architect, artist, academic


competition entry for generation Y housing

in collaboration with Philip Stejskal and Christopher Pratt

Our proposal looks at the possibility of ‘infiltration’ as a means of making available good design and basic amenity to a large number and range of people who cannot typically afford a custom-designed home. Architects have for a long time been trying to make the individual, custom-designed home affordable, however, have been unable to compete with the mass housing (project home) market, which operates on repetition and volume. Sadly this market delivers generic homes that are gravely deficient in terms of fundamental amenities (which we believe are ‘basic rights’ that persist regardless of generation), and in their response to place and the individual occupant.

We believe there is a viable hybrid.

Our proposal suggests that a relationship may be possible between architect and the project home sector, which allows the above deficiencies to be remedied in a way that is ‘low-impact’ on the existing delivery methodology of the project home-a method which is inherent to its affordability (repetition and volume). Such low-impact infiltration is premised on a deep knowledge of this delivery process and typical construction details, structural member spacings, sequencing, etc. to ensure that any intervention minimises disruption to “business as usual”. The aim is to ‘slip’ good design into an existing framework almost unnoticed and thereby continue to reap the affordability benefit of mass-production whilst providing fixes to some fundamental deficiencies such as access to north light, cross ventilation, views of the sky, etc. The affordability of these interventions themselves lies in their proposed universality. We do not foresee individually designed interventions, rather a scalable solution that is designed once and applied in volume. The proposed universality is made possible by the consistency of the ‘host’ dwelling -the project home -which relies on the repetition of identical details, identical processes, identical materials, from one home to the next in order to offer affordability.

The proposed interventions are therefore envisaged as ‘plug-ins’ that are selected by the client in response to a particular need, at one of the available scales (which have been derived from relevant construction modules in the host dwelling, eg: rafter bays, joist bays, etc), and are installed according to illustrated instructions that cater to the limited variables that exist in a project home (eg: varying substrates, roof pitches, etc). The plug-ins are pre-wired (builder provides an additional circuit and a junction box), pre-insulated, pre-rated for energy efficiency and fire separation (if required). Plug-ins allow members of the Gen Y public to individuate their base project home (or established dwelling) by engaging in a familiar process that speaks to their expectation of (quality) choices and their pursuit of individuality.

The immediacy of goods and information via the smart phone allows an arising need to be met promptly. GenY no longer needs to plan ahead. The expectation is that a solution will be accessible as the need arises. However, the project home does not offer this flexibility. It asks them to anticipate all future needs and make a selection on this basis. A contract is then signed, and a home built. Our hybrid typology seeks to compensate for this inflexibility by overlaying the linear process offered by the project home market with a more familiar procurement pattern according to the following possible scenario:

The GenYer finds a project home (or existing home) that addresses as many needs as possible and as currently identified. The home is affordable and offers maximum space for money. It is acknowledged that it doesn’t tick all the boxes. The Gen Yer has an understanding of good design and wants access to it, but cannot afford a custom designed home. Our proposition: the deficiencies of the base project home are remedied individually by a series of ‘plug-ins’. Their cost is minimised on the same basis as the project home. It is further offset by deletion of ‘feature’ elements (eg: faux stone facade) that are of no value to the GenY client. The home is initially built with a series of plug-ins, then retro-fitted with others as needs arise. These plug-ins give the Gen Yer access to architecture affordably to address their expectation of good design. These components intervene on their host dwelling to remedy its deficiencies and individuate. Finally, they address the GenYer’s expectation that needs can be gratified as they arise: plug-ins can be retro-fitted easily as they are designed inherently to respond to the standard construction techniques, dimensions and practices of the local mass housing industry.

The proposed dwelling typology by its nature easily addresses varied living requirements/ occupancy configurations. Whether accommodation is required for a family comprising 2 adults+ 2 children, 2 couples or 4 individual adults, the methodology of individuating/ tailoring an affordable base with needs-specific plug-ins, is inherently versatile. The inaugural range of plug-ins will focus on basic amenities. They will include a ‘north-light’ plug-in, a ‘cross-ventilation’ plug-in, ‘green roof’ and ‘stepped roof terrace’ plug-ins designed to reclaim basic amenities that are typically ill-addressed in the project home. By nature of their design these plug-ins will bring delight to the otherwise generic environment of its host, with a focus on occupant well-being.

The sustainability of our proposal is rooted in the fundamental transformation of the host project home from a climatically and socially unresponsive building into one that reclaims the basic amenities through innovative plug-in designs. Its sustainability is further cemented when considering the relevance of this typology to existing homes with fundamental deficiencies. Rather than being demolished, they are retro-fitted with plug-in remedies. However, the ultimate sustainability of our proposal lies in its parasitic nature. We are not offering a dramatic sustainability or proposing a paradigm shift. Rather, the success of our proposal relies on a quiet transformation of the existing (and upcoming) housing stock by infiltrating the status quo.

Finally, the proposed methodology allows the resultant hybrid dwelling to enjoy greater connectivity with its context by augmenting its environmental and social relevance by way of appropriate plug-ins. The generic project home is anchored to its ‘place’ through an architecture of specific manoeuvres.

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