Continuing the series of articles developed by Nikos A. Salingaros, David Brain, Andres M. Duany, Michael W. Mehaffy, and Ernesto Philibert-Petit, in this article we'll be exploring how observations on social housing in Latin American have been approached from an outdated and antagonistic point of view. Notions and errors committed in previous studies - in some cases simply by inertia - are discussed in the Latin American context, and propose adaptable solutions focused on the long-term, urban roots of residents.
Social Housing: The Latest Architecture and News
Social Housing is a principal element for a more democratic city. These housing structures provide decent dwellings for all citizens in urban areas and connect them to the rest of the city and its services.
Unfortunately, in many countries, the term "Social Housing" still has a negative connotation. It is often seen as a project that seeks to build the largest number of units with cheap materials, and little-to-no concern for the quality of life of its residents. Often times, it is designed for monetary reasons, as opposed to a project that serves the city and its people. Although this fact is recurrent, there are several examples that portray the opposite, in which architects manifest their political point of view through exceptional projects with innovative solutions that improve the urban experience.
To highlight these projects, we've gathered 45 examples that portray different modes of social housing. The diverse selection begins with small-scale, single-family residences that integrate public subsidy programs to large public enterprises for multifamily units.
Developed by Nikos A. Salingaros, David Brain, Andrés M. Duany, Michael W. Mehaffy, and Ernesto Philibert-Petit, this series of articles offers here a set of evidence-based optimal practices for social housing, applicable in general situations. Varying examples are discussed in a Latin American context. Adaptive solutions work towards long-term sustainability and help to attach residents to their built environment.
They propose, then, new insights in complexity science, and in particular the work of Christopher Alexander on how to successfully evolve urban form. By applying the conceptual tools of “Pattern Languages” and “Generative Codes”, these principles support previous solutions derived by others, which were never taken forward in a viable form.
Microsoft has unveiled plans to commit $500 million to advance affordable housing solutions across the city of Seattle, Washington. The money, to be distributed as loans and grants, will kick-start new solutions to the city’s housing crisis, where income increases have lagged behind rising housing prices.
The investment breaks down as $225 million committed to subsidize middle-income housing construction in six targeted cities, $250 million to support low-income housing across the King County region, and $25 million to philanthropic grants to address homelessness in the greater Seattle region. The tech giant has targeted the region in close proximity to the site of its Redmond headquarters expansion, expected to accommodate 8,000 new employees.
C.F. Møller Architects and BRUT have won a competition for the design of an ambitious urban development in Ostend, Belgium. The neighborhood of 500 houses demonstrates a method of using a human scale to improve the quality of life the residents and the urban realm.
The project centers on the De Nieuwe Stad quarter, where an existing social housing scheme from 1972 has become outdated. The competition for the site’s complete redevelopment attracted 54 firms, from which C.F. Møller Architects and BRUT.
The RIBA and Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) have joined forces to display six pioneering experiments in social housing from their archives. “A Home for All” features designs “from a tower block that up-ended the terraced street, to a DIY kit that encouraged residents to design their own homes.”
The six projects, all commissioned by public authorities, demonstrate both the crucial role played by the state in providing housing, and the role of the architect in creating high-quality housing through personal philosophy, new ideas, integration of best practice, and lessons from previous mistakes.
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.
Mecanoo has released images of their competition-winning social housing proposal for the city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan. The 234-unit-scheme embodies Mecanoo’s philosophy towards social housing, “defined by flexibility, the right balance of private and communal spaces, mixing housing types, connection with the environment and identity.” Comprised of two buildings linked by a green canopy, the scheme is designed for a variety of users, including students, young families, the elderly, or people with special needs.
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.
The dream of universal affordable housing has been an idea tried and tested by architects throughout history. From the wacky Dymaxion House by Buckminster Fuller, an imagining of how we would live in the future, to mail-order houses able to be assembled like IKEA furniture, many proposals have tackled the challenge of creating affordable housing or dwellings which could be replicated no matter the time and place. However, although their use of techniques such as pre-fabrication and cheap materials seemed, in theory, to be able to solve pressing issues of homelessness and the global housing crisis, time and time again these proposals have simply failed to take off. But why?
IKEA’s research lab SPACE10 is attempting to find an answer to this question through open-source collaboration. By releasing their design of a micro-house that used only one material and one machine to make it and an accompanying website that catalogs the process and invites feedback, they are inviting architects, designers, and aspiring home-owners to work together in creating a solution which could improve the lives of millions. “The vision,” they say, “is that by leveraging the world’s collective creativity and expertise, we can make low-cost, sustainable and modular houses available to anyone and, as a result, democratize the homes of tomorrow.”
Building and growing are two actions that should be considered more often than not at the same time. This is how the 2017 "Build to Grow" social housing competition, looked to establish bases that sustain a flexible way of living. The event took place in the Belén district in the city of Iquitos, on 3.7 hectares plot of land. The project that received first place proposed to locate 120 incremental homes, that alternatively allowed users to modify and expand it according to their needs and economic means. In short, a home with a solid nucleus formed by a structure that supports changing activities.
The new social housing project by Stefano Boeri Architetti is the first to integrate a vertical forest into an affordable residential skyscraper, improving the living conditions often incurred within such developments. 5,200 shrubs and 125 trees will be planted up the 75m tall structure in Eindhoven.
Trudo Vertical Forest will contain 125 social housing units over 19 floors to house lower income social groups, particularly young people. Each apartment will include a balcony filled with an array of trees, plants and shrubs for a forest soaring into the city's sky.
French photographer Laurent Kronental’s latest photo series, “Les Yeux des Tours” views of Paris, are framed by the quirky windows of the Tours Aillaud, and by the subtle differences in which the spaces around them are inhabited. Kronental considers the towers as some of the most spectacular of the Grands Ensembles built in the post-war economic boom in France. For him, photographing these buildings was a form of nostalgia, a way of satisfying a deep sense of childhood wonder and curiosity that fostered in him as a young boy perceiving them from the nearby business and shopping center "La Défense," questioning the lives of the people who live there.
At the end of September, we invited our Spanish-speaking readers to send us their social housing proposals completed at a university level. Social housing is still a challenge for much of Latin America and although every year hundreds of architecture students work on projects that reflect their concerns in the social housing field, its visibility is very low and its materialization is null. At a time when the Global South has pursued its own responses to its own problems, the university response on social housing should be taken into account by the State, both of whom are interested in the common good.
Out of 116 proposals received from Spain and 11 Latin American countries, this selection of 20 ideas represents the different challenges and state of the problems in social housing. While some approach Colombia's post-conflict scenario for rural inhabitants, some propose answers to the insertion of social housing in already densified areas, to which the beneficiaries tend to be relegated by the value of land and housing. Other ideas point to the reconversion of infrastructure, modulation, the integration of indigenous peoples and natural disasters.
We believe that the selection not only highlights the efforts of students and academics to address contingent problems but will also open up the discussion about social housing, often relegated only as a one-dimensional problem when in reality, poverty is multidimensional.
OOPEAA and Lujatalo worked together to design the winning proposal for a new multi-functional church and social housing project for Tikkurila, Helsinki entitled Church in the City. The project is unique in the way that the architect, builder, and client participated in a highly collaborative design process.
Choice of building materials and the inherent continuous reflection about the reach and capabilities of architecture are an interesting alternative way to approach this issue. The materials used in social housing should address local and economic possibilities and the real needs for access to housing in the contemporary context.
In this article, we analyze different projects published on our site to identify some of the predominant materials used in social housing, both for the formation of structures or enclosures. The intentions of this are two-fold: firstly, to create a worldwide panorama of different case studies with different construction styles from a range of geographical locations, and secondly, to provide inspiration and tools to architects to make better social housing.
Below we present 15 social housing projects and their diverse materials and construction styles.
The exercise, “from territory to inhabitant”, organized by the Centre of Investigation for Sustainable Development (CIDS) of Infonavit, seeks to respond to the diverse cultural, social, environmental, spatial and functional needs of different localities and bioclimates in finding assisted self-build housing solutions. The main objective of this investigation is to establish the legal, conceptual and architectonic processes that can be used to create these types of houses.
In their next project, CIDS invited the Mexican studio ZD+A to collaborate with Iñaki Echeverría to make a proposal for a social housing prototype for assisted self-build with the municipality of Tala in Jalisco, Mexico.
India’s renowned architect Anupama Kundoo has experimented with locally sourced materials to develop Wall House and others for non-profit organizations to minimise impact in the construction process whilst maintaining the connection to the community. She tells us how she integrates hybrid technologies into the building, a response to the growing segregation in India and developing countries.