Interpretive planning concepts for architectural programming and schematic building design. National Public Housing Museum, Chicago 2012.
What does home look like? The freestanding house with a lawn and picket fence that long represented what “home” ought to look like to many Americans has been increasingly challenged by foreclosure and the disintegrating suburban lifestyle. The National Public Housing Museum invited Todd Palmer to collaborate with its building architect (Landon Bone Baker) to consider ways to infuse its chief historic artifact – an entire building of public housing erected in 1938 – with first person storytelling, collections, information media and spaces for public participation.
How does a civic conversation begin at home? Thousands of families passed through the last remaining edifice of the Jane Addams Homes over the course of several decades. Palmer incorporated “interpretation” strategies to complement LBB’s plans for restoration and adaptive reuse of the building, endeavoring to confront preconceptions of public housing as “faceless” and “anonymous.” Collections, perspectives, acoustic voices and technologies are infused into plans for adaptive reuse to impart recreated domestic environments (the kitchen, the bedroom) and museological spaces alike (changing galleries, the lobby) with a sense of people’s lived reality at home.
The impact? From these personal touchstones translated into designed experience, folks from the outside are invited to see the question of public housing “from the inside out.” The museum becomes a place from which frame public housing’s history to talk about the future, and what role the public and government should play in creating communities and homes at a time of housing insecurity.