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Housing Lab

The Columbia GSAPP Housing Lab brings together faculty and students from across the disciplines represented at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and Columbia University at large to leverage expertise around some of the most critical challenges facing urban housing today. Using a design approach, the Lab creates meaningful collaborations and practical opportunities for architects, developers, and planners to advance interdisciplinary work and promote creative methods and bold interventions for affordable, adaptive, and resilient housing. The Lab is a locus for testing and demonstrating methods of practice-based scholarship and pedagogy.

The Housing Lab was launched with support from the IDC Foundation.
Housing lab portraits
Left to Right: Lula Chou, Kavyaa Rizal, Jamon Mok, Galia Solomonoff, Eddie Palka
Who We Are

2023 Research Team

Galia Solomonoff, Director

Eddie Palka ‘18 M.Arch, Adjunct Assistant Research Scholar

Lula Chou '23 M.Arch/'25 MSRED, Graduate Research Assistant

Jamon Mok '24 M.Arch, Graduate Research Assistant

Kavyaa Rizal '24 MSUP , Graduate Research Assistant

The housing lab is an GSAPP-wide initiative under the leadership of the Dean’s Office.

The Lab’s work is supported by generous seed funding from the IDC Foundation.

How to Get Involved
The Housing Lab welcomes involvement from students, faculty and alums across GSAPP’s programs, and values collaborations with housing practitioners.

Research assistantships and fellowships at the lab are competitive and processed through the GSAPP application form once or twice per year. We encourage all interested students to respond to the posted positions. For the lab’s first year, research assistants and fellows were appointed in a competitive interview process through nominations from program directors and faculty.

The project assistant program engages students on an hourly basis to support project work. To be considered, any interested student currently enrolled at GSAPP are encouraged to complete a brief application and upload their CV here to join the roster that is consulted on a rolling basis.

and mentorship is critical to the lab’s commitment to rigor and research. Interested faculty are encouraged to reach out to facultyaffairs@arch.columbia.edu.

Alums and Professionals
Involvement and support is essential to advancing the Lab’s mission of grounding action-oriented practice. Please reach out to gsappalumni@columbia.edu.

Previous Faculty and Student Affiliates

Graduate Research Assistants (GRA)
Jacob Kackley ‘23 M.Arch; Alisa Nurmansyah, '23 MSUP; Dillon Pinholster '23 MSRED

Bernadette Baird-Zars, '22 PhD, Urban Planning; Jules Kleitman, '22 MArch; Jonathan Marty, '22 MSUP; Danielle Roberts, '22 MSUP

Juan Sebastian Moreno, '21 MSUP Johane Juliana Clermont, '22 MArch/MSRED Eric J. Iglesias, '21 MSRED

Ericka Mina Song, ‘20 MArch
Erin Purcell, ‘20 MSRED

Lab Project Associates Aditi Shetye, '22 MArch Jenna Davis, PhD Candidate Maria (Maru) Perez, '21 MArch, Fall 2019-Spring 2021 Ian Wach, '21 MArch, Fall 2020-Spring 2021 Mariana Hinojosa, MArch/MSUP '21, Summer 2020

Spring 2020 Project Assistants Lanier Hagerty '21, MSUP Kate McNamara ‘20 MArch
Genevieve Mateyko, MArch Student
Angela Sun, MArch Student
Zeineb Sellami '21, MSUP
Hyun Hye Cathy Bae ‘20 PhD
Ochuko Okor, MArch Student
Michael Snidal PhD Candidate
Yousu Jang ‘20 MSRED
Conor Allerton ‘20 MSUP
Hayes Buchanan, MSUP Student
Mark-Henry Decrausaz, MSRED/MArch Student

2021-2022 Faculty Advisors Mario Gooden Cecily King

2020-2021 Faculty Advisors Mario Gooden Lance Freeman

2019-2020 Faculty (Biennale project-focused)
Daisy Ames
Adam Frampton

Members of the GSAPP faculty who contributed their advice and guidance over the past year include:
Ryan Devlin, Visiting Assistant Professor of Urban Planning
Hilary Sample, IDC Professor of Housing Design
Elliott Sclar, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning
Rich Froehlich, Adjunct Associate Professor of Real Estate Development and Urban Planning
Lance Freeman, Professor of Urban Planning
Anna Puigjaner, Associate Professor of Professional Practice in Architecture
Laura Kurgan, Professor of Architecture
Patrice Derrington, Holliday Associate Professor and Director of the Real Estate Development Program
Andreas Tjeldflaat, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Architecture

Lab Approach
The Lab places action-oriented pedagogy at the center. It is a space for students and faculty to develop useful and exciting work that is at the edge of both research and practice. To do this, the Lab works closely with partners in community groups, private firms and the public sector.

From a multidisciplinary perspective, the Lab team seeks to broaden the understandings of housing beyond units that can be paid for. In our initial conception, we advocate for housing that is:

  • Accessible: housing should be connected and embedded in quality environments, with access to meaningful services, communities, and opportunities.
  • Resilient: housing should be constructed and maintained for health and safety, adaptive to disasters and climate change, and an asset securely enmeshed in networks of belonging and appreciation.
  • Inclusive: housing should be affordable such that a connected, decent, resilient, and beautiful home does not preclude health or food, and is intentionally accessible to the heterogeneity of people and households.
Current Activities
Since launching in late fall of 2019, the Housing Lab at GSAPP has focused on how existing buildings inside cities can increase inclusion, resilience and access. The Lab identified low-rise, high-density multi-household buildings as a space of critical opportunity in New York City. Like many urban areas, New York’s housing crisis pushes vulnerable households further to the margins of opportunity, health and access. This deepens entrenched patterns of exclusion along lines of race, age, ethnicity, gender and immigration status. While the Lab takes an incremental and pragmatic view to action, we believe that interventions in housing have immense potential to start to undo the exclusionary and racist legacies of housing in New York City and increase inclusion, access, and resilience.

(Re) coding Walkups

The Lab team, in conversations with partners, developed the spring 2020 research into a multi-part business plan: “(Re) coding Walkups.” The business plan lays out an integrated case for innovative and feasible interventions in the existing stock of New York City, with a focus on existing walkups that do not receive subsidies but that house low-income households.

More than half of New York City’s multifamily units are in walkups built between 1901-1930, yet over three-quarters of these buildings have not had any major alterations since construction. An initial Lab project traces an ambitious reform – New York’s 1901 ‘New Law’ that regulated light and air for tenements – into findings relevant for contemporary work, part of which was visualized in GSAPP’s participation in the 2020 Venice Biennial. Across the four chapters of the business plan, the interdisciplinary team identified under-examined markets and overlooked space of innovation in design and planning. The interventions deliver substantial improvements for thousands of households–and the city and climate–at relatively little cost.

The business plan has four interlocking components: (1) Transforming buildings through a set of design and financial cases for adding and strengthening ‘space for survival’ along a spectrum of code shifts (2) Activating a network of shared area amenities for resiliency, financially sustained by a set of buildings (3) Demonstrating new models of financial feasibility for more units and (4) Sustaining maintenance and inclusion through possibilities of limited-equity co-ops.  

Each of these project areas developed in close conversations with developers, non-profits, design firms, and city officials and aim to showcase possibilities for new ways of working in housing. The lab prioritizes these conversations and partnerships as crucial to ensuring the relevancy of the lab’s work to practice and larger systemic change.    

Housing for Survival
Housing ‘for survival’ emerged as a concept in early 2020 to focus the Lab’s perspective on climate and socioeconomic equity on the most pragmatic and immediate: what about housing will help households simply stay alive in particular amidst climate change and disasters?

Housing can and should do more, but survival is the starting point. Launching our thinking of housing and space as a right for individual well-being and the collective also drew strongly on the tradition of progressive reform from New York at the turn of the last century, when the right for adequate private space with light and air to combat disease drove the new tenement law (1901), zoning resolution (1916) and multi-family dwelling law (1928). The lab’s work this year seeks to re-center housing again as decent places to survive and live, carrying forward the tradition of these codes, and also provoking change and experimentation in their contents and concepts.

While COVID-19’s impacts only have underscored the importance of our central inquiry of this year: how can we feasibly and imaginatively intervene in the ‘overlooked’ stock–existing unsubsidized walkup multifamily buildings–to expand inclusion, resilience and access?

In cities under quarantine lockdown, the ways that we live and work compress and stretch into new arenas of time, air and meters, and housing is even more visibly at the center of physical survival. Doubled-up and crowded households isolate, work and get sick together. Twenty-four hour occupation transforms the usage and meaning of units and made urban life only more unequal. The networks of spaces and people across buildings and neighborhoods that also form part of ‘home’ are suspended; ‘stay at home’ excludes parts of the home outside the unit. Access to services, food and help is exponentially localized, highlighting and deepening geographic inequalities. Rent or mortgage payments, paid or forgone, compound on tenants and owners. Is anything about housing the same anymore?

Yes: the particularities of the housing crisis continue under brighter contrast. The Lab’s focus on framing housing in terms of access, inclusion and resilience – and the understandings of how housing intersects with climate change – have only become more clearly urgent over the last months. The tangible Lab outputs of this spring – a set of integrated proposals to transform the ‘overlooked’ multifamily walkups of New York City – now have higher stakes, as a result in many ways; most obviously, the affordable, unsubsidized, crowded tenements are also centers of infection, death and economic hardship.

10 Questions for Housing

(Re)coding Walkups

(RE)CODING WALKUPS: A Business Plan for Advancing Inclusive, Accessible, and Resilient Housing in Existing Unsubsidized Buildings across New York City

All components authored by the GSAPP Housing Lab fellow, research assistants and project assistants in 2020. Individual credits and reviewers listed in each document.

Conversation Series

Fall 2020 Conversation Series
The student team at GSAPP’s Housing Lab hosted a series of informal and interdisciplinary open conversations on housing, race, racism, and whiteness during the fall 2020 semester, on Fridays between 1–2PM. Each session focused on a specific theme, often with an expert practitioner or researcher on hand as a co-facilitator along with members of the Housing Lab student team. The series is part of the Housing Lab’s project to explicitly integrate an anti-racist agenda into its current engagements and methods of working. View the full list of participants below.
September 18, 2020
Our stories: Experiences with housing, race, racism and whiteness

Facilitated by Housing Lab members Juan Moreno, Johane Clermont, Eric Iglesias, Jiazhen Lin, Maru PerezBernadette Baird-Zars and others

Before this session, please reflect on your own experiences and professional encounters with housing and race, and housing and whiteness.

Join on Zoom
September 25, 2020
Harlem and Manhattanville: Recent housing history
Facilitated by Joe Huennekens, Housing Lab; and guest Edwin Marshall, Senior Planner, New York Department of City Planning
October 2, 2020

Redlining 101: How C and D zones happened and how they still matter
Facilitated by Juan Sebastian Moreno, Housing Lab; and guest Wenfei Xu, GSAPP


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

October 9, 2020

Affordable Housing and (Racial) Equity in Development

Facilitated by Jiazhen Lin, Housing Lab; with guest Cecily King ‘15 MSRED, Founder and Managing Partner, Kipling Development.


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

October 16, 2020

The Racial Landscape of Fintech Mortgage Lending
Facilitated by Eric Iglesias, Housing Lab; and guest Tyler Haupert, GSAPP


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

October 23, 2020

Zoning and Displacement

Facilitated by Jenna Davis, Housing Lab and Sam Stein, author of “Capital City”


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

October 30, 2020

Towers, maintenance and conversion: a conversation with Victor Body-Lawson
Facilitated by the Housing Lab team


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

November 6, 2020

Race, caste, housing: an open conversation on the national future

Facilitated by Johane Clermont and the Housing Lab team


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

November 13, 2020 

Climate change, feminism and equity

Facilitated by Housing Lab team, with guest Shana Griffen, Associate Director of Antenna and founder of PUNCTUATE; and co-founder of Jane House


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

November 20, 2020

Unit and building design, blackness and whiteness

Facilitated by Maru Perez, Housing Lab


JOIN ON ZOOM Meeting ID: 968 8139 5430

December 11, 2020

Housing Lab action hour 2.0: Products and spring 2021 

Facilitated by Housing Lab team


Spring 2020 Conversation Series
January 16, 2020
Informality and regulation

Ryan Devlin
February 17, 2020
Housing as wealth-building

Marc Norman, Associate Professor of Practice in Urban and Regional Planning at University of Michigan’s Taubman College
March 2, 2020
Code in Context

Elliott Sclar, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at GSAPP

Shana Griffen of Antenna; PUNCTUATE; and Jane Place

November 13, 2020

The session was facilitated by Bernadette Baird-Zars, , IDC Foundation Fellow at the GSAPP Housing Lab.

Learn more here.

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