The challenges associated with the provision of adequate and affordable housing around the world demand that architects respond with original solutions that challenge traditional building forms, typologies and methods of delivery.
In recognition of this demand, last month’s World Architecture Festival in Berlin chose housing as its thematic focus. The festival made headlines with Patrik Schumacher’s inflammatory keynote speech that called for cities to be turned over entirely to market forces, scrapping social housing and privatizing all public space. The controversy that followed belied the diversity of the discourse on housing at the Festival and the presentation of innovative architectural responses to housing challenges.
The WAF also presented a panel, curated and produced by PLANE–SITE, that brought together the architects of four inventive housing projects. These projects represent a diversity of approaches to similar housing challenges across radically different global contexts. From the redensification of European urban centers to the rapid urbanization of the tropical Asian megacity, these radical housing models challenged existing paradigms in order to advance resident well-being as their principle design concern. In contrast to Schumacher’s divisive speech, the panel illustrated projects that were deliberately designed to promote community life and social interaction between residents – and in some cases also with other citizens in spaces that blur the line between public and private.
Beyond design and construction, the panel presented real, innovative housing projects that are actually now inhabited, exposing the everyday life of the residents. Video portraits prepared in advance supported the architects’ presentations. Drawing from residents’ own voices, the format investigated how the inventive architectural proposals have actually played out in reality.
PLANE–SITE visited each of the projects and interviewed the residents, observing and documenting their lives at home in these experimental projects. Their first hand experiences, unscripted and in their own words, complemented each of the architects’ statements and validated their architectural prototypes.
R50 Cohousing / ifau und Jesko Fezer + Heide von Beckerath (Berlin, Germany)
One of Berlin’s most remarkable Baugruppe projects, R50 embodies the essence of participatory planning and collective decision-making. Guided by the architects, residents chose a unifying balcony that connects all the units on the exterior and creates a wrap-around walkway covering the building. Residents also share a rooftop garden and a double-story common space on the ground floor, which has a semi-public program.
Coop Housing at Spreefeld / Carpaneto Architekten, Fatkoehl Architekten, BARarchitekten (Berlin, Germany)
Located right on the Spree River and open to the public, Spreefeld was developed as a cooperative by a community of people who wanted to live differently. A celebration of communal living, the complex includes “cluster apartments” that are shared by up to 21 people. These units defy conventions of public and private space by adding gradients between the most intimate spaces and the street. On the ground floor are also “option” rooms that were left somewhat unfinished and open-ended, with the intention that they will change over time based on what residents prefer.
Timmerhuis / OMA (Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
One of the newest buildings to mark the growing Rotterdam skyline, Timmerhuis is an unusual residential project that integrates municipal offices with residences and retail. OMA restored an existing government building and added two mountain-like towers, with generous receding terraces where residents enjoy outdoor space. Despite its glossy finish and detailing, the building houses a diverse demographic, including young families and empty-nesters.
SkyVille @ Dawson / WOHA (Singapore)
SkyVille is a progressive housing prototype designed by WOHA Architects for the Singaporean national Housing and Development Board (HDB). Sized to accommodate a burgeoning urban population, the building incorporates clever strategies to “domesticate” the large structure by creating smaller, human-scaled communities. Designed to be high-density and high-amenity, the 960 units are laid out in three tower blocks, naturally ventilated by generous interior airwells. Perhaps the most remarkable feature is the rooftop park on the 47th floor, which is accessible to the public for leisure and recreation.
Article Text: Michael Maginness for PLANE–SITE
Videos: Michael Waldrep for PLANE–SITE
WAF Panel Curator & Moderator: Andrés Ramirez for PLANE–SITE