Not only did Laura Alvarez Architecture place in Europe’s top 40 architects under 40, but the young firm also just received a unanimous first prize standing from the jury of the Customize Me! competition sponsored by the Heijmans Vastgoed & Woningbouw. Asked to provide a new vision for contemporary housing, Laura Alvarez responded with a housing model that can be aadjusted for different kinds of families and if a person suddenly changes his way of living. Entitled 4D LIFE | Space and Time – four dimensions of living, space and time are linked entities so that how the space is used directly correlates to time. ”We want to offer a house that fits all moments of life and to all kinds of standards of living. We want to offer space for personal input, for all kinds of people, independently from their origin, social status or age.” explained the architect.
As the Netherlands’ dense population expands outwardly, spreading over more land, there is a need to reevaluate how the ground can be used more efficiently to satisfy the demands for the growing cities and suburbs. The idea behind the proposal is to create more compact and dense living spaces to avoid the spreading. ”Our starting point is then to avoid the 30 dwelling/ha as requested by the competition and duplicate that density,” explained Alvarez.
The competition allowed participants to chose their site, so Alvarez decided to design on a 4,100m2 area in the Municipality of Groningen, an area which is quite conscious of the lack of space in the Netherlands and is part of a development plan to transform their whole neighborhood into a qualitative living area.
Alvarez’s new typology for flexible homes is based on a modular system. On every block, there are three houses which are made by three modules of 50m2 - 7.5 x 7.5 x 3. This module allows the home to start at 100m2 and grow to 150ms, and then return to 100 m2, depending upon changes in the user’s lifestyle.
The block includes 3 different types of urban voids: a communal courtyard which provides light and activity to the upper level, alleys which “communicate the communal courtyard with the outside world,” and private outside space such as a roof garden or front lawn. “Our aim is to create a very dynamic public space as well as to guarantee a private outside space for every dwelling,” added Alvarez.
The exterior of the houses is also based on a modular system and each residence can choose his own design. Alvarez added that the façades are one area of the project which will be studied in more depth as the project develops.