Master of Architecture
Ant tribes are a social phenomenon of young college graduates that group together in large Chinese cities, defined equally by their dreams of upward mobility and their precarity. They have achieved a critical mass and identity that has fueled widespread media coverage, and the combination of reality and utopianism that fuel their motivations make them a viable subject for an architecture that cultivates a contemporary collective. Throughout the twentieth century, architects have used mass housing as a testing ground for new forms of collective living, resulting in archetypical buildings such as Ginzburg's Narkomfin and Corbusier's Unite. While the necessity of such a project remains, the mode of operation has shifted. To defy the dense processes of privatization that govern housing today, architecture needs to operate from marginalized points of society, and create archetypes from which ideas can be distilled for the mainstream. Such a position allows architecture to pursue utopian ambitions through pragmatic causes. The Soviet Constructivists, operating in the utopian-pragmatic moment of realizing a socialist state, redefined the program (or life) embodied in housing and gave the resultant collective a representational form. Contemporary China is undergoing an equally radical social transformation, and while the dominant political structure is far too complex to reinterpret directly, there are many isolated moments of social marginalization that allow for architectural opportunism. This project proposal adopts the ant tribe as the prompt for a new archetypal housing block that cultivates a way of life for this multi-various collective. In addressing the human mass that comprises a contemporary subject, this project takes a new approach to its architectural equivalent - the mass of housing units. Here, the potential of mass unit aggregation in its organizational and symbolic capabilities is pushed to new limits and possibilities - straddling the same line as the ant tribe itself - between dreams and reality.