Housing the Future Alternative Approaches for Tomorrow Series Editor Graham Cairns Editors Graham Potts Rachel Isaac-Menard.
Housing The Future – Alternative Approaches for Tomorrow confronts a critical issue at a critical time. In London, a leading capital of global finance, there is a chronic shortage of affordable housing for those that service ‘the service’ sector. The crisis is at levels not seen since World War II. In Beijing, capital of the 21st century’s political powerhouse, the displacement of long-standing communities is a daily occurrence. In Mumbai, the biggest health risk faced by the city today has been identified as overcrowded housing, while in São Paulo, football’s 2014 World Cup took place against a backdrop of community unrest and the chronic living conditions of the poor. The private sector, the state and residents themselves are searching for solutions. Whether housing refugees in conflict areas, providing safe water to the households in the developing world, or ensuring key workers can live in the cities they support in the West, the question of housing is not only global, but critical.
Providing affordable and decent housing provision is then, one of the most vexing and challenging problems facing designers, architects, planners and policy makers today. It affects the health, wellbeing and social aspirations of millions of people globally. It has attracted the attention of politicians, community groups, artists and architects, and was at the heart of avant-garde design thinking throughout the 20th century and needs to be today. To date, no permanent solutions have been found.
The book series, Housing the Future, of which this volume forms the first part, brings together theoretical essays from academics, articles that document built projects by professionals, and design proposals from students and their tutors from across the world. The objectives of the series are to raise awareness of the issue of affordable housing; highlight innovative solutions to communities and professionals from multiple perspectives; encourage the next generation of designers to address housing; and to challenge preconceptions about residential architecture. In collecting the various essays and projects that these volumes present, academics from various universities have been invited to develop essays concerned with analysing issues that affect or result from questions of design and / or the documentation of built projects.
They thus relate directly with the complementary design proposals that also make up this volume. The deliberate emphasis here is on practice as opposed to theory. The projects included are all examples, whether built or proposed, that deal with the related issues of ‘affordability’, quality and appropriateness. These problems are not site or issue specific and, as a result, neither are the projects in these books. Consequently, no specific site is specified and no set criteria for how to address the issue were set in advance. What results is a rich and sometimes complex set of projects dealing with issues particular to several countries including the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Canada, Germany, the United States, Cyprus, Greece and several Latin American contexts.
The variety of places represented in the book is mirrored in the variety of issues under consideration: planning and strategic approaches that consider issues of legal, finance and planning issues; urban design initiatives that contemplate the inevitable urban implications of housing large numbers of people in specific locations; sustainable house initiatives that consider housing at the level of the individual building or on a social platform; renovating for life considerations that underline creative and practical ideas on how to re-use existing housing (or other building stock) to meet modern housing needs, and much more.
The book, and its larger series, are both in their turn part of a larger programme of events and publications on housing called ‘Housing – Critical Futures’. The overall programme is led by the research group AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society) and its associated and academic journal Architecture_MPS. The aim of the programme is to engage architects, planners, developers, policy makers, artists, academics and resident bodies on the issue of housing. This diverse and often conflictive set of partners has been asked to discuss the crisis in affordable, healthy, and sustainable housing that plagues countries across the globe. They are developing and presenting their respective solutions to providing decent and affordable living conditions to people in multiple parts of the world through various formats, including conferences, theory books, journal special issues and the present book series Housing the Future.
This book and its diverse projects and essays then, are premised on collaborations of universities, professional bodies, community groups, artists’ networks, industry professionals and – of particular interest in this case – architects and planners, regionally, nationally and locally. It takes its place alongside the related activities of the programme. Worth pointing out in this regard is that the ‘Housing – Critical Futures’ programme particularly recognises the role and contribution artists and media professionals have had, do have, and will continue to have, in addressing the issue of housing worldwide – one of the most high-profile UK examples of which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary in 2016.
In 1966, the film Cathy Come Home, directed by the world-renowned filmmaker Ken Loach, was aired on the BBC. It led to a public outcry followed by debates in Parliament that ultimately led to the introduction of laws in the UK obliging local administrations to house the homeless. One year later, inspired by the film, the homeless charity Crisis (which would become the nation’s leading voice on the issue) was established.
More recently the charitable architecture group Habitat for Humanity organised events to engage designers, artists, activists and local community residents in projects engaging in the issue of affordable housing in some of the fastest growing cities in the world. Their ‘Brick-olage’ Art Festival in Yunan, China for example, saw them partnering with Shanghai’s major art galleries, artists and media specialists.
In 2014 Minnesota saw one of over twenty public art installations and eleven performances around the theme of ‘home is…’ organised by the ARTIFY project. The Minnesota events involved occupying an abandoned car dealership and converting it to ‘future housing’. More recently in the city of Liverpool, the art and architecture collaborative Assemble have worked with the local community in the Granby Street area on the redevelopment of their houses. It was shortlisted for the Turner Prize – the UK’s most prestigious modern art award – in 2015. As part of this art and creative media engagement with the issue of housing provision AMPS has set up a short film competition run in conjunction with international partners and has instigated art residency programmes facilitating artists to engage with communities working on their own housing redevelopment projects.
Thus, what is represented in this book should be seen as a continuation of both practical and creative endeavours to highlight and address the need to develop more innovative, and ever more needed, solutions to what in the UK has come to be defined as ‘the housing crisis’. The projects and essays collected here represent on the one hand, creative and open-ended considerations of how to move forward on his issue and, on the other, very practical approaches to dealing with issues: how to design houses that are affordable in construction, allow for a lifetime of adaptation to meet the changing needs of users and thus prevent the expense and need for moving home. They are creative but very real proposals on how to renovate and update older housing stock, so as to prevent the need for new build and to hold existing communities together.
They look at urban issues, ways of living, the changing needs of ageing individuals and questions of space-saving techniques at the levels of design and construction. Although focused on ‘creative solutions through building’ they are not unaware of the external factors at play in the issue of affordability – land prices, ‘soft’ costs, planning constraints, short-term profit motive, etc. In some cases the projects and essays presented address these issues directly, in others they start from a radical baseline, suggesting ideas that can only be implemented with small – or sometime large – shifts in these underlying ‘external’ factors. What they all share in common is that they are inspired by the need to deal with a critical issue at a critical time – the provision of affordable and decent housing. They also, either explicitly or implicitly, draw on the idea of critical regionalism, universalised some thirty years ago through the writings of Kenneth Frampton – a reappraisal of how global forces play out regionally and how universal approaches to design can, and should, be adapted to local conditions.
Taking these perspectives of ‘critical reappraisal’, the need to deal with a real issue, the value of design and new thinking, and the link between the global and the regional, the essays and projects collected in this book offer various perspectives and ideas. They come from academics, professionals and the next generation of architects and designers for site-specific interventions from eight countries. From Canada, the UN Habitat Award winning architect and founder of the Affordable Homes Programme at McGill University, Avi Friedman, gives examples of his own world-celebrated projects. From the United States the book presents the award-winning social housing project from Nicholas Grimshaw architects in New York, Via Verde, while from Spain it collects projects from another award-winning architect, Eusebio Alonso.
These projects foreshadow essays from a series of international academics that include some of the project architects already mentioned, as well as Carlos Garcia Vazquez from La Universidad de Sevilla, Spain; Gary Sands, Wayne State University, Detroit, USA; Charlie Smith from Liverpool John Moores University, UK; Kathrin GoldaPongratz, the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, Germany; and Georgios Artopoulos with Ioannis A. Pissourios from the Cyprus Institute and Neapolis University, Cyprus. Many of these academics lead the work of the students that is also included from each of these universities. They are projects that sit alongside the work of students from La Universidad de Valladolid led by Eusebio Alonso and the Politecnico di Milano, led by Guya Bertelli, Juan Carlos Dall’Asta and Federico Jappelli.
This international perspective on the role of design and planning in affordable housing cannot of course pretend to be exhaustive. It is, on the contrary, a snapshot of the innovative global work coming from the design side of the housing debate and is intended to be read as such – an indication of the variety of solutions that can be put forward in different settings by people at different stages of their own professional trajectories. From the established architects engaged we get samples of refined and thoroughly developed proposals and projects that have been built and are currently under the interrogation of use. What lessons they ultimately offer will be determined by time. From the academic circle we get a more theoretical, but still practice focused, engagement with ideas, proposals and initiatives that have been years in development and that find their way into the projects of the next generation of architects, and designers represented here. It is to these leaders of tomorrow that the challenges, failures and successes of today will fall.
It will be this generation that is forced to address the changed needs of new societies; the possibilities of new materials and building techniques; the ongoing problems of old and failed construction methods, design approaches and models. It is of course to be hoped that the focus we see on the issue of housing today will also leave this next generation with useful templates to follow and develop, successful initiatives to build upon, and farsighted theories with which to be guided as they seek to further improvements in provision and quality of housing the world over. This book is a snapshot of all that this involves.