Housing Works History: HIV/AIDS, Homelessness, and Design
Stephen A. Schwarzman Building, New York
In this conversation, Housing Works History editor and producer Gavin Browning and filmmaker Laura Hanna will be joined by writer Felix Burrichter (PIN–UP magazine) and designer and cultural historian Mabel O. Wilson (Columbia GSAPP).
In the beginning of the 1990s, New York City had less than 350 units of housing for an estimated 13,000 homeless individuals living with HIV/AIDS. Those left outside were relegated to makeshift encampments or the shelter system, whose physical design—large rooms with rows of beds—allowed colds and infections to easily travel among people with compromised immune systems.
In response, four members of ACT UP formed Housing Works. Understanding that housing is a form of health care, the organization has gone on to build over 200 units of permanent and transitional housing, providing vital medical, dental, and mental health care, job training, legal aid, and other supportive services to over 20,000 clients to date. Along the way, Housing Works confronted NIMBYism in Soho, Harlem, and the Lower East Side; sued the Giuliani Administration and won; opened a popular bookstore/cafe and thrift stores that fund housing and provide jobs; built residential and medical facilities; and never stopped speaking out.
Housing Works History is a multimedia timeline that traces these interconnected stories over 25 years. From permanent to transitional housing, and scattered-site apartments to congregate buildings, how were the designs of housing units calibrated to client needs? How did their shape change over time—as medical research advanced and New York City gentrified—and what political challenges persist today?