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Public Housing

7 Lessons from New York's New Affordable Housing Design Guide

09:30 - 1 June, 2018
7 Lessons from New York's New Affordable Housing Design Guide , Broadway Housing in Santa Monica, by Kevin Daly, was identified by the report as a case study for its circulation. Image © Iwan Baan
Broadway Housing in Santa Monica, by Kevin Daly, was identified by the report as a case study for its circulation. Image © Iwan Baan

When we think of public housing architecture in the United States, we often think of boxes: big, brick buildings without much aesthetic character. But the implications of standardized, florescent-lit high-rises can be far more than aesthetic for the people who live there. Geographer Rashad Shabazz, for one, recalls in his book Spatializing Blackness how the housing project in Chicago where he grew up—replete with chain link fencing, video surveillance, and metal detectors—felt more like a prison than a home. Accounts of isolation, confinement, and poor maintenance are echoed by public housing residents nationwide.

But American public housing doesn’t have to be desolate. A new set of design standards from the New York City Public Design Commission (PDC)—in collaboration with The Fine Arts Federation of New York and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter—hopes to turn over a new leaf in affordable housing architecture.

Step Up on Fifth in Santa Monica, by Brooks + Scarpa, was identified by the report as a case study for its windows and doors. Image Courtesy of Brooks + Scarpa The Navy Green development in Brooklyn was a key case study in the report. Here, the supportive housing from that development, designed by Architecture in Formation and Curtis + Ginsburg. Image © Tom Powel Imaging The Tetris Apartments in Ljubljana, by OFIS Arhitekti, were identified by the report as a case study for their massing. Image Courtesy of OFIS Arhitekti Creston Avenue Residence in the Bronx. Image Courtesy of MAP Architects + 16

What Makes a City Livable to You?

09:30 - 28 April, 2018
© <a href='https://www.flickr.com/photos/132839384@N08/17241901246'>Flickr user Hafitz Maulana</a> licensed under <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>CC BY-SA 2.0</a>. ImageA music festival in Singapore
© Flickr user Hafitz Maulana licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. ImageA music festival in Singapore

Mercer released their annual list of the Most Livable Cities in the World last month. The list ranks 231 cities based on factors such as crime rates, sanitation, education and health standards, with Vienna at #1 and Baghdad at #231. There’s always some furor over the results, as there ought to be when a city we love does not make the top 20, or when we see a city rank highly but remember that one time we visited and couldn’t wait to leave.

To be clear, Mercer is a global HR consultancy, and their rankings are meant to serve the multinational corporations that are their clients. The list helps with relocation packages and remuneration for their employees. But a company’s first choice on where to send their workers is not always the same place you’d choose to send yourself to.

And these rankings, calculated as they are, also vary depending on who’s calculating. Monocle publishes their own list, as does The Economist, so the editors at ArchDaily decided to throw our hat in as well. Here we discuss what we think makes cities livable, and what we’d hope to see more of in the future.

AD Classics: Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project / Minoru Yamasaki

04:00 - 15 May, 2017
AD Classics: Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project / Minoru Yamasaki, An aerial photo by the US Geological Survey compares the narrow, monolithic blocks of Pruitt-Igoe with the neighboring pre-Modernist buildings of St. Louis. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia user Junkyardsparkle (Public Domain)
An aerial photo by the US Geological Survey compares the narrow, monolithic blocks of Pruitt-Igoe with the neighboring pre-Modernist buildings of St. Louis. ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia user Junkyardsparkle (Public Domain)

Few buildings in history can claim as infamous a legacy as that of the Pruitt-Igoe Housing Project of St. Louis, Missouri. Built during the height of Modernism this nominally innovative collection of residential towers was meant to stand as a triumph of rational architectural design over the ills of poverty and urban blight; instead, two decades of turmoil preceded the final, unceremonious destruction of the entire complex in 1973. The fall of Pruitt-Igoe ultimately came to signify not only the failure of one public housing project, but arguably the death knell of the entire Modernist era of design.

After two decades of crime and increasing maintenance issues, Pruitt-Igoe was ultimately demolished between 1972 and 1977. ImageVia pruitt-igoe.com The gleaming towers of Pruitt-Igoe were to have been a “Manhattan on the Mississippi.” . ImageCourtesy of Wikimedia user Cadastral (Public Domain) Courtesy of "The Pruitt Igoe Myth" Much of the landscaping and community amenities Minoru Yamasaki originally proposed were never built, contributing to Pruitt-Igoe’s eventual downward spiral. ImageVia pruitt-igoe.com + 8

"Corridors of Diversity": Showcasing the Secret of Singapore's Public Housing Success

09:30 - 15 March, 2017

Singapore’s first Housing and Development Board (HDB) housing blocks were erected in November of 1960, in response to a severe lack of adequate housing for the country's 1.6 million citizens. Fast forward to 2017, and over 80% of the Singaporean population live in HDBs, with over 90% of them owning the home they live in. Often painted in vibrant colors, HDBs have a focus on community social spaces, more often than not maintaining the ground floor of the apartment blocks as open public space, exclusively for public meeting areas. These can include hawker centers, benches, tables, grills and pavilions where residents can socialize under cover from the hot Singaporean sun.

Diversity in Connection. Image © Siyuan Ma Diversity in Common. Image © Siyuan Ma Diversity in Transit. Image © Siyuan Ma Diversity in Beliefs. Image © Siyuan Ma + 11

AD Classics: Gallaratese Quarter / Aldo Rossi & Carlo Aymonino

11:15 - 14 March, 2017
AD Classics: Gallaratese Quarter / Aldo Rossi & Carlo Aymonino, © Gili Merin
© Gili Merin

As the dust settled following the Second World War much of Europe was left with a crippling shortage of housing. In Milan, a series of plans were drafted in response to the crisis, laying out satellite communities for the northern Italian city which would each house between 50,000 to 130,000 people. Construction the first of these communities began in 1946, one year after the end of the conflict; ten years later in 1956, the adoption of Il Piano Regolatore Generale—a new master plan—set the stage for the development of the second, known as 'Gallaratese'. The site of the new community was split into parts 1 and 2, the latter of which was owned by the Monte Amiata Società Mineraria per Azioni. When the plan allowed for private development of Gallaratese 2 in late 1967, the commission for the project was given to Studio Ayde and, in particular, its partner Carlo Aymonino. Two months later Aymonino would invite Aldo Rossi to design a building for the complex and the two Italians set about realizing their respective visions for the ideal microcosmic community.[1]

© Gili Merin © Gili Merin © Gili Merin © Gili Merin + 17

30-Hectare–Olive Grove Converted to Eco-Friendly Public Housing Development

06:00 - 30 December, 2016
30-Hectare–Olive Grove Converted to Eco-Friendly Public Housing Development, Courtesy of v2com
Courtesy of v2com

Philippe Barrière Collective (PB+Co) has created the urban plan for a new semi-rural/semi-urban development in Manouba, Tunisia. Utilizing an existing olive grove estate, the environmentally driven project includes collective housing pavilions among its ecological design composed of 4,475 salvaged olive trees, newly planted taller trees, and a wild botanical garden that fosters local biodiversity.

Courtesy of v2com Courtesy of v2com Courtesy of v2com Courtesy of v2com + 4

The Power of Photography: How Images Continue to Shape the Built Environment

09:30 - 12 October, 2015
The Power of Photography: How Images Continue to Shape the Built Environment, © Iwan Baan for New York Magazine
© Iwan Baan for New York Magazine

In a culture dominated by smartphones and Instagram, with estimates that over one trillion photographs will be taken this year alone, it might seem impossible for photographs to make and shape issues in the ways they once did. Despite this, images still steer debates with shocking resiliency and, with luck, become iconic in their own right. As architecture is synonymous with placemaking and cultural memory, it is only logical that images of the built environment can have lasting effects on the issues of architecture and urbanism. It's never been easier for photographs to gain exposure than they can today, and with social media and civilian journalism, debates have never started more quickly.

Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing

00:00 - 5 January, 2015
Demolished: The End of Chicago’s Public Housing, Courtesy of NPR
Courtesy of NPR

NPR journalists David Eads and Helga Salinas have published a photographic essay by Patricia Evans alongside their story of Chicago’s public housing. Starting with Evans’ iconic image of a 10-year-old girl swinging at Chicago’s notorious Clarence Darrow high-rises, the story recounts the rise and fall of public housing, the invisible boarders that shaped it and how the city’s most notorious towers became known as “symbols of urban dysfunction.” The complete essay, here.

New York City Preserves Public Housing by Leasing Infill Land

00:00 - 24 April, 2013
New York City Preserves Public Housing by Leasing Infill Land, NYCHA, Public Housing.  Courtesy of Flickr User agentvladimir. Licensed via <a href='https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/'>Creative Commons</a>
NYCHA, Public Housing. Courtesy of Flickr User agentvladimir. Licensed via Creative Commons

For the past four decades, as cities faced financial pressures, high-rise public housing met its decline. Cities throughout the country demolished public housing that was failing financially and socially, like Chicago's Cabrini-Green Housing Project whose demolition was completed in 2011, to make way for mixed use developments that encouraged economic and social diversity by way of the HOPE VI Program. This strategy resulted in the uprooting and relocation of former residents who faced uncertainty throughout the process.

The New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) stands out among housing authorities in the United States due to its size - 179,000 units in 2,600 buildings across the city - and the fact that the buildings are relatively well maintained.  NYCHA has avoided resorting to demolitions to deal with its issues, instead resorting to special police services that costs NYCHA a purported $70 million a year.  Over the past decade NYCHA has been underfunded by approximately $750 million causing backlogs in necessary repairs.  

To address the mounting costs of public housing, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg has proposed an infill strategy that would attract developers onto NYCHA land and create a new layer of commercial space and residential units in public housing developments. The goal over the next five years is to develop methods of preservation for the housing development and promote mixed-use and mixed-income developments to generate income for NYCHA.

More on the plan after the break.