Housing—What Next?

Housing—What Next?


So, good evening and welcome. Just a few words from
me before we get going. There’s a lot that
is happening tonight, and I really want to be
as brief as possible. But there are lots
of little things that I’d like to just mention. First of all, tonight
we’ll have a chance to have a reception
outside in the gallery. In a way, to celebrate
the official formation, opening of the exhibition,
Living Anatomy. And this is an
exhibition that’s been going on for quite some time
in terms of its preparation. It falls under the rubric
of our Druker projects focusing on housing. And it was a real
pleasure for me to actually get the
chance to also collaborate with their curatorial team. I want to acknowledge them. Megan Panzano, Daniel
Rauchwerger, Matt Gin, and Patrick Herron, who
were– in different ways– responsible as members
of the curatorial team. A very special thanks
also to Dan Borelli, the head of our exhibitions,
who collaborated with David Zimmerman-Stuart, to
make the exhibition possible. So we have invited
the curatorial team to be here, so that
afterwards, also, they can participate in
the conversation and discussion with all of you. For those of you who
have had a chance to look at the
exhibition, you see that the focus of the exhibition
is really to try and present some of the best
possible thoughts related to the topic of housing today. There is, of course, a certain
amount of precedent study, but the focus is
really, what are the kinds of things
that are going on that are important contributions? You see that those
thoughts are happening under a certain set of
titles to try and establish a certain focus on the
particular topics or ways or manners in which the issue
of housing is being dealt with. We, as a school,
have a long history of dealing with the
topic of housing. Many of you who
are new might not know that we actually have
a wonderful center here at the GSD, in
collaboration together with the Kennedy
School, which is a center for the
study of housing. It’s the nation’s– America’s–
really foremost center for the study of housing. There have been
many, many courses taught by various
faculty members, and lots and lots of studios. More recently, we’ve
had a whole variety of option studios under
the rubric of the Dunlop visiting critic, taught by
Sergison Bates from London, Gina Zuki from Italy, Spela
Videcnik from Slovenia, and so on. And these projects continue. There are lots of other ones. There is a very long
history of housing under the rubric of modernism. Obviously housing has been
a very, very critical part of architecture. And we have seen– just to give
you a very short synopsis– we have seen really a kind
of period where there has been a critical reception or
reaction to modernist housing. And now we see a different
kind of opening up and diversity of
approaches towards housing. In the process– as we
have been discussing, also, with the members of
our panel tonight, and our speakers– there’s also
a way in which architecture, in some way, has
partly disowned and has been disowned by
others, in relation to this project of housing. So that the way in
which architecture was such a critical part
of the modernist project doesn’t seem to be
such a critical part of the contemporary
practice of architecture. Why is that? Still, we’ve tried to–
of course– figure out, pull out the best practices. But part of our intention
tonight in discussion with you is really to find
out, what is the next? What is the next thing
in terms of housing? Where should it go? Why is housing so critical? And what are the
topics and issues that we need to focus on? In order to regain, in a way, a
different kind of perspective, a different kind of position for
architecture, design, planning, landscape, in relation to
the discussion of housing. Which is always part of a bigger
discussion of urbanization. I also want to show you
this beautiful booklet that has been produced by the
members of the exhibition. It’s made up of two pamphlets,
and I welcome– ask you to, if you wish– to
take some of these. They are on the
doughnut outside, and you’ll see it when we
go out into the gallery. Tonight, we’re going to hear
four brief presentations here from our speakers. And the first speaker
will be Niklas Maak. Niklas Maak has been teaching
for us, in fact, last semester in Berlin. He’s an expert on housing,
specifically mass housing. And he is the art
and architecture editor of the German newspaper,
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. And we also hope
that Niklas will be teaching a seminar for us
in Rotterdam in the spring, as part of the Rem
Koolhaas’s option studio that will be offered in the
spring semester in Rotterdam. Niklas has written many
publications, many books, and did a PhD which
focused on the work of Le Corbusier and Paul Valery. The second speaker
will be Hilde Heynen. And Hilde is actually
spending part of this semester here with us. She’s a Professor of
Architectural Theory at the University of
Leuven in Belgium. And her work focuses on issues
of modernity, modernism, and gender in architecture. She wrote a beautiful book,
published by MIT Press, called Architecture
and Modernity, which was published in 1999. In which she investigated
the relationship between architecture,
modernity, and dwelling, arguing that critical theory– such
as those of Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno–
offer crucial insights when revisiting the
modern movement. More recently, she’s
written on issues of gender. She has also been working
on other publications, some of which, I think,
will be forthcoming. I know she spent
time here, also, at Harvard, working at Radcliffe
as a visiting professor. Then we’ll hear from
Irenee Scalbert. Irenee Scalbert is an
architect and a critic who is based in London,
but also teaching in Ireland and in Italy. I was lucky enough to
be able to collaborate on a variety of different
things with Irenee. One project involved an
exhibition, and eventually a publication that
Irenee authored on the work of the French
architect Jean Renaudie. And that is a very
interesting architect who focused on housing. Irenee has also taught
for us here at the GSD, so I’m very happy that
he’s back here with us. Lastly, we’ll hear
from Eric Bunge. And Eric is not a
stranger to the GSD. He studied here with
his partner, Mimi Hoang. They have an office
in New York which is– their practice
is called nArchitects. He teaches at Columbia,
and has been involved in a variety of projects. A regular visitor to the GSD. Eric is here to
talk specifically on their practice’s
involvement with microunits. Recently, as you know,
there’s been a lot of emphasis on trying to build smaller
and smaller dwelling units. A kind of return to the
idea of minimum existence, but in a different way. And so we will
also hear from Eric as an architect who’s practicing
on this topic of housing. So, the plan is that
each speaker will talk for ten or so minutes. We will try to be
good timekeepers. And so, after the first 50
minutes or an hour or so, we will then invite them
to sit here and engage with you in a
discussion before we go to the gallery for a reception. So please welcome Niklas Maak. Thank you very much. I’m very happy and honored
to be here tonight. And I’m very happy to discover
my Berlin crew in the audience. Let me quickly
start with a picture which has a lot to do with
architecture and housing. This was taken some days ago
on the motorway in Hungary. These are 10,000s of people,
refugees from the Balkans, from Syria and Africa, walking
on the motorway to the Austrian border and then
further on to Germany. Germany alone will
have to accommodate more than 800,000 asylum
seekers per year now, and the numbers are rising. And of course, the question is,
how do we respond to that task? So far, the only two responses
are tent villages and container villages. And as this is not
enough anymore, people are even brought
into empty houses in dying East German
villages, where they have to deal with an almost
hostile population of people who are still in these villages. So this creates a lot of tension
and problems in Germany now. At the same time, it’s clear
that many of these refugees will stay longer in Germany. So there is an
interesting tendency that the proposals
that were developed for a more hedonistic context–
like the transformation of multi-story car
parks– are repurposed now as emergency shelters. You see a proposal by Augustin
Ernst, a Berlin-based office, that proposed this two years
ago as a form of urban dwelling for less-affluent young
families and singles. And now this model is
repurposed as a model to– of course, reduced in terms
of the quality of apartments and materials used. It’s repurposed now as
a shelter for refugees. So these parking lots in
Berlin– multi-story car parks– will be transformed
to accommodate refugees. I think it’s important, when we
talk about the very large field of housing, that
one does not confuse the two crises of housing
we’re actually facing. In one case, it’s
about mere survival. In the other, about what
society you want to live in, and what the society prioritizes
and how it defines privacy and publicness, in general. And what new spaces for
this could look like. But then again, I think
these distinct problem areas have a lot in common,
including the lack of ideas for fundamentally new,
inexpensive dwellings that could conform to
change social conditions. Or– and this is
also important, I think– encourage such change. And I think, when we talk
about housing and units, that the discourse on
housing– at least in Europe– suffers largely from the
imposition of the terms that we use to
describe the situation. This starts with the
notion of the unit. State-funded programs
in Germany and France mostly focus on providing
as much units as possible for young families or singles. But of course, a unit
is not a natural given. And even before
the asylum crisis, there was not much discussion–
beyond the academic field– about how our idea of
a unit or of privacy or of the public
space is affected by the shift in social
rituals, by demographic change, and by the dissolution
of the nuclear family. Because– I think it’s also
important for this discussion here– in most European
cities, families are not the majority
of population anymore. In Berlin and Munich, in
the city quarters– not on the outskirts, but in
the inner city quarters– families are now almost
a marginal group. Their share of all households
is between 15% and 20% only, which is not reflected
in housing policies. And we do not hardly
know a setting that will accommodate a group of,
say, 80-year-olds who do not want to move into
a retiree home, nor any apartment type
design to house, say, two single mothers that
share rent and a gay couple. Though this is sometimes
wished by the people. So the question
what a unit could be and how it could produce
is important already in this setting, but is
also a pressing one given the fact that– according to
an analysis of the UNESCO– in Africa, Asia,
and India alone, 1 billion new apartments would
be needed over the next 25 years to house migrants who
move to urban agglomerations. 1 billion new apartments. And of course the question is,
how will these units look like? As it’s plain clear that it’s
ecologically and economically impossible to build these
apartments in the way we do it today. So of course there were models–
and I have not much time, so I’m jumping through these
models– there were models to research possibilities. This is the nomad
home by Toyo Ito. A more recent one is Liu
Lubin’s micro apartment, that investigates
pressing questions of minimal dwelling of
privacy and basic protection. A proposal that relates
to metabolist structures could be stapled in Germany. The O2 village is a comparable
effort to staple the microunits and create social
spaces in between. We could discuss this later. I’m jumping through
the whole history of experimental housing. We can come back to this later. One thing is plain clear
that this model– this is the former president of
Germany, Christian Wulff, who had to step down because
rumors came up concerning the illegal
financial aid he took from entrepreneurs to
finance his own dream of the nuclear
family dream home. So this killed his career
and was seen as a symbolic incident, that even the
president cannot afford this form of dwelling anymore. So what are
alternatives in Berlin? We have interesting–
this again, I don’t have time for
this– the campaign. That’s the campaign. The 19th century campaign
for the nuclear family home. Here depicted is the
nuclear family cave, as if this was the normal way
to dwell in the Stone Age. But we don’t have time for that. So I would focus, rather,
on counter models, the joint building ventures,
or Baugruppen in Germany. Which are interesting
because A, they point a way for
bottom-up strategies to change urban districts. And– important
point, also– they point the way to
self-empower people to be less dependent from
state-funded projects or private developers. So this is really kind
of a bottom-up movement where people say, let’s
put our money together, ask an architect, find something. Some land, a lot in the city,
and built a house the way we want to dwell. These new collective housing
farms do not exclude families, but they put a focus
on other life designs and foster a new idea of
social community life. This is R50 by Fezer,
Heide & von Beckerath. They have, in the basement
here, a two-story common room that can be used for
meetings of the community. And then, as you
can see, each floor has a wrap-around
collective balcony that allows occupants
to pass by all spaces. So clearly, a focus
on the communal. The Berlin abroad
studio students might remember this building
by Arno Brandlhuber. It’s a building erected on
the ruin of an investor’s project, which combines
workspaces and living spaces. The Berlin studio
abroad took place there. So this is an example
for also a form of communal living merged into
a workspace, a gallery space. Quite an interesting project. And this is another example
for joint building ventures, by Fatkoehl Bar and Company. They’re architects. Three houses where
spaces are shared. You have a restaurant-sized
living room, which is also– as
you can see here– used for political gatherings,
micro-communal events. It can also be used
for parties and used as a restaurant-sized
living room. You have these so-called
option rooms in the basement. This one is used by a carpenter. Others are used by
temporary micro-offices or used as kindergartens. They are quite open in
their definition, which is interesting to see here
other than some projects from the ’70s. It works quite well, also,
because many people are actually working
in these buildings, and not only sleeping over. A person who owns a
540-square-foot apartment here can use 1,600 square
feet of common space, including a roof
terrace and these FLDAs. So you can argue that, here
the key to affordable housing and an alternate form of
housing is A, pre-fabrication. As you can see, these
elements here pre-fabricated. It’s timber frames. And also, the externalization
of many functions. And in this case, also,
a state-funded program for energy saving
construction helped finance the whole project. It has a clear focus on
communal spaces, you can see. This is a communal kitchen. This is a kind of
communal living room, a communal terrace. This is also collective
space, but at the same time, everybody has a toilet
and a little kitchenette, so it avoids that you’re forced
into a community all the time. The architects were
really influenced– and I just can show
some pictures here– by a contemporary
Japanese project. This is on designs office,
Yokohama Apartments. Maybe the only
project that I would miss in this
fantastic exhibition that you’ve mounted
here, because it also relates to questions that you’re
rising with the exhibition. It has a transitional hybrid
space on the ground floor that can be separated from
the streets only by curtains. So it’s either a public
roofed-over square with a kitchen in the center,
or a more intimate living room with a kitchen when
the curtains are mounted. So like the classic
Engar One, the space allows both dissolution
of the living room into a public space,
or its protection from it. And it’s, I think,
an important example for a strategy of verticalizing
spatial atmospheres. The kitchen becomes
a cafe-like space of encounter for, say,
erratically extended family, including the neighborhood. And the dwelling cells become
even more intimate and cozy. This is another
example from Berlin for a new form of
communal housing. Kurfurstenstrasse by
June14, Sam Chermayeff and Johanna Maya-Grohbrugge. It provides space
for 23 housing units, but they’re not units anymore. They’re kind of
different things. They interlock across
multiple levels, and the occupants
have the option to either completely
isolate themselves or to merge spaces such as
kitchens and living rooms together, opening the way for
extended post-familiar settings or circles of friends
living together. This, again, has a counterpart
in Japanese architecture, Riken Yamamoto’s
community area model. Same approach, where open
structures can incorporate patchworks of workspaces,
offices, day care centers, restaurant-like
community kitchens. And– which is also
important– studio apartments can be attached like modules
when children or older people are added, or
when several people want to form a commune. Of course, this I
don’t have to mention. It’s clearly a reference for all
these projects, Moriyama house. But as we have not
so much time, I would come to an end of this
really very quick presentation by addressing one
question, which is the question of privacy. All these new forms of communal
dwelling and public living rooms authorize questions
concerning our idea of privacy. And these questions
are addressed mainly in sociology and philosophy. For example, the
philosopher Raimond Gaita criticizes the modern
conception of privacy that informs our
idea of housing, where the individual
self-evidently comes first as the autonomous starting point
for theorizing and valuation. And community has, in
a way, to find its role in promoting and defending the
security and the well-being of the individual. And Gaita questions
this view with reference to the idea of a society
that commits this madness, to say it in a nutshell. But you have the
right to retreat to a form of hospitality
and generosity. And this approach
fundamentally also challenges the view on housing
of these philosophers. So the question here
is, how does a house relate to the public realm? Is it hospitable? Does it foster community or
does it include or exclude? And I think one of the
most striking examples for exclusive urbanism,
and exclusive housing in the double sense of
the word, is Bond Street 40 in New York by Herzog de
Meuron, where graffiti style fence shields the basement
from being sprayed. So in a way, this
fence achieves– in a cynical way– both,
it advertises the flare of subculture while
at the same time, it’s the best protection
against the real resentment of the culture it references. So I think this will be
part of the architecture history of cynical urbanism. And when we look for examples
for a more inclusive way of building houses and
of housing, of course you find that, in
the exhibition, it’s Michael Maltzan’s
Star Apartments. Where you do not create a
distancing form, but rather a porous, permeable zone
where public life can spill into the house. Same with– true,
I’m jumping again– for this project,
The Colony, which was kind of an experimental model. How you could create a
porous, permeable zone also under precarious circumstances
after Superstorm Katrina, and other events. So maybe we can come
back to this later. That was also part
of The Colony, where you have this kind of
permeable, inviting zone where the city can be
part of the building And like nucleus
cells, where you withdraw on the first level. So, I think I should– I have
my 10 minutes, I’m afraid. And thank you so much. And I’m happy to discuss
it in detail later. Thanks. Well, good evening to you all. I was asked to provide a little
bit of historical background to this whole discussion. So chronologically,
I’m going back to the beginning of
the 20th century, or at least to the ’20s. And I thought I should make
really three points that I want to get across. I do not address gender here. That’s also an issue
that we should talk about in relation to
housing, but I thought these ones were more urgent. The first one is
that housing really was at the core of the project
of modernist architecture, of the modernist project. And the second point is that
really was a story of success, even though it
nowadays is often– or it’s in the
’70s, ’80s, ’90s, it used to be framed as failure. I think it’s a
success story, rather. And thirdly, which is, I think,
what is at stake in an event and an exhibition like the
ones we are witnessing here. That there is a need
to reclaim housing as a core concern
for architecture. Let me start with
that, first, housing at the core of
modernist architecture. It’s not always
framed like that. But I do think, if you
look at the history of modern architecture
with an open eye and you see, for
example, you put central what I tend to do– efforts such
as those of Das Neue Frankfurt. Then you cannot but say, yes,
this was extremely important for modernist architects. Frankfurt, Das Neue Frankfurt,
it still is, I think, an amazing accomplishment. In five years time, building
15,000 housing units– back then it was still units–
15,000 new housing units. Which meant that
one out of every 11 inhabitants of Frankfurt
could move into a new house. That’s really amazing. I don’t know of
any other city that came near to that
kind of performance, in terms of social
and public housing, or even in terms of housing
without the social aspect Involved. So that really was
an important event, an important
accomplishment, and it was– the main work was done
in the field of housing, but housing was seen as part
of a much larger endeavor. It was the idea to establish
a new modern, metropolitan culture that encompassed not
just housing, but also sports and other kinds of
the visual arts. About education, about
affordable housing. Das Neue Frankfurt, the
journal, has had team issues about many different
topics– the interior– so it really was housing as
a way to organize living. And that’s, I think,
also how we want to talk about housing today. Of course, you can
argue that some of the models that were
then presented by now might not be so ideal anymore. We have come to
criticize the assumption that the suburban neighborhood,
the suburban estate, would really be the
answer to housing needs. But nevertheless,
the Romerstadt estate that Ernst May and his
team designed in Frankfurt remains a fantastic example
not just of housing, but also of housing integrated
with other amenities. Like schools and shops and so on
were part of that whole thing. But you saw, also, in Frankfurt
that gradually there was a loss of, let’s say,
aesthetic sensitivity or aesthetic standards. Westhausen is much more
efficient, much more according to existence
minimum standards. Much cheaper, much
affordable because of that. So that was really
the neighborhood where the blue collar
workers could afford to live, not in Romerstadt. But already, part of that
residentialization campaign that also boiled down
to as much as possible for the least possible money. But existence minimum was at
the core of the investigations of the research, really. I think what we hear nowadays
about these micro apartments is indeed taking home
that issue again. How to organize living
on a minimal space. How to make sure
that people do have all the necessary amenities,
and back then in the ’20s, it was social housing
with built-in kitchens, built-in bathrooms. That was amazing for the
time, that this was provided. So it was an enormous step ahead
in terms of living standards. But it was done by minimizing
the amount of space. And Ernst May really has
an article where he says, what shall we do if– we have
a certain [? burchet. ?] We choose really to build as many
units as possible for that particular [? burchet ?] rather
than provide people with larger houses, but then have less
people that we can accommodate. So it was a very, very
rational choice that was made. And the choice, the option was
to go for the minimum amount of space. But very cleverly designed,
like the Frankfurt Kitchen by Grete Schutte-Lihotsky, which
really was providing everything in a very small space. Very functional, but
very well designed. I think the micro
apartments of today will also be reminiscent of
this type of existence minimum, where you had also research
into furniture that could change a room from being a living
room during the day to being a bedroom at night. That kind of thing was part
of the whole experiment of Das Neue Frankfurt, and
Das Neue Frankfurt also hosted the second
CIAM Conference in 1929, which was focused
on the existence minimum. The dwelling for the existence
minimum was housed there. And that’s why I
think, also– if you look at the themes of CIAM
throughout its existence of 30-something
years– CIAM really was arguably the most
important organizational of the modern movement
in architecture. CIAM was very much
focusing on housing. The first content-related
conference, CIAM 2 in Frankfurt,
the minimum dwelling, but also the next one in
Brussels about rational lot development. That was really, how do
you organize that housing? The functional city,
that was about zoning, and housing was one of the four
functions that had to be zoned. Dwelling and recreation, again
about housing and how housing relates to other functions. Six, seven, eight may
be less about housing, but CIAM 9 again says habitat. We want to make a
charter of habitat. So again, it became
a very, very pregnant and urgent issue in 1953. So for that reason,
I say really housing was at the core of
the modernist project. And I do also believe
that, in many ways, it has been a success story. It’s true that many
of the projects were criticized and now
are problematic zones. In, for example, France. To a lesser extent, maybe
in the UK and elsewhere. It’s true. But one should not forget
the European welfare state– and to some extent, also
the American welfare state, and in far as that existed– did
succeed in banning shantytowns. Shantytowns were
part [inaudible] were part of the
Parisian urban landscape, for example, until the ’70s. It’s thanks to all
these modernist housing projects that they were banned,
that they were abolished. So that is a kind of
achievement that nowadays, in all these new mega cities, is
not always easy to accomplish. If we heard Niklas talk
about how many housing units cities in the developing world
need in the coming decades, well, they have be needing such
housing units in the decades that are just behind us. But they were mostly provided
through squatter settlements. So, in that sense, really the
modernist housing projects did something. By now, we also now
know a little bit better how the story of Pruitt
Igoe, how to explain that. The postmodernist discourse
tended to blame the design and say, look how badly designed
it is, and that’s why it failed and that’s why it
had to be demolished. No, we understand now
that it was a huge mistake in terms of planning. That too many housing units were
built for the amount of housing that was really dwindling. And of course, if you have
a large estate with a lot of housing units, and there
is no demand and there are not enough people really who
are willing to pay the rent for these dwellings, then of
course you cannot maintain it. Then of course you have
problems, and then of course the ones that are
still there tend to leave because the elevator
would break down, et cetera. So there was a whole
process of decay going on that really
had to do more with economics and management
and cultural issues rather than with
the design itself. So I really don’t like
to hear about the failure of the modernist project
like it so often is framed. And I do think– I’m not sure
that this book is out there. If it isn’t, it should be there. Florian Urban has published this
history of global mass housing, which contains a comparison of
these modernist housing slabs and towers in Chicago, Paris,
Berlin, Brasilia, Moscow, Shanghai, and Mumbai. Arguing that really
the histories are very different in all these
different places, depending on the local contexts,
the social issues, the economic issues
of affordability, and whether or not there are
alternatives available, et cetera. So it’s too easy to
say it didn’t work, we need to invent
something else. My last point about
reclaiming housing as a core concern
of architecture. I think this is really what
this event and this exhibition is also about, and
I think we have been mistaken in architecture
by letting that thing go. Letting housing go, disowning
the issue of housing, and let it be the domain
of other disciplines. I think that, that process
started– disowning housing as a core issue started
in the ’30s, when modern architecture was
received here in the States. If I look at these two
books that you are familiar with– or at least The
International Style you probably know–
you should also know the other book, Modern
Housing by Catherine Bauer. The International
Style, of course, has come to be the most dominant
book, in terms of the framing and the reception of
modern architecture, as seen here in North America. Nevertheless, if I look
at these two books, I say Catherine Bauer knew much
better what she was talking about than Philip Johnson. Her book, however, came out
two years after Johnson, and she never made it into
a very prominent voice on the scene of architecture. In the ’60s, she was invited to
a symposium in Colombia, where they were talking about
decades of modern architecture, and about the decade in
which her book appeared. But her book was listed–
in the bibliography that was provided for that event–
as being not about architecture, but about planning. So she was, on the
one hand, acknowledged as being an expert,
but on the other hand, she was pushed toward the side
of sociologists and planners, and not really seen as part
of the core discussion that architects were conducting. So that kind of operation
has been going on, and you can point to many
more instances of that. Housing was kind of pushed out
of the discourse of architects. And that’s indeed why–
it was mentioned already– if you now look for–
if you’re an architect and you invest work on housing
and you want to publish in an International
journal, well, the international
journals of housing are about housing policy,
are about housing and the build environment, about
housing markets, endless kinds of thing. So real estate,
sociology, and planning are now dominating the
question of housing. And for architects,
there is only– in this type of
publications– architects only play a minor, minor role. So again, that’s why I do think. And I’m very glad to be
part of this event here, and to have seen and
witnessed the exhibition. I think that’s why
it’s really important that a school like GSD claims
ownership of this issue, brings it back into the
heart of the discussions. Because I do think
that architecture is about the
organization of every day life for many, many people,
not just for the happy few. So that’s what I really
wanted to stress today. Thank you. OK. Is that working? Yeah, I think it is working. You can hear me? Yes? No? So I need this one. I thought it was
one or the other. Yeah? Now, there clearly has
always been housing, and there has almost always been
housing designed by architects. But it’s only, I think,
in the 20th century that we find housing designed
by leading architects, and by architects
who become known for the design of housing. And these architects
were modern, and the history
of housing design broadly overlaps with
the history of modernism. And this primacy attributed
to housing by modernists is evident in the
Charter of Athens, and also seen in four
so-called functions. And the first
function is dwelling, followed by recreation,
work, and transportation. And I believe that the
order is highly significant. And here I think I join
the presentation of Hilde. Now, what we mean by
modernism, I think, has been unfortunately confused. And historians have emphasized
its association with industry and with mechanization
and with mass production, but the essence of
modernism– in my view– was a search not for
industrial standards, but for actually
living standards. And this is clearly represented
by the Unite d’habitation in Marseilles. And at once, the high
point of modernism. And also, I think, the
most influential design in the history of
housing, full stop. Now the apartment of the
Unite became the standards by which other housing projects
were evaluated, and, I believe, for good reasons. One thing, its
duplex arrangement, its double orientation,
the terrace or balconies, the spaciousness, the privacy,
and many other things one could mention. But in the mid 19– try to move
forward– no, wrong button. But in the mid 1970s, even
the most celebrated architects appeared to be out
of their depths where it concerned housing. Inspired of Aldo Rossi’s
interest in typologies, and you see his
Gallaratese project here. The apartments of the
Gallaratese building seem impoverished
and regressive. And those designed by
James Stirling at Runcorn fared little better. And, actually poignantly,
they have actually been demolished 15 years
after they were completed. Now, the idealism and
the desire to follow through the design of the actual
dwellings, I believe, had gone. And the interest shifted instead
to the space around the home and the form of urban space. Now, since then,
the contribution by architects to the field of
housing have been, in my view, negligible. The singular exception
is in response to the growing individualism
and the corresponding demand for diversity in
the housing offer. The most extreme
example, in this respect, is the work of Jean
Renaudie here in the screen. And here you see is the plan
corresponding to that project. And in it, no dwelling, and
no space in the dwelling, is the same. Nevertheless, Renaudie upheld
anything that is important, the principles set out
by Le Corbusier– namely, multiple orientation, duplex,
spaciousness, and the provision of a garden or a terrace. Another figure
also played a role. Hammond Hasberger, though
he builds little housing, had a contribution which
was, I think, significant. And he proposed–
as you probably know– a generic form,
which he compared to a musical instrument. One that could be played
upon by inhabitants. Last, there was, of course,
the advocacy of participation. Always, I think, a marginal
option– and that’s something which might be worth
bearing in mind– and for which Lucien Kroll
was an eloquent spokesman. Now, these three examples I
have just mentioned I think represent three
themes, you could say. Respectively, difference,
appropriation, and participation. And they have been
revisited 20 years later in the 1990s in Holland,
but the context has changed. Developers, not the
States, were the providers, and the social motivation
too, have changed. The drive for greater
individuality– which in the 1970s had been
a legacy from youth culture– became, in the 1990s, the
spontaneous expression of the market. Now at Borneo
Sporenburg in Amsterdam, for instance, within a generic
type developed by West 8, a family could– in
theory– buy or rent a unique architect-designed
house corresponding to their needs. And at Silodam by MVRDV, a
theoretically infinite number of apartment types were offered
to satisfy a theoretically infinite housing demand. Now, in a privatized
housing industry, the offer necessarily
precedes demand. And the design of
dwellings is– I think in a fundamental
way– arbitrary. But then, how could it be at
all evaluated, you might ask. Now in hindsight, it is hard to
escape the sense– especially when compared with the best
achievements of modernism– that this design lacked
substance and commitment. Too much difference, I
think, was spread too thinly. And a comparison between the
so-called Unite type at Silodam with the real Unite in
Marseilles and elsewhere would, I think, be
enough to make the point. Now the recession in Holland,
then the crisis of 2008, derailed this train of thought. The issue became how to
reconnect the design of housing with residents, or– in
the language of the 1970s– with the users. And what one, I
think, is witnessing at the moment– in
Europe, at least– is a re-socialization and
re-productization of housing. Here I’m talking
about, of course, what is happening in
the architecture world. Now, for the sake
of this discussion, three trends can be
identified today. The first concerns
rehabilitation of the modern housing
stock, as such it is literally an extension
and a deepening of modernism. And the best example
I know is a project by a London-based office–
the office of Adam Khan Architects– for the
upgrade of this estate, the Ellebo estate in
Copenhagen. And it consists in the replacement
of the existing facades, and in careful modifications
of the floor plans– and here, a simulation
of before and after– and in the addition of an extra
flow of dwellings with terraces towards the top of the
building, and in the provision of a so-called garden room
offering a collective focus to the project. Now the approach is socially
and spatially sensitive, and the details–
which are partly inspired by the architecture
of Peter Markli– I think are unusually fine. Certainly for this
kind of commission. The second trend–
which is actually shown in the exhibition– is
more radical in its politics, and it draws from the
cooperative movement which is currently enjoying
a revival in Europe. And this project entails a
renewal of terrace houses in Toxteth, an impoverished
district of Liverpool. And here is the proposal,
also in the exhibition. And the architects called
[? mison ?] mentioned them, but called Assemble, an
architect’s collective based in London, are involved not
only in the design, they’re also actively participating
with future tenants in making the project happen,
and in actually building it. The ones in yellow
are architects, but perhaps we could
have guessed that. Now in this, the
project, I think, recalls this quarter
movement of the 1970s. But in the upholding
of radical principles and the insistence on the
purity of the process, the approach of the
architects recalls, I think, the Occupy Movement. And, unusually in a
project of this kind, the care in the design and
in the craft of building is very high. Something which I think is very
unusual, and very promising. This project in Santa
Fe is under way. I mean, indeed these last
two projects are under way. The third trend
places less demands on consultation
and participation, and it may have– for this
reason– a wider influence, I think, in the long term. It aims to establish a universal
type, or at least types that would have a wide appeal. And in Amsterdam
West, the office called [inaudible] designed a
terrace of identical dwellings, in which individuality is
deliberately limited in order to achieve higher standards
in design and construction. And inscribed in a long
tradition of rationalism, the approach draws equally
from the classical tradition and from modernism,
leading to what the architects call classicism
for the IKEA generation. And here is one. Whoops, there has been a
mix up here of the slides. Can I move this? Let me see if I can. Well, no, two have gone
missing, I’m afraid. You’ll have to trust me,
that I’m telling the truth. So to this– OK. All three trends,
which I have shown, I think bears the
marks of modernism. And I cannot actually help
feeling that the issue today is less what makes people– the
issue for architects building housing is less what makes
people different than what people have in common and what
they actually decide to share. And for instance,
the so-called Garden Room in Copenhagen.
For instance, a collaborative
work in Liverpool. And for instance, the IKEA
classicism in Amsterdam West. And so to this extent, at least,
in emphasizing what is common rather than what is different,
housing after modernism will– in my view–
be modern again. And of course, it goes
without saying that housing doesn’t have to be modern. And in most cases, I
believe that it will not be. But in respect to housing
design, modernism, I think, is our beginnings. In our profession,
it is our antiquity. It is Ancient Greece and
Ancient Rome combined, and its influence,
I believe, will be felt for decades to come. Thank you. Good evening. 20 years ago today, I
was sitting in this room, waiting for my second
semester– second year to start. Very good to be back again. So why are we talking
about housing now? It was a discussion we were
just having before this talk. It seems that there is a kind
of confluence of many changes and different frameworks
that are making this an exciting time–
also, a challenging time– for architects to insert
themselves back into the agency that we need to be claiming. And these probably exist
across different frameworks, such as the social framework. We are seeing a great
change in demographics– as we heard from Niklas. Also, in the
programmatic framework, we are now seeing many changes
in how we live and work. And therefore, the typologies
that we’ve been trusting for so long are being eroded. In the economic
framework, we are now considering different
models of ownerships, like the Baugruppen that Niklas
has also mentioned, co-housing, and so on. And finally, the sort
of physical framework or the constructive one is
also interesting to consider in terms of new fabrication
or construction technologies that might change, again, the
way we think about housing. Perhaps it’s obvious to state
that housing is probably the most constrained of all
the endeavors of architects. Hemmed as it is between the
market forces on the one hand, and of course, the
codes on the other. Very constrained. And so one could say that
it’s a physicalized– if you will–
datascape that reflects the rules and other influences
more clearly than other types. But however, the clarity
of this framework is kind of exciting,
too, because it’s also possible to be disobedient,
or cleverly obedient, within the framework
that is clear. Certainly a little bit less so
in the United States, perhaps in other countries, and
New York especially. So, in our work, I think
we situate our own housing production, or our
work on housing, within several larger
questions, which are opportunities to
instigate or adapt to changes. We’ve been interested
in how architecture can adapt to climatic
changes or demographic ones. Secondly, thinking about
creating different skills of interaction between
different publics, or rethinking who the public is. There’s not a general
idea of public. And finally, as an opportunity
to affect a macro-scale with a minimum of means. And in this case, a
minimum of micro-units, a minimum of spatial means. So we’ve only worked on four
housing projects so far. We’re now working on a
250-unit tower in Hong Kong, but it’s still an important
part of our practice. And the ones in Hong
Kong, by the way, are smaller than the
ones in New York. And they don’t call
them micro-units, they just call them apartments. And an article in the
South China Morning Post last spring referred
to our project– our micro-unit project– as Hong
Kong-style apartments arrive in New York. So they irony that
we’re now working in New York is not lost to us. So in 2012, we were invited
by the developers, Monadnock Development, to join them
in a competition for Mayor Bloomberg’s adAPT
NYC competition to design the first new
micro-unit prototype in New York City. It had to be a
developer-architect team. So we can talk about
agency afterwards. We can’t do these
things alone, can’t even enter these competitions alone. We were– my
partner Mimi and I– were a little bit
horrified at first, to be quite frank with you. We’ve sort of drunk the
Kool-Aid a little bit now that we understand
the larger context of this issue of micro-housing,
but we were a bit horrified about the idea of designing
apartments that ranged from 250 to 350 square feet. I’ll explain a little bit later
why now we’re less horrified. So in the beginning
of the 20th century, Jacob Riis focused his
camera on the urban poor, shocking a nation and
galvanizing, basically, the nation to revisit some of
the laws that would provide proper sewage and
proper ventilation to a city of over 3 million. And so the housing reforms that
followed over the next decade really encouraged a set
of new legal standards for light and air and
health and safety. Now meanwhile, after the
Second World War, housing– the average size of a
home has practically doubled from about 1,000
square feet in 1940s to its apex in 2007–
just before the crash– at about 2,700 square feet. Kind of like large
cars from the ’70s, they seem now a little bit like
relics of another time gone by. Because these were tailored
to nuclear families, which as Niklas has
mentioned, is really a minor aspect of our society. In Manhattan, we have 46% of
inhabitants are really single. And the single one-to-two
person household is a very large proportion. Dark blue is one-to-two
person households. And you see that– if
you compare it to Boston, for instance– 33% is one. It’s a trend across the United
States and across the world, even more so in European
capitals and in Tokyo. So this is also
something that has been increasing substantially
in the last couple of decades. A 30% increase, I believe,
in the last decade alone. So what are the options
to people in at least New York City, where
there’s a large number of illegal apartments that
are in fact micro-units by another name? Where one might have no view,
or a really insecure situation, or very little space. And the other
option, I guess, is to move out and put an extra
burden on our transportation infrastructure and continue
to contribute to sprawl. So the Bloomberg
administration– in conjunction with the
Citizens Housing and Planning Council in New York– initiated
a study and exhibition called Making Room, in which
they created a body of research that was then used as a
reference for the competitors in the competition that
we subsequently entered. So that competition
basically challenged developer-architect
teams to come up with a micro-unit type on
a very small lot, owned by HPD– Housing Preservation
and Development– right next to a NSCHA site. And we won this competition by
basically following a brief, and doing something very
straightforward, I think. The site is on 27th
Street in Manhattan. So this is First
Avenue and 27th Street, on a dead end, small
pedestrian street. And this is our project. So our big challenges,
as we saw it, was to design a building
that was somehow generic in that it
would be a prototype– a replicable prototype. It wouldn’t really be a
standalone building, per se, but that would insert
itself within the legacy of housing in New York. For which reason we chose a
brick, just to give an example. But at the same time, they
would express something about micro-living in
terms of its dimensions, without expressing
the individual. So unlike Moshe Safdie’s Habitat
or other subsequent projects that have tried to equate
the idea of the physical unit with a social unit, we
were very interested in, in fact, thinking
about how people who live in small
apartments need to be nested into different sets
of scales, of social scales. For this project
to occur, we were granted several
mayoral overrides, the most important
of which were to lift the minimum number of dwelling
units, which is called density in the zoning code. And to lift the minimum area,
which in our current code is 400 square feet. The rest were just minor
ones to do with our project. So again, we thought of
the project or the resident as living in a variety of
scales in a nested way. And the very important one
is the amount of social space which we are able to
contribute in a project– which is not very much but
substantial for maybe this type. In New York, in any case. And here you see
them distributed. It’s a very small building. It’s comprised of 55 units. It’s nine stories tall. It’s built with
modular construction. And normally developers won’t
even let you do these things, but we were able to provide
quite a few little amenity spaces– which, of course,
we wish there were more. Another thing that we
thought was quite important was– since people are
living in very small units– to connect them very
clearly to their context by providing very large windows
and great ceiling height. So the typical unit, which
is about 300 square feet on average, has a nine
foot eight ceiling which allows for overhead
storage, and also very tall sliding glass doors which lead
to– or don’t really lead, but reveal– a Juliet balcony. We have about five
to six basic types. Seven are shown here, but
they’re basically similar. This is the most dominant one,
which is quite straightforward. It’s very difficult
in such a small lot to come up with many
different orientations and configurations, as it
were, that meet the code. And one thing about our
code in the United States that differs from
other countries is that the interior
of the apartments has to be accessible– fully
accessible– to wheelchairs. The one we’re designing
in Hong Kong does not. Right at the threshold between
the corridor and the unit, you can dispense
with that and have kitchens that are 600 millimeter
space between the counter and the fridge, for instance. So what it results in is
a disproportionately large bathroom and kitchen for
the size of the apartment, but we’ve tried to
somehow make it efficient. This is the current plan
of a typical floor, where you see basically four similar
apartments facing the south, and then the grain
shifts to the west. And we have an efficient core. At the end– this is
very small, I grant you, but at the end of every quarter
we have a shared storage. A vestige of something,
a grander idea we had, which was to have at every end
of the quarter a social space. But this was eroded bit-by-bit–
not so much by the developers as by the kind of
very tight site and the redundancies of modular
construction, which requires a certain thickness of walls. We’re on track to finish
the project in December. This is a rendering,
which people have thought is a real
photo, but it’s a rendering that we submitted as
part of our competition. If you want to make something
look real, render it under construction, I guess. It looks a lot less
beautiful under construction in this photo because we have
all this ugly insulation on it. But just to describe
quickly how we built it was kind of interesting. We used traditional
construction for the basement and the first floor,
and modules produced in the factory in the Brooklyn
Navy Yard for everything else, including the core. It’s about as high as one
can go with this system. I think about 135
feet before one needs to have a braced
core, as I understand it. And so basically,
they’re modules comprised of steel pipes and a
chassis like a car, and a redundant
floor-ceiling assembly. So these are where they’re tight
and they stack on each other. This is an interior of one of
the modules under construction. They feel luminous
and spacious to me. So this is a typical
day in the factory. It’s a short video– I’m not
sure if I’ll show it all, it’s maybe two minutes–
but it shows you how the modules advance
along the assembly line, just like in a Model T Ford. With different
trades all unionized, working, doing the same thing
over and over again really efficiently. Which, in principle,
should really speed up construction
and give it a much higher level of finish. One thing we were
able to achieve is a high level of
tolerance, which is very important to this project. We are building to
three millimeters, which is an eighth of an inch, beyond
which we would, in fact, not comply with code. We’re in such a
small site that if we were to have a slightly
smaller width of apartment, it would basically not comply. So this would have
been very difficult with traditional construction. So this actually is
taking a long time, this building, paradoxically. But what was very
fast was the stacking, which happened in three weeks
and was kind of breathtaking. And I guess one thing
that was really nice was that it really had a very
low impact on the neighborhood, because it’s a very
quiet construction. You just hear welding as
these things go into place. Of course now we’re back
to traditional construction as we skin this with brick. We had decided to do that for
many reasons, one of which was just in terms of making
sure we had a good envelope seal, and so on. Just quickly– I forgot
to put two slides here. But the four points
I wanted to make about thinking about units–
Niklas approached this topic. The housing studio that
I’m teaching this semester is dealing precisely
with this issue, that we’re sort of prisoners
of language in that sense, and am inheriting a lot of
preconceptions about housing. Which is the type that
it has probably the most number of– the largest
baggage, shall we say. Which is a great thing, too. So what we’re trying
to do in the studio is consider what is a unitless
house, or unitless housing? And reconsidering the idea
of units in four frameworks. The first is the social unit. For whom are we designing if,
in fact, 37% of Bronx residents are comprised of single
mothers with a child? Just to give an example. And co-housing is
introducing new types. I think it’s– even
though we speak about it– we don’t really design for
something outside of a nuclear family. Most of the types that
we see in the exhibition are still adhering to that,
with the exception of a few. And perhaps it’s just
opportunities we have. The second is the
programmatic unit. Why call it housing if
we now work at home, and if we shower in the office,
or if we work in a cafe? Is it possible now to
think more of amenities rather than program? In fact, take the discussion
out of the idea of a dwelling, per se, but thinking
about new connections that adapt to a more
contemporary and fluid lifestyle. The third is the economic unit. Somebody owns
housing at one point, and you either rent or sublet
from the person or the agency or the company that
owns the housing. But the Baugruppen
that Niklas also has shown– which I’m taking
my students to see in three weeks– offers an
interesting model of bottom-up,
Arctic-led initiatives, but also new models
of ownership. In a time where we share cars
to go, or Citi Bikes, or Ubers and so on, is there a new
model for securing one’s right to a dwelling,
rather than thinking about owning or renting? And then finally, the
constructive or physical unit. Even though we don’t
build with modules or think about
modules all the time, I sense also– not just in
student work but in general– that we tend to think of
housing as a combinatorial game. In which we take
preconceived ideas of units– whether it’s a one bedroom, a
two bedroom, or a townhouse– and we put them together like
Rubik’s Cubes or puzzles. But what if the units really
are plumbing or shared spaces or balconies or
some other scale, is something I’m interested
in kind of unpacking. And I think the correlation
between these four frameworks of units– the social, the
programmatic, the economic, and the physical– has led to
a standardization of thinking about housing at a
time when we can really think about new things. Thank you. So we’re going to go
straight to questions, because I think it would be
really interesting to open this up as quickly as possible. I think, in the interest of
getting a conversation also going between our
presenters, perhaps I could ask you–
to those of you who would like to ask
a question– maybe we can collect two or
three questions at a time. And then have our
panelists basically address those questions
amongst themselves, and also in response to your point. So can I just see– there
are microphones here– can I see if anybody has any
comments or questions that you would like to make? Otherwise, I’ll have to start
and I’d rather you do it. Any thoughts, please? Back there. Wait until you get
the mic, please. Thank you. Hi. So I guess this is specifically
for the micro-unit as being a really viable option for
cities like New York, who are facing extreme housing crises. And it seems like this
project was primarily a market-rate project. But how do you think
that type of construction could be manipulated to start
being an option for addressing the affordable housing issue? Great. Any other comments? Please. Oh. Hi. Thank you for the presentation. I think the common framework in
all four of your presentations is that, there’s this point
in the history of housing and in architecture where the
main focus of the discussion changes from the notion of
hospitality or the quality or the actual domestic
condition of the house, into more about the discussions
of statistics and real estate and how the housing has
to adapt to the market. And so I was just
wondering, where do you identify that
shift from that kind of architectural discussion of
the dwelling to a more almost engineering or statistic-based
discussion of housing and the urban? Great. Anyone else? OK. Well, maybe we can start
with those two points. It would be great if
you just– not only Eric, but others maybe if
there are comments about that. I know Irenee is already
ready to go, so– Well,I could address
the first question. Sure, sure. Just a clarification, actually. Is this microphone on? It’s supposed to be on. Yeah, now it is, I think. So, actually 40% of the
units in our project are, in fact, allocated
to affordable– are affordable, and can only
be acquired through a lottery depending on one’s income. But I think the question of–
and probably this building is not a great example,
because it’s sort of a one-off, and one would have to understand
the impact of the scale if one were to introduce many
of these micro-unit buildings throughout the city. But I think the framework
through which one measures these issues and
impact on affordability has to be various, on
many different scales. One of which is looking at
the broader issue of sprawl and transportation
networks, and sustainability from that framework. But I think what
the administration is trying to do is just
provide a few more choices, so that you don’t end up with
people sharing illegally. Apparently it’s not
legal for more than three unrelated adults to live in
an apartment in New York City, for instance. Can you imagine? Other that students in dorms. So there are a lot of things
that the administration was trying to maybe address
in terms of affordability. But it will take years–
and maybe many examples– to really, I think, assess
whether it has an impact. Irenee, you were– Well, it goes without
saying that when one designs and builds a house,
the relationship between the actual
design is contingent. Circumstance does
matter, inevitably. However, I think in the
context of what I understand this exhibition and
this discussion, I think that the question is,
how can one actually place housing at somehow the
forefront of at least one of the main concerns
among architects, in the architecture culture? And I think if this
were to happen, my feeling is that
architects need to look not only at satisfying
what some market may demand or what tenants may
demand, but they need to be some steps ahead
and consider what actually constitutes good housing. And I mean, I
think– and perhaps Hilde will correct
me if I’m wrong– but in some periods
which I can think of which have been
exemplary in housing, and in the experiment which
I would regard as exemplary in housing, it has
usually entailed a group of architects
or an architect to ask that
fundamental question. What constitutes
a good dwelling? What constitutes
a good apartment? And then it is the
responsibility of the architect to actually promote it. Promote it to whomever is a
relevant person to promote it. Le Corbusier was thinking
about captains of industries, and he was always fighting–
like so many architects in the movement–
fighting to actually make this situation possible. What strikes me very
much at the moment is that architects
are quite passive. We’re what one could call
not captains of industry, but captains of the economy. I Saying, well, all right,
say I have the power. We are going to give
them what they want. Well, if you want
to make housing which is generally good, I think
this is not the right approach, in my view. I think if– just to come back
to what you said– it turns out that one of the main points
we’re discussing here is the question, how can market
interests– with also playing a role in micro-units
and efforts to preserve the social
city– can be reconciled? And I think that’s
also something that we are
discussing in Berlin. A lot of the students
who have been there have done beautiful proposals
to solve that question. And for example, we
have one proposal that is to increase the
maximum eaves height– which is currently at 72
feet– to 85, which would allow private investors
for the construction of luxury penthouses. With the condition that
they always, in turn, have to commit to renting
one floor out at 60 Euro cents per square foot. So that was one proposal
to create affordable space at the same time and get
a social mixture, which is also desired. And I wondered– coming
from this background– when I look at your project,
I think it’s beautiful. Beautifully, the
economic pressure– which was also on this project. But I saw in the
exhibition two years ago, where your project was– rightly
so– awarded the best one, that others collapsed. Other architects collapsed
under the economic pressure to create micro-scale
apartments, and then this turns into kind
of a hyper-capitalist worsening of the situation. That people are forced to
squeeze more apartments into the same shape. So my interest would
be– once you’re here– to tell us a little bit
more about how could you create these social-communal
spaces, and why? My only question that
might be a little critical with your project–
coming from Berlin with all these communal
kitchens and option spaces where you have carpenters
doing something with the kids, and you have a gym
in the basement. Which, at first
sight, looks even as if it would worsen the
situation of the poor New York person who, after
work has to come home and exercise in his gym
to be fit for the next day. So coming from this
hippie-ass Berlin background, you would say, why do you not
have a communal kitchen where you invite people from the
neighborhood to experience community? The gym is in the best
part of the building. It’s not in the basement,
it’s the ground floor. The first floor. So it’s even more– It’s very public. –questionable to–
hang out and party. The original idea, in fact, was
to have a creative communities center that would have
programming, with dance classes and so on. But our partner pulled out. We had an idea– when we
went into the competition with The Actors Fund– was
the idea that it would have dance performances and so on. They would be half
for the residents, but also for the public. Unfortunately, this was removed. And this is a question
of the agency. I mean, we have safeguarded
many aspects of the project. And thankfully, it was
because we won at competition. I think the developers would
have crushed us completely, had we not won the competition. We were able to protect some
key ideas like the great ceiling heights, like the
amount of public space, the having this public
main ground floor rather than retail, for instance. Because it was public,
it was made public through the competition process. But no, you’re right. One can criticize the context. And the architect, we’re
part of that context. As I said, I think you– Can I begin on that? Because I think the
question, as it was posed, was in terms as if
architects have to provide quality rather than quantity. And of course, architects have
to think about the quality of living, absolutely. But in saying an architect’s
business is quality and not quantity, you avoid to
pose the question also in political terms. Housing is a political issue. It’s a decision of a society. How to provide for
housing, how much budget is allocated for housing. Is it just the market forces? And then, of course, there
will be no affordable housing for a lot of people. Or is there a correction
to the market forces? And then the politics step in. The politicians decide to
allocate a certain budget for making affordable housing. There is a kind
of logic to that, that has everything to
do with politics and not with architecture. And so, this political
context is absolutely crucial. That’s why the
decision of the mayor to make this exceptional
circumstances was very necessary to make
this experiment possible. But still, also there,
I think we also– I hear also voices
that say, well, is this not a very
dangerous spot to follow with these
micro-apartment? Because now you say, it is meant
for single-person households, and they make up the majority of
the people living in Manhattan. That’s true at this
moment, but who says that maybe in a
couple of year’s time that there will not– families
or households of more than one or two people move
into these apartments and recreate slum circumstances
that we didn’t know anymore since the beginning
of the 20th century. That kind of questions
are also asked, and I think it’s
right to ask them. It’s true. It’s a question of
regulation, actually. It won’t be permitted to
live in this apartment if you’re more than people. And I’ve asked
the question, what happens if you have a child? How much notice do you have? But I did have one
opportunity to try to intervene as an architect
within the spectrum of politics, which is when I
testified to the City Planning Council about the
micro-units, and was asked for my recommendations on
what the zoning changes should entail or include. Because we are very worried
that the city will relax these restrictions on
the minimum dwelling size and the density
of the apartment, without requiring developers
to add something back. Which we were able
to do by giving, because we’re trying to say,
look, it’s the same volume. So in fact, if we can
get greater density in terms of height– which
is fine in New York– we can get a lot
more apartments. And I think it’s a
very important issue. Without sacrificing Floor Area
Ratio– FAR– without that. So that plus more storage–
we have three levels of storage in the building. There’s in the basement,
there’s– in your units, you have more than in a
three-bedroom apartment, and then you have every floor. That’s very important for
people in a small apartment, in our current
Amazon Prime economy. And then finally, the social
spaces, which are so important. The best spaces were
given over to the public. The ground floor, but
also the eighth floor, which has the setback, which is
the salon for communal kitchen, actually. The communal space for eating. So each one is programmed. There’s an office space, there’s
a library with a pool table. And this is
marketing consultants who are all over this
and trying to establish exactly what people want. But actually, in
a sense, they’ve done a good job because
they’ve realized there’s a spectrum of uses that
are typically not provided. This is what we fear will not
make it into the zoning code when they make the changes. I know, Irenee, you
want to come– I also want to give Daniel, Megan, and
Matt– if you have, I wonder, do you want to make some
remarks or contribution? There. You’re nodding your head. So maybe we can give
them the mic here, and then we’ll go back
to Irenee and if there are any other thoughts. Hi. One of the things we
were most interested in, in our work with
the exhibition, was representing the
simultaneity of scale that is inevitable in housing. The search for the kind
of living standard, putting the occupant or
visitors at a one-to-one scale of living within these
spaces, registering some sense of personality, potentially. Sort of filling these
things at the same time as registering how aggregation
or organizational logic might actually
produce a form that has a more urban resonance. And I’m wondering–
because we are interested in the
simultaneity of scale– where you all feel the
greatest potency is for architectural design agency
in what’s to come for housing? Is it in the kind of mediation
between these two scales– the space of seclusion or the
space of engagement, perhaps? And I saw that maybe
playing out in examples across all presentations. Or are we now in a realm
where we’re surgically adopting what we’re inheriting? Sort of where new meets old. So I’m wondering
specifically, what is the raw material
of the design world in terms of what we
can actually manipulate with housing to come? Where do you see the
kind of greatest potency or where does that live? Ireene, do you want to
answer that and raise your earlier point? No, I’ll just wait
for the next question. Which also will– So thank you. And I think– just
to continue what Megan was saying– I think
this exhibition really stems from an understanding
that what we’re dealing with is an inheritance of modernism
and the modernist idea of housing. And in a way, what
my question would be– maybe more
towards you, Niklas– are we reinventing
this wheel, or are we simply redesigning it? And when we see something
like the Moriyama House– that to an extent works
or doesn’t work today– what is this? Is this really something new,
or are we just redesigning the same thing? Well, just to answer
this question quickly, we’re not reinventing the
wheel or redesigning it. I think we’re hovering now
without wheels because it’s something completely new. The situation is
completely new, and I thought you gave a beautiful
talk on the so-called failure of modernist proposals. And I think, for the first
time, these modernist proposals could actually work,
because for the first time, people are working– to
a large extent– at home. And if you go to
a [? spafeld– ?] which is architecturally not
the most advanced project, but it is working beautifully
well– because these option rooms are, for the first
time in architectural history since the starting
of modernity, people are enabled to work at home. So there’s a social control
over these option spaces. So whereas all these spaces
that we find in the Robin Hood gardens were not
used by the people because most of the people
had to work all day long in factories or wherever. They came home, they
were tired, they were not using these spaces. Now in this
situation, people are working in these structures,
they’re working and living there, and this
leads to the fact that you don’t have these
slum-like corners, which are undefined and not
accepted by the population and by the inhabitants. But for the first time,
people are actually working in these spaces,
and so for the first time, if you repurpose these sometimes
old models of the whole house, of early modernist
communal spaces, there’s a chance that
they could actually work because our working
conditions have changed. And the conditions under which
we raise children have changed. And this also a thing that
these new communal structures– larger extended families are
able to look after children while others are working. So I think that demographics,
the change of life rituals, might lead to the fact that
these models that were already called dysfunctional
could finally be the germ for a new
form of architecture. And again, I told this to
the students in Berlin. This here, I think it’s
a very exciting moment that we are forced to develop
forms to accommodate up to a billion people. And I told that before,
in Asia, India, and Africa alone– which is not counting
Latin America and America and the industrialized
countries of Europe. So this is not a
apocalyptic number, but this is a fantastic task
for architects and planners to work together
to speculate how these forms could be produced
and how they could look like. And again, we see
in East Germany, it’s not sufficient
to provide units for migrants and for
refugees and put them on the edge of little
villages and say, that’s fine. There you are, you
have your units. But you have to create social
spaces where people could meet each other, and
spaces of encounter, and new forms of
communal activities that bring together
newly-arrived refugees, old inhabitants, and so on. So we are forced to
develop solutions, and that’s a big
chance for architects to start now their practice. So I would be very
happy if I’d be as tuned and know that I should
be part of this committee to find solutions for that. I would be very positive
about all these developments. But we will– we’re behind
the question of the wheel. We’re now in the air. This is more about aerospace and
aeronautics, where you are now. So– I like very much the kind of
optimism that is in the air. I’m totally optimistic. But at the same time,
I’m not completely at ease with the optimism, in
the sense that in the ’90s, we talked about the
end of public space as if the social media and
internet and so on diminished the need of people to go out
and participate in public space. I think it was a
very real issue. It still is a real issue. That there is a [? leaf ?]
in the [? quarter-calls ?], this tendency of
[? capsulitization. ?] That people tend to insulate
themselves from others by in their bedroom, looking
behind their computer, doing a lot of things
through Facebook, but not going out face-to-face. I wonder if that’s true. I mean, many of us
are together alone. It’s like the discussion
at the end of the 80s about information technology
displacing the need for public space completely. And in fact, they’ve
just superimposed new kinds of media, new
uses upon the ones we have. And now libraries are
community centers or work– they’re like offices, basically. But my point was, I’m
very happy that you all pick up these
tendencies and say, this is where the future is. And I absolutely hope it’s
true, but I’m not sure that maybe we are mistaken. A lifestyle that is very much a
lifestyle of a particular part of the population–
young, urban, still single– that we
take this lifestyle to be the lifestyle of the future. Is it not the case
that 80% of the people do not live in this way? In research– Even in North
America and Europe? Some research by the CHPC–
Citizens Housing Planning Council– showed no correlation
between family size and age or any other kind
of social indicator like income and so on. In fact, you have a
lot of elderly people, of course, who are now alone,
or a lot of divorced people. Apparently that’s
a huge new segment of the single or the one– And who hate to go
to retirement homes because they do not want
to give up their privacy? And retirement
homes are an example of micro-apartments with a lot
of social space around, no? But people hate to go
to retirement homes. So there is a tension there. –formal take on
retirement homes, because retirement
homes are basically hospitals where people have to
stay for the rest of the lives. And if you look at the redesign
of homes for the elderly, it’s interesting to see that
you come to this communal model again and that
works beautifully. To come to the second
point you mentioned, I’m not sure whether
we do not have to differentiate
more what’s happening with the impact of electronics. Also, in the third
world, if you look at Africa, the chances
that are given to people who have internet
access– this changes not only the industrialized
countries, but also it changes Africa
to a large extent. And so I think we have
to rethink and redefine our definitions of
private life, public life, because even in
Nigeria or in Kenya– where I was recently–
many things that were done on the marketplace
in a physical way 20 years before– like
selling goods, buying goods, exchanging information– is done
via the internet now in Africa. And that helps largely to
develop areas and villages. And so I think that we have a
superimposition of these two levels, which is
very productive. And the only thing that is
challenging is that you cannot really tell anymore, when
someone worked for eight hours in his bedroom on a computer
selling things, buying things, exchanging information. If he leaves his apartment
to have a walk in the street, is he going from a private
sphere to a public realm? Or is he rather
doing the opposite? Is he escaping the
realm of communication to have a moment of
immersion in what we still call public space? I think the binarity of these
positions– private and public, inside and outside–
it’s not working anymore. –movie where the guy
goes into a very small cubicle to quickly eat. Yeah. And I think it lies a
chance– and you said this, I think– just to
finish that shortly. You said that we’re
trapped in language. And I think this
is a crucial thing. We cannot repeat this often
enough, that architects– when they’re asked to design
a four-story high building– they think of stacking and
aggregating four boxes of three meters high. And then you have the
example of the house NA by Fujimori in the
exhibition, where he says, no, four stories
could also mean 20 levels. And I think, this
is a liberation of fault from the
constraints of language, which is very
important in that time where we have these changes. I mean, my theory in
that is conversations, that housing
actually can respond to very specific circumstances
to do with, for instance, disability. For instance, old age. For instance, evolution of
households over the years, and so on. This, in my view, is a
luxury of certain questions, certain countries in
the west and elsewhere. What strikes me at the moment
is that there is an absence of a general theory of housing. There is no, for instance, book. Which I’m not saying
that this is one, but I mean, there is no
book which is equivalent, for instance, to the book–
which was written presumably here– by [inaudible],
can our city survive? Which was an attempt
to actually theorize how we might
approach the problems in cities, and specifically in
housing on a very large scale. And I think, in my
view, architects have perhaps a responsibility
to think about those things. Now to my mind,
this kind of work needs to take place upstream,
and after that, [inaudible] one wants to have a
generally significant impact on the future of housing. And that everything to do with
being specific in addressing the offer happens afterwards. I mean, in those
instances where other guys have had really
significant effects on the development of housing. We didn’t answer
Megan’s question. We’re getting there. I think, without actually
fundamentally changing the structural
things that define housing as
organization– the ideas of the family, the units–
we’re just chiropractors. We’re just moving things around
and compositionally changing things. But can we sketch
out and imagine, just take on the issue of
organizational concepts? What organizes housing, right? Orientation, solar orientation,
horizontal distribution of circulation,
structure, plumbing. If you just take those things. What if we come up with
a new idea of plumbing? Or what if we don’t use
water to evacuate waste? Would it actually liberate cores
to become not vertical anymore? Would it liberate
repetition of floor plates? New models of structure. I mean, we can
think of a lighter building, more lightweight ways
to build buildings, and so on. I think there’s
an optimistic way to go in and look at every
sort of structural thing that’s defining housing
as we know it now, and that can be the
social– dimensionally can be the idea of program. And we can just take
the physical elements. I’m optimistic. Great. Any other thoughts or comments? Maybe we’ll have– there
are a couple of hands. Three hands, four hands. Can we ask you to be brief? I really want everybody to
still be able to go outside and mingle and
see the exhibition and have a glass of wine. So please, go ahead. I actually had a direct
question to Hilde. Hilde, you were talking about
this concept of isolation that’s been more prominent
ever since social media set in, and the whole use of public
spaces become obsolete, almost. And I guess my question
to you is– as a designer, as an architect–
would you think of responding to that
isolation, and in the future, designing for
spaces that support that kind of living as just a
reality that we’re accepting? Or would you think about– as
an architect– stressing more on community spaces, or
more communal spaces, where people get
to actually go back to that sort of
social interaction? I think I would go
for the second option. I think this tendency
of individualization is something– an
insulation of the individual is something that is very
characteristic of modernity. The fact that we have so
many single households is evidence of that. Why do you have
single households? Because people can afford to no
longer live with their parents, to have a divorce. If the economic situation
is very, very bad, you don’t have as many divorces. Because yeah, for a
long time, women simply could not afford to
leave their husbands. So they didn’t. They stayed, and then there
were less single families or single households. So the tendency clearly
isn’t that direction, and as architects, we
should not ignore that. But I do believe that
it’s very important. As people, we have this
need to be ourselves, to be our own person. We do desire an amount
of individual space. Apparently many of us want
to inhabit our own space without bothering about
other people living with us. Apparently that’s what we do. But at the same time, we are,
of course, social beings. And I think that’s
why I found one of the most interesting
common issues here– that all of us
addressed– is this need to make interactions possible
between the private space and the public realm. And to make intermediary spaces
to encourage people to be part of a larger community. And that’s where architecture–
in terms of organization of spaces– have agency. It makes a difference,
whether you really make isolated bubbles, where
people have trouble getting out of, or whether you give
a similar amount of space but in a way that is much
more transparent and much more encouraging to
have this ferocity and to engage with the
intermediate spaces, the outside world. And I think it’s very
important to have all these different scale levels. That it’s not private
and public and nothing in between, that you have
these communal spaces that are this gradient of
private towards public. I think that’s very
important, and that’s an architectural issue. So in that sense, I
think the things that have been on the table
today are very important, because they show different
ways of organizing this contact between
the private realm and the public realm and
everything in between. So I would not go for
the option of well, OK, if people want to be individual,
let them be individual. But I’m not sure that the terms
private and public– as useful as they have been at a
particular time– I think those terms were introduced in
the ’70s in architecture speak, and they actually
replaced a term which seems to me
much more useful– at least at the present time–
which previously people were talking about
things being social. How social is a housing project? And already, in
this idea, you don’t have this contrast between–
on the one hand, the private and the public, and
therefore that you can address the public, but
you can’t address the private because private is, by
definition, private. I think one is a big
issues is, of course, is the seamlessness
of those two domains. And there is also
something that is very nice about the idea of the
social, in that you can address housing in the context
of the whole society or the whole social development. And I think it’s
important for you to remember that
this is a highly idealogized and political
discussion we’re leading. And if the city of New York
and the mayor of New York decides to go for
micro-apartments for singles, this is kind of a
normative decision which excludes the idea of
creating similar structures for communes. And you could argue
that if you have a large part of the
population being single, that you could foster buildings
that could accommodate groups of six. And I know it from
some of my students who spend a summer
with six people in a single-bedroom
apartment in Manhattan– which sounded exciting
and chaotic to me. But there is clearly
a demand in society that consists of single–
exist does not necessarily demand for single apartments
and providing single apartments. And again, I think your project
is a seminal and important project, but I wish you would
have been demand, also– apart from what you did– to
create communal buildings. Because I could
imagine that all you said about the unit– which
is replaced by a dwelling form which is not
separated into units– could be a valuable
thing to respond to the need to dwell together. Singles might live together. And this also relates
to what you say. Of course people are, in a way,
insulated by their technology, but that could also
mean there could be a demand for communal forms. And if you foster
this demand, then you could come up with
new dwelling forms beyond the classic decision
either to have a nuclear family apartment, or an apartment
for the single person. And I think this is
far too few addressed, and it’s the political
decision to say, we define a society of
consisting of singles or families, and not to propose
that people might live together by [inaudible] or a
circle of friends. That’s what we
see in Berlin now, that people are responding
to that by saying, we tried to self-empower
us by buying some land and asking an architect
to build something for us. And we pour money
together, and then we have this communal project. And this is a– But this kind of project–
at least in Belgium, and I think in similar
other elsewhere– are very often
made very difficult because there is no legal
format for this kind of communal property. How do you construct the
legal aspects of property if you decide– with a group
of 40 people– to buy land and to build a communal
building like that? That’s not easy. That’s quite a challenge. In New York, you’re not allowed
to live like that, right? Well, I think you can
create a cooperative. But it’s true. We’d like to find a way to
do what [? spafeld ?] has done in Brooklyn. Sure. So, as you can
see, our panelists have been so wonderful
that I’m sure they’ve answered all the questions
that the other people were going to ask. So I’m going to use
my executive authority to thank them at
this point, and let you know that three of them–
that is, Irenee, Niklas, and Hilde– will actually be
back at 10 AM in the library, for those of you who are
interested to continue this discussion. As you could also see,
Niklas has plenty of slides, a lot of other things that he
would like to share with you. So come back then
and let us continue the discussion in the morning. That will go on
from 10 hopefully until 11, 11:30 in the morning. If you can. I do want to thank all
of you for being here. I really could sense some
enthusiasm and energy in the room, and I think
we’re very lucky to have had these presentations. And of course, many
thanks to also all of you who helped with the
exhibition, and the curators. I do like what Hilde
tried to make sure that we don’t forget–
which was really at the heart of this particular
project and exhibition. Which is for the school–
especially at the beginning of the academic year– to place
really significant resources and focus on the
topic of housing. And this whole phenomenon of
reclaiming housing, in a way, is a key part of the project of
the school because it is true that– for such a long time–
the topic has been recognized as being very iconic,
very symbolic, and something that we
recognize as a significant part of the history of modernism. But I think it’s
also the time that we as a community, in a
way, embrace and reclaim this particular topic. And I think the quality of
the exhibition and the quality of the conversation,
in some way, tonight, is a very good
beginning for us to, in a sense, embrace
that particular project. So once again,
thank you very much. I hope you enjoy the reception
and engage our panelists in further discussion. And come back tomorrow morning,
to the library, at 10 o’clock for more images from
Niklas and more discussion. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “Housing—What Next?

  1. just stat at 9:27 to escape the introduction

  2. how can you say that these are refugees from balkans…there is no war on balkans so that people flee from there together in colons along with the illegal imigrants that are storming your country…people from balkans come peacefully to germany with their own personal transportation and they are looking for better life not trying to break down ur way of life like illegal imigrants do for decades and especialy now…its a shame that eduacted person like urself can spread these kinds of disinformation…the whorst thing is that u mentioned balkans 1st of all of these countrys…its just ridiculous

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