Public Housing Architecture: The New Architecture of the Collective

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from  Ilka Ruby a Berlin based publisher and curator on subjects regarding architecture and urban-ism.  She focused on different social housing projects from around Europe, America and Asia.  You can find here website here-

Mrs. Ruby gave several examples of social housing ghettos in Berlin, France and Sweden that caused a great deal of social unrest.  She told us that many of the times cities would simply demolish the housing projects to deal with problems.  However; these demolition programs were a launching program for French architects Druot, Lacaton to try renovating and improving these sites instead of tearing down buildings.  One example is Tour Bois Le Pretre in Paris.  The architects changed the facade of the building and softened the building with balconies and more public spaces.  A similar project in Bordeaux took place and completely transformed a 500 unit building.

The speaker went on to tell us that many of the issues that started within social housing begin because a project did not consider the extra needs of people.  That includes shopping, groceries, green space, meeting spaces and education/employment opportunities.  In her estimation, a social housing project without amenities is not social at all.

Mrs. Ruby argued throughout her presentation that because affordable housing is scare and expensive, conventional modern housing development is not keeping up with and meeting demands.  She told the audience that the reaction to these issues have been a revolution in contemporary architecture towards collective building and living.  She argues for perserving social housing but retrofitting to meet the new demands of those who live in these communities.

“In the 1960s and 1970s, large-scale housing complexes were built all over the world as a bold solution to satisfy the need for housing. Five decades later they are largely considered as ideologically outdated, urbanistically failed, and ripe for demolition. Against this backdrop Never Demolish claims that these projects can have a second life that’s better than their first, through sensible renovation – enlarging the spaces and improving living standards. The exhibition features the spectacular transformation of 530 dwellings across three high-rise buildings of the Cité du Grand Parc in Bordeaux, France designed by the architectural offices of Lacaton & Vassal, Frédéric Druot and Christophe Hutin as a potential model for the social and physical rehabilitation of the mass-housing estates of modernism.”

Please visit Mrs. Ruby’s blog for more information.


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