A single family house may often have been considered as a very small pixel within any urban context, but the fact is, on average more than fifty percent of the urban fabric is being shaped by these tiny small pixels. It is well said by Tadao Ando: “The house is the building type that can change society.” Thus, this is how a client, a developer, a builder, an architect, or a designer could or should be responsible and willingly participate in a collective effort to shape a better urban context.
In the North American context of housing, the repetition of an economic formula has become the norm for many reasons: the most important of which is that the public is really not given an opportunity to explore and experience. Architecturally, the multicultural domain of the Greater Toronto Area is not as diverse as it deserves to be and its residential areas are characterized by a homogenous flatness. The vision of our population toward architecture is drawn to either mass production of subdivision built houses by developers, cosmetic variations of a copy-paste cookie-cutter blueprints, or monstrous residences with no root belief of a unique lifestyle.
Not only the general public, but also the architects who comply with this monotony, are accountable for this. There is an ethical responsibility; however, many architects have become service providers rather than contributors to a public discourse. Market oriented developers who make decisions solely centred around the financial gain, have put architects in an invidious position. When it comes to single family houses, their contributions are almost invisible. Rarely do houses contribute much to the urban fabric, nor do they raise much curiosity in their viewers’ mind about the state of housing, dwelling, urbanism, accommodation or culture. Regardless of personal taste, every project should be capable of pulling a trigger in the mind that deserves a response.
We bear responsibility for not only designing but also raising the public awareness for the design. We feel obligated to such a mission. Architecture is a social art form and even a private residence is capable of communicating ideas, values, and the like with the public. Obtaining the audience interest is the first step. If a building is made invisible through its predictability, the public will not be moved to interact or communicate. If they can’t communicate, they are absent, and if they are absent they will not be able to discuss anything, including architecture, cities or ethics.
Every project should be obliged to verify its contribution to design rather than to solely provide service. Design belongs to everyone. Of course, every commissioned project needs to be cost effective and affordable, and it must respect the client’s program in a manner that satisfies both his/her personal needs, and the context of the project. Indeed, most importantly, the design of the project must raise awareness.
With this text we present 6 examples of in-fill projects designed and built over the last ten years. Each example is a representation of a single pixel from our whole project to bring design and architectural recognition to the public domain. Investing time, money, energy, labour and resources on a project must have an extraordinary and atypical outcome.
These projects aim to act as a positive virus, a trigger, a turbulence that revisits the status quo of the very dominant residential typology dictated by builders, developers, market oriented designers and the like. These projects come to be from simple programs and have been realized within a conventional time frame and construction budget, however the result was anything but conventional.
63 Degree House
“There is ultimately a relationship between any single architectural project and the destiny of the city.” —Aldo Rossi
“You can look at any city and see that many buildings have no fiction. They are just functional. They don’t give people anything to think or dream about. They exists without inspiring people.” —Tadao Ando
“In a society that celebrates the inessential, architecture can put up a resistance, counteract the waste of forms and meanings, and speak its own language.” —Peter Zumthor
“Today we simulate materials, systems of construction, and languages, not for saying things but for agreeing. this situation has become normal, as it is normal to be sick.” —Eduardo Souto de Moura
“On one side architecture is violent, because it resists having to be the victim of its surroundings; on the other it can distort those surroundings.” — Wiel Arets
“If men truly lived as men, their houses would be temples.” — Mario Botta
Extracted from the essay originally published both in On Site Review magazine and RZLBD Hopscotch:
Aliabadi, Reza. “An Architecture of Turbulence”,
On Site Vol.30: 82-83.
Aliabadi, Reza. “RZLBD HOPSCOTCH: Seeking a territory for a vision”.
London: Artifice, 2017. PP, 31-34