07 July 2008

Public Housing Done Right

Article in the Financial Times (link requires free registration to view):

... a design-savvy blueprint for 21st century low-cost living - or, put more simply, cheap, durable, beautiful homes.

...the program has produced prototypes .... There's also a pattern book, compiled by a core team of architects, that any company can download for inspiration.

...has focused on how social problems can be solved - or at least, eased - through architecture.

...any house that looks or feels like a low-cost afterthought will be treated that way by its residents.

...they decided to use neo-classical columns made from wood instead of cheap industrial siding.

"It was to the absolute horror of the maintenance crews of the housing authority," he chuckles. "But it turned out that they havee been carefully maintained by the residents because they have become objects of pride, a touch that makes the area feel like 'a regular neighbourhood'."

Opting for wood is a crucial upgrade for architects keen to avoid a low-cost look. "The institutional approach to affordable housing is to use indestructible materials, whether concrete blocks or metal, which means the interiors tend to be prison-like. It sends a message to the residents that they can't be trusted with their homes," ...

A Pattern Book for Neighborly Houses


Anonymous said...

The pattern book is interesting. Kind of an architectural choose your "own" adventure.

A lot of the materials are about the exterior finishing and a contribution to the street or public space. "Being neighborly" means "fitting-in" with "recognizable architecture" that is an "expression of local tradition."

I see the value of these ideas, but is the psychological influence a social impact? The green design makes more sense to me as an architectural contribution. Maybe the facade value is real, but it seems like a myth.

It is kind of the opposite of public housing as architectural experimentation, which is probably good.

CityKin said...

"It is kind of the opposite of public housing as architectural experimentation, which is probably good."
Exactly. Why are the poor always the guinea pigs for architectural theory aka Pruitt-Igo to Brad Pitt in New Orleans?

Anonymous said...

Yeah it is kind of architecture as a neutralizing force. I guess I think of architecture as trying to make a statement, this statement is to not stand out and in some ways is a kind of non-architecture.

On a semi-related note, Duany had one of the more interesting takes on the New Orleans issue. His position that dealing with the "imperfections" in governance and culture would be the only way to achieve an architecture that was of New Orleans is interesting.

CityKin said...

^that was a great article. I like the idea of an opt-out zone for people who don't want to conform to the strict codes. He also mentions a pattern book or building without architects and professional builders. All great ideas.