• Building for Us: Stories of Homesteading and Cooperative Housing
    Nandini Bagchee and Marlisa Wise
    Interference Archive, New York
    Oct 17, 2019 to Jan 02, 2020
    Nandini Bagchee & Marlisa Wise

Windmill Power For City People, cover page of a brochure advocating for reusable energy as an urban future. Courtesy of UHAB.

Contemporary architectural discourse has primarily focused on commoning as a speculative project, rather than as a historical, spatial, practice developed by marginalized communities. Debates about social housing often focus on state-subsidized public housing, and commoning practices have largely been discussed as a theoretical position or an architectural imaginary, rather than as a tangible architecture with a history that can be studied, analyzed and built upon. The exhibition Building for Us: Stories of Homesteading and Cooperative Housing, tracks the impact of collective, self-organized practices such as squatting, homesteading, and resident mutual aid in New York City and examines the way in which they have shaped the city. By analyzing ownership models, construction methods, spatial techniques, and material practices deployed by the cooperative housing movement, and presenting them through an immersive and interactive environment, the exhibition asks audience members to imagine new models for equitable development and spatial commoning.

Nandini Bagchee is an associate professor at the Spitzer School of Architecture at City College of New York (CUNY) and principal of Bagchee Architects. Her research focuses on activism in architecture and the ways in which ground-up collaborative building practices provide an alternative medium for the creation of public space. Bagchee is the author of a recently published book on the history of activist-run spaces in New York City entitled Counter Institution: Activist Estates of the Lower East Side (Fordham University Press, 2018). Her built-work and writing has been published in the New York Times, Interiors Now, Urban Omnibus, and the Journal of Architectural Education. She is the recipient of grants from the New York State Council of the Arts and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Her research-based design work involves an ongoing engagement with politically active organizations such as Cooperation Jackson, South Bronx Unite and the Loisaida Center.

Marlisa Wise is an architect, author, educator, and the cofounder of Interval Projects, a design advocacy nonprofit. She is currently senior architectural designer with NYC Parks, where she leads a team of designers working on public space projects throughout the five boroughs. Wise has led the design of projects including senior centers, art galleries, community centers, public parks, offices, and private residences, and her work emphasizes the integration of participatory design strategies and sustainability with a playful approach to light and materiality. Her work has been supported by grants from the Architectural League of New York, the Graham Foundation, Columbia University, and the Deutsche Bank Foundation, and has been published by the New York Times, Domus, Volume, and San Rocco among others. Wise recently published her first book with support from the Graham Foundation, Forms of Aid: Architectures of Humanitarian Space (Birkhäuser, 2017), on the spatiality of humanitarian aid operations.