The focus of my practice is examining the nexus of historic preservation and affordable housing as a viable economic model for providing equitable housing for all and preserving the historic fabric of our neighborhoods. While over 75,000 people in Chicago are homeless, 65,000 buildings are reported vacant to the city. Community groups fight to preserve the historic fabric of their neighborhoods at risk of redevelopment. Buildings sit vacant while tens of thousands are without homes. While not every vacant building is appropriate for reuse or historically significant, synthesizing the city’s housing needs and historic preservation goals demands our investigation as architects. The solution of adaptive reuse as a tool for providing equitable housing for all also provides a viable economic model for the preservation of our collective, built memory. The focus of my research is the adaptive reuse of vacant, historic buildings into reimagined Single Room Occupancies as a model of how existing, centralized neighborhood assets can become a tool for affordable housing.
My thesis responds to the condition of the housing crisis in Chicago and the solution that vacant, historically significant buildings provide. My methodology includes creating a research engine that identifies buildings in disinvested neighborhoods that are both historically significant and vacant, identifying the common building types that characterize the fabric of these neighborhoods and testing these building types against both economies of scale and preservation principles to identify the Chicago building typology most suited for reimagined SRO’s. This methodology establishes a conceptual template for identifying networks of historic building stock and provides typology-specific design solutions for their adaptive reuse. Through this lens, I hope to examine the strategy of reusing embodied energy as sustainable practice and its benefits that support both equitable housing and preserving the cultural identity of neighborhoods.