Preserving Community: Prototypical Improvements for Post-War Public Housing

Abstract

After the Housing Act of 1937, bolstered by New Deal policies of the 1940s, public housing production was high, not only in Boston, but nationally. Though intended as transient or temporary housing, many of these highly efficient, cheaply built developments have become permanent housing, as well as sites of crime, disorder, and neglect. The brick mazes of post-war public housing remain a source of housing low-income families seventy years after their creation, allowing a community to develop as residents continue living there long-term, despite the widespread issues that have permeated this housing type. In the wake of Hope IV, the common reaction to dense, urban, post-war public housing has been to demolish and replace it with less-dense, suburban replicas that disrupt and displace what community may have existed. This solution is inherently anti-urban, and only amplifies the need for more public housing units by displacing existing low-income residents. In response to current economic hardships for low-income families, it has become even more important for public housing to fulfill the current lack of social interaction and neighborhood safety. Focusing on the Lenox Street development in Boston’s South End, this design proposes prototypical solutions, which aim to create a stable community for its residents without dislocating them from essential community ties. These large-scale architectural and landscaping improvements promote safety and security through modifications in the unit entry sequence and subtle transitions in the movement from public to private space, while maintaining a high, urban-level unit density to preserve the Lenox community.