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Accessory dwellings are a viable model for increasing density and socioeconomic diversity in areas of single-family homes where extensive replacement of the urban fabric is neither possible nor desirable. The bungalow neighborhood surrounding the Menil Collection, for instance, is an integral part of the institution itself, but has come under pressure from development and gentrification. As part of Rice Architecture Construct, the studio partnered with the Menil to develop hypothetical yet viable strategies to replace the neighborhood’s lost and aging garage apartments with accessory dwelling units (ADUs). The studio was framed conceptually by the “solid surface,” an instrumental logic seeking to synthesize the surface of representation with the thickness of performance, including the configuration of space within and without. Working across 35 individual sites, students developed adaptive prototypes in parallel with digitally fabricated plywood envelope systems to examine both novel aesthetic and social relationships—among units, between primary and secondary dwellings, and within the broader urban context—that challenged conceptually, functionally and qualitatively the status of the ADU as an accessory condition. The aim is greater independence from the bungalows—and thus a new layer of urban character within the neighborhood—alongside new spatial configurations that together, might serve as a model for development throughout Houston or beyond.
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