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Social Housing: The Latest Architecture and News

The Best University Proposals for Social Housing in Latin America and Spain in 2017

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 Wins Multi-functional Church and Social Housing Proposal in Helsinki

Courtesy of OOPEAA
Courtesy of OOPEAA

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.

Courtesy of OOPEAA Courtesy of OOPEAA Courtesy of OOPEAA Courtesy of OOPEAA + 7

Jalisco, Mexico: Prototype for INFONAVIT, by ZD+A and Iñaki Echeverría

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.

Anupama Kundoo: 'Current Methods of Construction are Producing More Problems Than They Solve'

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.

RIBA Criticizes UK Government's Housing Promise: "It Just Won’t Meet the Scale of Investment Needed"

Earlier today, the UK Prime Minister Theresa May made her closing speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. In a speech which focused on the fallout of Brexit and the economy, May devoted considerable attention to the issue of the UK housing market, announcing a plan to add £2 billion to the government's existing £7 billion affordable housing fund—a fund which local governments, private housebuilders, and housing associations can apply to for grants to subsidize construction of affordable housing.

However, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has strongly criticized the government's proposal, arguing that £2 billion will not be nearly enough to address the scale of the problem—by most estimates, the country is falling short of housing demand by hundreds of thousands of units annually, and house prices are increasingly out of reach for the young and the poor. In response, the RIBA argues for a much greater investment in social housing, highlighting its recent decision to award its Gold Medal to 20th Century social housing architect Neave Brown and stating that "we need a concerted program of public investment in new social housing across the country and that means spending a lot more than was announced today." Read on for RIBA President Ben Derbyshire's full statement:

Longnan Garden Social Housing Estate / Atelier GOM

© CreatAR Images © CreatAR Images © CreatAR Images © CreatAR Images + 48

Shanghai, China
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Atelier GOM
  • Area Area of this architecture project
    48112.0 m2
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project

The Construction Details of ELEMENTAL's Incremental Housing

Good location, harmonious growth over time, concern for urban design, and the delivery of a structure that has "middle-class DNA" are the key points of the ABC of incremental housing, developed in detail by the Chilean architects ELEMENTAL. It's a question of ensuring a balance between "low-rise high-density, without overcrowding, with the possibility of expansion (from social housing to middle-class dwelling)."

Following this line of action, the office has released the drawings of four of the projects carried out under these principles, to serve as good examples of design which have already been implemented and proven in reality. However, despite making them available for free consultation and download, the architects emphasize that these designs must be adjusted to comply with the regulations and structural codes of each locality, using relevant building materials.

Why Moscow's Massacre of Mass Housing Is a Huge Mistake

The Moscow government has just launched the biggest demolition program in the city’s history. Its goal is to get rid of 8,000 5-story residential buildings constructed in the Soviet era—it is probably the biggest program of erasure of modernist architectural heritage in world history. The main assumptions of the plan, as well as the press comments following it, show that we have forgotten what modernism was about, and what the real values of this architecture are.

A few years ago I published an essay titled Belyayevo Forever, dedicated to the preservation of generic modernist architecture. I focused on Moscow’s microrayons—vast, state-funded housing estates built in the Soviet era. In the essay, I explained the spatial and cultural values these prefabricated landscapes had. I also speculated about how one would go about preserving architecture that completely lacks uniqueness. The essay ended with a provocative statement: we should put Belyayevo—the most generic of all Soviet estates—on the UNESCO heritage list.

© Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev © Max Avdeev + 13

WE Architecture’s Winning Proposal Combines Green Space with Social Housing in Aarhus

A competition for a new social housing complex in Aarhus, Denmark, has been won by WE Architecture, in collaboration with local practice JWH Arkitekter and commissioned by Ringgaarden, a Danish housing organization.

Titled “Saltholmsgade”, the winning proposal is a reinterpretation of Aarhus’ historical housing typologies along Hjortensgade, creating modern and green communal spaces. The complex consists of 38 individual apartments, offering tenants views of the city through the inclusion of rooftop gardens.

© WE Architecture © WE Architecture © WE Architecture © WE Architecture + 14

LOHA’s Latest Supportive Housing Complex Curbs LA’s Increasing Homelessness

With ever-increasing rates of chronic and veteran homelessness amongst low-income households, Los Angeles’ pressing demand for affordable social housing is being addressed by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, with their design of MLK1101 Supportive Housing, which has just begun construction.

Working in collaboration with non-profit Clifford Beers Housing, LOHA’s intention is to focus on health and community within a comfortable environment. This is achieved through a number of strategies, including exposing the building towards the street to integrate the building into the neighborhood creating strong community ties.

Southwest View. Image © Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects Axonometric Drawing. Image © Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects © Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects © Lorcan O'Herlihy Architects + 13

Curry Stone Design Prize Recognizes 7 Practices for Strides in Social Housing


In honour of its 10th anniversary, the Curry Stone Design Prize will recognize a large group of the world’s most socially conscious and active design practices, in what the Foundation has coined as the Social Design Circle.

Over the course of the year, 100 firms will be added to the Circle for their sustainable, socially inclusive and impactful design work, under twelve specific themes. Each month, select firms’ work will be highlighted individually on the Prize’s website, while also featuring on the Curry Stone Foundation’s new podcast, Social Design Insights.

The following seven practices were selected for the month of February, in response to the theme “Is The Right to Housing Real?”:

How Combining Social Housing with Tourism Could Help Solve Havana’s Housing Crisis

The largest of the Caribbean islands, Cuba is a cultural melting pot of over 11 million people, combining native Taíno and Ciboney people with descendants of Spanish colonists and African slaves. Since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro, the country has been the only stable communist regime in the Western hemisphere, with close ties to the Soviet Union during the Cold War and frosty relationship with its nearby neighbor, the United States, that has only recently begun to thaw. While the architecture in the capital city of Havana reflects the dynamic and rich history of the area, after the revolution Havana lost its priority status and government focus shifted to rural areas, and the buildings of Havana have been left to ruin ever since. Iwo Borkowicz, one of three winners of the 2016 Young Talent Architecture Award, has developed a plan that could bring some vibrancy, and most importantly some sustainability, back to Havana, the historic core of the city.

Section of Prototype 2. Image Courtesy of Iwo Borkowicz Section of Prototype 3. Image Courtesy of Iwo Borkowicz Section of Prototype 4. Image Courtesy of Iwo Borkowicz Section of Prototype 6. Image Courtesy of Iwo Borkowicz + 63

Half A House Builds A Whole Community: Elemental’s Controversial Social Housing

In Chile, a middle-class family may inhabit a house of around 80 square meters, whereas a low-income family might be lucky enough to inhabit 40 square meters. They can’t afford a large “good” house, and are henceforth often left with smaller homes or building blocks; but why not give them half a “good” house, instead of a finished small house? In the 1970s a professor by the name John F.C. Turner, teaching at a new masters program at MIT called “Urban Settlement Design In Developing Countries”, developed an idea surrounding the concept that people can build for themselves. 99% Invisible has covered a story, produced by Sam Greenspan, on how this idea has evolved, and what it has turned into: Half A House.

Villa Verde expansion under construction. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Quinta Monroy project in Iquique, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Villa Verde build-out in progress. Image via 99 Percent Invisible Dronve view of Villa Verde in Constitución, Chile by Elemental. Image via 99 Percent Invisible + 5

White Arkitekter Blurs the Line Between Built and Natural in Housing Project Design

White Arkitekter’s Copenhagen studio has been selected as winners of a competition to design 115 individual homes as part of a social housing project in Denmark’s Allerød Municipality. Located north of the capital city of Copenhagen, the new neighborhood will be bordered by forest and a lake, inviting the nature in to complement and screen individual buildings. The project, titled “By the Woods,” will attempt to subvert typical preconceptions about social housing through the blurring of public and private space.

© White Arkitekter © White Arkitekter and Beauty and the Bit © White Arkitekter © White Arkitekter + 7

A Look Back: 8 Years of Social and Urban Projects

In the past eight years the world has seen important changes – stemming from natural catastrophes, global warming, war, diseases, political and economic crisis among other things – all of which have a direct impact on the way we inhabit our planet and therefore how architects and planners are managing context-related designs for community living.

The importance of socially engaged architecture was highlighted by this year's Pritzker Prize winner Alejandro Aravena, whose work appeals to the idea of an active, committed architect who seeks for a democratic urban environment. This development also resonates strongly with ArchDaily's mission statement "to improve the quality of life of the next 3 billion people that will move into cities in the next 40 years, by providing inspiration, knowledge and tools to the architects who will have the challenge to design for them."

Therefore, in celebration of ArchDaily's 8th birthday, our Projects Team curated a selection of 24 exemplary projects divided into 3 categories. Each of these projects published over the past 8 years dedicate their design to find greater social, community, civil and humanitarian needs.

5468796 Architecture's Social Housing in Winnipeg: Do We Expect Too Much of Design?

© James Brittain Photography
© James Brittain Photography

Architecture serves many essential functions in the fabric of the built environment, but it is the perpetual deficit of housing that some might argue is the field’s ultimate clarion call. In virtually every global city, growing populations and limited supplies of affordable dwellings are the major issues of twenty-first century life—and therefore are indications of the continued relevance of architecture in solving vexing urban predicaments. The last century offered early promise in addressing such issues with proposals to house the masses in immense slabs and box buildings, structures almost as large as their social ambition. But what became an asset of scale overlooked, or more probably misunderstood, the social degradation that such largeness elicited.

Aware of the fact that a one-size-fits-all approach to social housing rarely brings the desired outcomes of sociability, accountability, and community, Winnipeg’s 5468796 Architecture sought to reinvent the typology on a smaller scale. The outcome, a project in Winnipeg’s Central Park neighborhood known as Centre Village, is a 25-unit housing complex that prioritizes windows for observation and public spaces for socializing. Initially heralded as a beacon for public housing done right, the project was recently the target of vitriol in a Guardian article, claiming its secluded courtyard makes it "a magnet for drinking and drug-taking" and that its architectural vanity is to the detriment of apartment sizes and layouts. Subsequently, the Winnipeg Free Press published a response piece, "Building a better neighbourhood," and more recently on ArchDaily, 5468796 published a “letter-to-the-editor” to share their side of story and to dispel some of the negativity surrounding Centre Village. The myriad of perspectives can make you wonder: who’s right?

5468796 Architecture's Response to The Guardian Over their "Failed" Social Housing Project

Early this month, The Guardian published a widely shared and debated article titled "Crime in the community: when 'designer' social housing goes wrong." The article told the story of Centre Village, a social housing project in Winnipeg designed by 5468796 Architecture and Cohlmeyer Architecture Limited, examining how noble intentions resulted in what they describe as "apartments poorly suited to family life, and a building structure that seems to act as a magnet for drinking and drug-taking at all hours."

Unsurprisingly 5468796 Architecture, who disagreed with much of the article's conclusions, wrote a response to the editor of Guardian Cities in the hope that their "letter to the editor" would provide some balance to the story. After The Guardian declined to publish the letter, the firm reached out to ArchDaily to ensure that their side of the debate was heard. Here is that letter in full.

We are writing to you in response to the Guardian article concerning Centre Village and many of the comments and re-posts over the last week. We believe the story that was published was inaccurate and provide the following for your information:

© James Brittain Photography © 5468796 Architecture © James Brittain Photography © James Brittain Photography + 7

Alejandro Aravena Wins 2016 Pritzker Prize

Alejandro Aravena has been named as the winner of the 2016 Pritzker Prize. Highlighting his dedication to improve urban environments and to address the global housing crisis, the Pritzker Prize jury praised the way in which the Chilean architect has "risen to the demands of practicing architecture as an artful endeavor, as well as meeting today's social and economic challenges." Aravena is the 41st Pritzker Prize laureate and the first Chilean to receive the award.

At 48 years of age, Aravena has a large portfolio of private, public and educational projects in Chile, the USA, Mexico, China and Switzerland. But perhaps more notably, through his “Do Tank” firm ELEMENTAL he has managed to build 2,500 units of social housing, engaging in the public housing policies of governments where he works and taking an opportunistic approach to market forces to generate a powerful impact on lower-income communities.

"Alejandro Aravena epitomizes the revival of a more socially engaged architect, especially in his long-term commitment to tackling the global housing crisis and fighting for a better urban environment for all,” explained the Jury in their citation. “He has a deep understanding of both architecture and civil society, as is reflected in his writing, his activism and his designs. The role of the architect is now being challenged to serve greater social and humanitarian needs, and Alejandro Aravena has clearly, generously and fully responded to this challenge."

UC Innovation Center – Anacleto Angelini, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2014. Image © Nina Vidic Monterrey Housing. Monterrey, Mexico 2010. Image © Ramiro Ramirez Medical School, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2004. Image © Roland Halbe Siamese Towers, San Joaquín Campus, Universidad Católica de Chile. Santiago, Chile 2005. Image © Cristobal Palma + 23