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New Domesticity

In Japan, a staggering number of single mothers — nearly 50 per cent — live in poverty; a significant proportion even take up residence in Internet cafés. This thoroughly researched and comprehensive proposal aims not only to better the situation for these women but also to refashion the urban landscape in order to overcome the gender inequalities and economic disparities that landed them here in the first place.

New Domesticity

Focusing on Shinjuku City in Tokyo, University of Cambridge student Xidian Wang undertook three months of fieldwork to develop a concept that positions shared living spaces as an effective means to lift single mothers out of impoverishment by reconstructing the perceived idea of what a home is and rethinking fixed and outdated family dynamics. Involving both urban and architectural design, New Domesticity sees abandoned houses, undeveloped plots between existing buildings and underutilized sections of public buildings transformed into communal homes where single mothers can live together, establish and operate small businesses, and foster a sense of belonging and a supportive community. Wang cites a convenience store near an elementary school as an example opportunity for three single-mother families to live and work cooperatively.

“Given the density of Tokyo, I love this additive approach. In terms of social good, it’s tremendous: very forward-thinking and skilled.”
Shirley Blumberg, AZ Awards 2024 Juror
New Domesticity

Along with the built-environment aspect, Wang’s initiative also includes a practical and extensive “suitcase” designed to arm a hypothetical mothers’ co-op with the tools necessary to propose site selections and shared-space prototype designs for future integration into urban areas. The project would also include the application for grants and loans to establish small businesses near the refurbished properties for further work opportunities.

New Domesticity

All in, New Domesticity is a pioneering initiative that brings hope and realizes untapped potential. If implemented, it could effectively stop the cycle of poverty and create economic stability, well-being and self-sufficiency for an all-too-often overlooked and ignored segment of society.

Designer: Xidian Wang, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, U.K.

Winner: Social Good
People’s Choice: Social Good
Award of Merit: A+ Award for Student Work
New Domesticity: The Shared Life of Low-Income Single Mother Families in Tokyo

A strikingly sensitive yet comprehensive design framework offers incisive solutions for Japan’s vulnerable single mothers.

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