This project revolves around scarcity within a culture of excess. We are living in the post-production era. In Buffalo and other Rust Belt cities there is a problematic condition; because of the decreasingly viable economic system and resultant large scale depopulation, much of the housing stock is unoccupied, unwanted, and left in various states of decay. Accompanying this is an alarming dependence on consumption, with little regard to the inevitable products of waste. We, the inhabitants of this postindustrial city, must respond to these degraded, yet abundant material conditions scattered throughout the city.
To bring ourselves from detached designer to deprived occupant, we will occupy such a neglected, leftover property. In situ research then provides the basis for the project, and we immediately begin to adapt the house and our lifestyles according to immediate conditions as well as foreseeable futures (ie: a concentrated place of warmth for winter). Scavenged waste objects and materials from surrounding neighborhoods will be used as an abundant source of building materials, and through rationing and prioritization, necessary conditions for living will be met and, eventually, exceeded. The process of retrofitting the house while living in it explores new forms of domesticity, and limiting our material palette to those things that we can salvage will explore issues of material recombinance. Need and resourcefulness become a means of inspiring new forms, assemblies, and organizations.
By cannibalizing the material and spatial remains of the post-industrial city, a new idea of domesticity is born. The survivalist architecture must address utilities (water, heat), security, varying climatic conditions, food storage, and mental comfort, always adapting itself according to what it has on hand. This method of design and the restriction of material palette remove the extraneous from the work. It addresses economy and sustainability through adaptive reuse of material and space. It confuses social order through a new mode of living, looking to squatting and alternative lifestyles as inspiration. It challenges political bodies by acting as a form of protest to current housing policies: demolition as a remedy to urban decay.
Ultimately, the result will be a reconstituted house – not necessarily a final product to be put back on the market, but a loose prototype for a new type of adaptive reuse that catalogs a series of experimental interventions: a series of spaces that addresses the basic needs for survival. Through constant documentation of the struggles in the house and the material and architectural solutions we use to resolve them we will create a document describing how this process could be practiced by other individuals and become a prominent mode of urban renewal in post-industrial cities.

Project Goals

1. To reside in a formerly abandoned building for the duration of the 2011/2012 academic year.
2. To perform thorough and relevant research on case studies surrounding issues dealing with alternative housing/living conditions. The specific topics of these case studies will be directed by needs and issues that present themselves while taking residence in the aforementioned abandoned property.
3. To equip the property with all the means and systems necessary to accommodate human life using only material that is readily available and transportable without monetary cost; building from waste.
4. To interpret and adhere to established building and construction regulations in accordance with our material palette.
5. To document our research and the experimentation performed in a media that will be made available to the public (ie: Rustbelt City Survival Handbook, blog)