Reconceptualizing Urban Housing is part of the 2023 Time Space Existence exhibition. Organized by the European Cultural Centre (ECC), it takes place at the Venice Architectural Biennale. With the global housing crisis predicted to impact 1.6 billion people by 2025, especially in urban centers, there is an urgent need to increase the number of affordable homes (according to UN-Habitat, 96,000 new affordable homes are required daily).
While the housing crisis has placed an impetus on building homes faster, many social factors are being overlooked, including an emphasis on community building, identity, and livability. The issues are global, however each situation will differ according to the city and its context. As a timely exhibition, Reconceptualizing Urban Housing asks two important questions: (1) “How can urban collective housing be more livable?” (2) “How do we ensure that the design of housing will enhance inhabitants’ wellbeing and quality of life?”
The exhibition brings together a group of women-led architectural studios from across the world, each one with a keen perspective on collective housing in and around cities. With Reconceptualizing Urban Housing, a varied selection of projects work to explore “diversity in building typology, climate, economic, and cultural factors, while embodying a shared commitment to social and environmental sustainability.”
The featured studios are: Adengo Architecture (Uganda), Alison Brooks Architects (UK), Dubbeldam Architecture + Design (Canada), Eleena Jamil Architect (Malaysia), Fernanda Canales Arquitectura (Mexico), Manuelle Gautrand Architecture (France), Mecanoo (Netherlands), Meyer-Grohbruegge (Germany), and Studio Gang (USA).
Clockwise from top left: Manuelle Gautrand, Heather Dubbeldam, Fernanda Canales, Eleena Jamil, Johanna Meyer-Grohbrügge, Francine Houben, Doreen Adengo, Jeanne Gang, and Alison Brooks.
The projects adopt an all-encompassing approach to livability by considering a number of key quality of life factors: the balance of communal and private living, design for social connection, optimization of natural light and ventilation, integration of landscaping and urban farming, and access to outdoor spaces. These factors are recognized for their universality, but at the same time remain unique to each locality and its demographic. As a whole and in different ways, the projects “redefine what collective housing can be and how it can support livability for its inhabitants.”
Adengo Architecture (Uganda)
Affordable Housing II in Gayaza, Uganda, is exploring ways in which to increase the profitability of a housing project, thus encouraging local developers to invest in and create more quality housing. The project comprises seven three-story apartment blocks in a mixed-use community development.
Unity Place in London is a new residential quarter of 240 homes with communal landscaping. The project is part of a 20-year regeneration plan for the city's South Kilburn housing estate. A cluster of three reimagined old-style mansion blocks replaces two derelict 1960’s towers.
As part of a collaboration with other international architecture firms, Alison Brooks Architects is working on the masterplan for Toronto’s Quayside. In a scheme that is intended for people of all ages, backgrounds, abilities, and incomes, the waterfront community is described as “an ensemble of buildings of varying heights stitched together by a common urban forest.”
Dubbeldam Architecture + Design (Canada)
Responding to Toronto’s housing crisis, Dubbeldam Architecture + Design is working on a project that proposes building prototypes for “developing incremental density as an alternative to high-rise construction that is faster, more livable, and better integrated with existing neighborhoods.” The prototypes utilize stackable modular options for sites of differing sizes and widths.
Eleena Jamil Architect (Malaysia)
Eleena Jamil is exploring the use of bamboo as a building material for terrace housing in Malaysia. The proposed houses use whole bamboo culms as the primary structural element. The project seeks to elevate the bamboo house as a modern and sustainable lifestyle option.
“Humanizing Homes” is a research project that aims to tackle low-income housing in Malaysia, by redressing the government’s substandard “Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) or People’s Housing Program.”
Fernanda Canales Arquitectura (Mexico)
In Mexico City, “Vecindad Monte Alban” seeks to re-intensify the city’s urban core and is a reinterpretation of the historic “vecindades” neighborhood model: “tenements where individual apartments surround a central patio and residents often share amenities such as kitchens and bathrooms.” The new building was designed around a series of shared patios and multi-use spaces.
Manuelle Gautrand Architecture (France)
Edison Lite is a 12-story construction comprising 21 housing units, a daycare facility, and a medical office. It was built around three key principles: “involving residents in the design of their homes, dedicating ample space for communal areas, and incorporating landscaping as a fundamental design element.”
Folie Manuguerra reflects a new 21st century reality, with an objective to offer future residents a truly ecological place to live. Celebrating a Mediterranean way of life, the project is a collective housing scheme that’s open to the community.
Amstel Design District is a new future-oriented and mixed-use residential and commercial development in Amsterdam. The new scheme combines residential accommodation and workplace amenities, and places an emphasis on biophilic design. Amstel Design District will include a mix of social, mid-rent, and private housing, alongside collective amenities and retail.
The Villa Industria Silos in Hilversum, Netherlands, feature a mix of affordable housing, owner-occupied homes, small-scale businesses, and sports facilities in a former gasworks site.
In Berlin, a new six-story residence situated on Bernauer Strasse embodies the concept “that life is in a state of constant flux and therefore requires flexible and adaptable living spaces.” Rooms have not been given designated functions; rather, flexible and open living areas are both adjustable and customizable to suit personal needs.
Studio Gang (USA)
Built on a compact footprint, One Delisle is a mixed-use, 44-story residential tower in Toronto. Providing much needed housing in the city, the tower’s dynamic geometry supports a range of apartment types and sizes. The facade is made up of a series of eight-story “hooded” modules, which “nest together as they spiral up the building.”
Reconceptualizing Urban Housing is at the European Cultural Centre, Palazzo Mora, Strada Nova, 3659, 30121 Venezia, Italy, until 26th November 2023.