Thursday, 24 April 2014

Inner freedom. Space and façade for mass housing


Face often is described as the mirror of our inner world. Similarly, façade ideally could be a representation of building’s content. What are the face and the space of today’s mass housing?
This essay examines the role of façade and space in mass housing. It assumes that façade and space as main components of dwelling are able to express humanity, identity, freedom and well-being.
Maison Dom-ino by Le Corbusier was a basic building prototype which embodied design ideas about liberation. Its author’s aspirations were as much social and urban as structural and spatial.
Prototype’s legacy today is multi-storey mass housing around the world. The result is dual. On the one hand, there is an efficiency of the building process, a flexibility of variation through standardisation and unification. On another hand – it is alienation, lack of humanity and personality.
The field of interest of design research unit is construction. My interest lays in the intersection between structural technology and social issues. 
At first, the research examines the Maison Dom-ino, its space and structure, relationship with an external world and finally, its legacy - mass produced housing. 
Next, the research looks at the free façade in the context of Le Corbusier’s ideas and its meaning in the wider context. Research inspects liberation and identification of the façade of the mass housing through architectural expressions supported by structural transformations.
Finally, it looks at progress and failure of mass housing. Research examines more than 30 precedents of mass housing and tries to summarise the methods of liberation in mass housing. In these precedents and case studies, it tries to find out the factors responsible for successful communication between content and skin, between ideas and their representation.  
The research uses a reading, writing and making to investigate methods of liberation that tackle issues of human scale, individuality and freedom in mass housing and its external appearance.
Object engages in this discourse with speculation about possible solutions to these problems. It looks at Maison Dom-ino as an experimental platform for architectural ideas.

In conclusion, research summarises the methods of liberation in mass housing as follows: internal flexibility, vertical dimension, separate units, hybrid, parasite and special facade. These methods overlap in their expressions and technical solutions and with a common aim to create a liberating living environment. 



The researchers Jeremy Till & Sarah Wigglesworth, and Tatjana Schneider in their project define meaning of the flexible housing and arguments for it. Socially, it provides control to inhabitants over their own dwelling. Demographically, it offers a possibility to transform dwelling accordingly to the current situation. Economically, it slows down the functional, physical and moral ageing of a building and reduces resulting expenses related with its transformation. Technically, it provides effective servicing (Schneider, 2007).


The hybrid nature of the contemporary project alludes to the current simultaneity of realities and categories, relating no longer to harmonious and coherent bodies, but rather to mongrel scenarios made up of structures and identities in parasitic coexistence.’ - by this Manuel Gausa (2000:293) describes formations not only in architecture which become one of the characteristics of Postmodernity. These formations are feeding each other and creating new environments around themselves. In mass housing, it means adding different functions to housing function.
MVRDV is an architecture practice, one of “second modernity” architects whose “anti-dogmatic” approach is resulted in many innovative housing designs which address a wide spectrum of issues.
Berlin Voids is a significant combination of new concepts which challenges Modernist clichés of mass housing for example – standardisation. This competition work is a synthesis of antipodal aspects – concentration of living spaces in one volume like typical urban block and differentiation of these spaces through their spatial typology Constanzo, 2006). Typology, in turn, plays on house concept – spatially unique yet interconnected it also reflects on ‘... the inner dynamism of contemporary society...’(Constanzo, 2006:17). This is also a typical example of another liberating concept – special façade.


Wozoco’s apartments and The Housing Silo both in Amsterdam are other contemporary examples of advanced housing by MVRDV. Here, in both projects, facade plays a significant role by successfully expressing its inner content and also by liberating their inhabitants. Thus Wozoco’s apartments are an impressive modernist concept of liberating man from ground. It is achieved by large cantilevered volumes – living units. 
Whereas Silodam is liberating example by using ‘... a multiplicity of closely interrelated functions inside the building...’ (Constanzo, 2006:112). It also plays with city’s housing typology – row houses within one large volume. This creates mini neighbourhoods which are enriched with different ancillary functions. It also respects future inhabitants’ individual wishes by creating variety – each flat is unique. This building also is a bright reminiscence of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation. The main similarity here is a vertical dimension.




Thursday, 3 April 2014

Social Space. Adaptive cultural & educational centre for a town


‘Emerging regions. This is a moment of transformation characterized by the bipolar opposition between techno-economic globalization and socio-cultural identity.’
Viny Maas. KM3 :excursions on capacities. 2005.

The project explores the role of a public building in the regeneration of the former market town. 
How could social space be a platform for a ‘civic renaissance’ in a modern society? 

The current trend shows the weakening of the town centre on behalf of the outskirts. Towns are expanding, thanks, to new housing areas. In such former market towns as Blairgowrie/Rattray and Kirriemuir, many of community centres and activities related to them are located out of the town centre. High street typically serving trading and shopping activities has been weakened by such contemporary retail development’s trend as shopping in shopping malls out of the town centre and online shopping. 
As a result town centres have experienced decline and weakening. 

My intent is to test some urban theories and to create a design for educational and cultural centre rooted in the community which could have a positive influence on the development of the whole town. 

This project is grounded in urban study and strategy which was implemented by the group. 
The Urban study looked at social, historical and other aspects which have formed and still forming two former market towns Blairgowrie/Rattray and Kirriemuir. Then it looked closer to the character and identities of both towns. Based on urban analysis urban strategy was implemented with the aim to define methods - potential solutions. 

In the end of the group work, decisions were made by choosing a town for the location of two objects - library and childcare centre - either separately or together.
These two public facilities are important urban anchors and attractors which have both social and cultural significance within any city or town.

The contemporary library is able to accommodate and provide a wide range of services which can coexist and feed each other. They are sources of information and knowledge as well as places for socialising and interaction.  
Childcare centre plays important role in children development, it is a place for joy, learning and socialising.
Group’s investigation and further strategy initiated me to look deeper into urban concepts and implement them in my design. 


“The city is unique, formed as it is by the forces of nature and manufacturer, by topography and climate, and by ownership and law. It shows resistance to the impositions of a structural order influenced by urban thinking which is abstract and ideological. Whether such impositions occur through political, economic or social motivation, they are almost always absorbed or modified by the cultural character and temperament of the city, making them specific and of their place.” 

Stephen Bates. The city of things. 

The Urban study looked at social, historical and other factors which have formed and still forming two former market towns Blairgowrie/Rattray and Kirriemuir.
Then it looked closer to the character and identities of both towns.

Further, it leads to the decisions about eventual town and influences the whole design process. 

Tayplan strategic Development Plan 2012 - 2032 in Policy 1 has defined location priorities where principal settlements are ranked by its strategical importance and their contribution to the region's economy.
Blairgowrie/Rattray - settlement has “...the potential to make a major contribution to the regional economy but will accommodate a smaller share of the region’s additional development.” (p.9)
Kirriemuir - settlement has “...the potential to play an important but more modest role in the regional economy and will accommodate a small share of the region’s additional development which is more about sustaining them.” (p.9)
TAYplan: Scotland’s SusTAYnable RegionStrategic Development Plan 2012 - 2032


Blairgowrie/Rattray   Kirriemuir 

The scheme shows how significantly both towns have expanded their territory during the last 50 years on behalf of residential areas. New primary schools and hospitals have been built in order to serve these new parts of the towns.        



‘They are singular, they create an identity, and they must be able to stimulate the evolution of all kinds of part of a society.’
CHORA / Raoul Bunschoten. Public Spaces. 2002

Full project could be seen here: