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The information-theoretic capacity of multiple antenna systems has been shown to be significantly higher than that of single antenna systems in Rayleigh-fading channels. In an attempt to realize this capacity, Foschini (1996) proposed the layered space-time architecture. This scheme was argued to asymptotically achieve a lower bound on the capacity. Another line of work has focused on the design of channel codes that exploit the spatial diversity provided by multiple transmit antennas (Tarokh et al. 1998, Hammons and Gamal 2000). In this paper, we take a fresh look at the problem of designing multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) wireless systems. First, we develop a generalized framework for the design of layered space-time systems. Then, we present a novel layered architecture that combines efficient algebraic code design with iterative signal processing techniques. This novel layered system is referred to as the threaded space-time (TST) architecture. The TST architecture provides more flexibility in the tradeoff between power efficiency, bandwidth efficiency, and receiver complexity. It also allows for exploiting the temporal diversity provided by time-varying fading channels. Simulation results are provided for the various techniques that demonstrate the superiority of the proposed TST architecture over both the diagonal layered space-time architecture in Foschini (1996) and the multilayering approach (Tarokh et al. (1999).