Meredith and Majd – “Cucina”

Cucina is a co-working space that provides amateur chefs with access to professional cooking equipment in affordable kitchen and vendor spaces to develop their skills and bring them to the next level.

There are over 2.3 million culinary professionals in the US, with 90% making $28,000 or less annually. Competitive wages predominantly come from high-end restaurant jobs, which require years of vetting and moving up the ranks in smaller kitchens. Many are looking for alternate routes from working in a large commercial kitchen for a restaurant or commissary kitchen company. Instead, they are looking to branch out and create new restaurants, products and combinations on their own or in small teams. Others are expanding into food media as well, promoting their products or teaching culinary skills or recipes through social media platforms.

The collaborative space, Cucina, seeks to meet the needs of these culinary entrepreneurs as a permit-ready, multi-use kitchen space consisting of a bazaar on the lower level to test and sell products, and open cooking lines with dining counters on the upper level for collaboration and experimentation. The flexibility of the space gives Cucina the ability to be interchangeable not just spatially, but also conceptually. Menus and items change based on chefs and events throughout the year.

Located in Chicago atop the 625 W Adams building, the high-rise location draws the public to experience the unique, bustling environment and creates an unforgettable and authentic experience. Here at Cucina, new amateur chefs and entrepreneurs can find space to develop their skills professionally and interface with a larger public audience in both a restaurant and market setting.

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