Harvard University Graduate School of Design names this year's Wheelwright Prize winner

Kitchenless City

Harvard University Graduate School of Design names this year's Wheelwright Prize winner

(Courtesy the Harvard GSD Wheelwright Prize)

The kitchen appears—again—to be the go-to space to reflect contemporary life and societal ideas. In 1957, the Long Island Kitchen of the late Jack Massey embodied capitalism and the American dream. 59 years on, Anna Puigjaner’s winning submission for this years Wheelwright competition, Kitchenless City: Architectural Systems for Social Welfare, explores collective dwelling and new ways of living to combat the affordable housing issues around the world.

Announced by the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), Puigjaner has been given a $100,000 travelling fellowship which will be used to foster “investigative approaches to contemporary design.” A graduate from the Barcelona Technical University of Catalunya School of Architecture, Puigjaner founded MAIO Studio alongside Maria Charneco, Alfredo Lérida, and Guillermo López. The studio covers many aspects of design including exhibitions, furniture, interiors, public spaces, urban planning, and architecture. They also had an exhibition at this years Chicago Architecture Biennale.

(Courtesy College of Architects of Catalunya)

Kitchenless City looks at dwellings with shared amenity spaces including kitchen units, dining rooms, lounges and other service spaces. Her project uses case studies from Russia, Brazil, Sweden, China, Korea, and India where spatial arrangements cater for shared amenities in different ways.

Notable examples include the Kommunalka dwellings developed under Stalin and Carmen Portinho’s Rio de Janeiro’s housing directive of the 1950s which saw Affonso Eduardo Reidy’s “Pedregulho” snake across highways and the city. The Sargfabrik complex in Vianna by BKK-2 Architectur in 1996 also features as does Liu Yang’s You+ International Youth Apartments in China and India’s “solar” kitchens.

Pedregulho Housing Development, Benfica neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. (Courtesy Wikipedia)

“There was a time in United States when collective housekeeping policies shaped housing typologies and urban growth to shrink domestic expenses,” she said. “At that time, housing was understood as a tool for social and urban transformation. Although these peculiar buildings have almost disappeared, they had a large international influence encouraging the construction of similar buildings that are still working today. The aim of this project is to research these cases and define a set of housing and urban strategies for a better social welfare.”

Pedregulho Housing Development, Benfica neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. (Arielaot / Flickr)

Kitchenless City also builds on work Puigjaner started during her Ph.D. while reflecting MAIO Studio’s involvement in flexible systems and the “potential of variation, ephemerality, and appropriation.” Puigjaner has also had numerous articles addressing the subject published including essays to Space Caviar’s SQM: The Quantified Home and Volume (2013, #3).

“Anna Puigjaner believes that architects should do more than simply design buildings and the spaces that surround them, but they should be concerned about the way people actually use those spaces,” said Rafael Moneo, a member of the awarding jury. “Her motto—‘Architecture goes beyond physicality’—means that buildings should help people to make their lives more efficient. She seeks to endow architecture with the power to alleviate the burdens of our domestic life. The lightness, subtlety, and cleanliness that is always present in Puigjaner’s work allows us a glimpse of how she imagines this architecture should be, and anticipates the lines of investigation she will pursue on her travels with the Wheelwright Prize.”

In a press release, The 2016 Wheelwright Prize jury praised Puigjaner for the relevance of her topic today, as rapidly urbanizing cities struggle to provide adequate affordable housing for their growing populations. The jury emphasized the importance of awarding a research project that could produce new forms of architectural knowledge, and noted in particular the pertinence of Puigjaner’s research to new housing development models as well as the rise of alternative sharing and resource-pooling economies.