A Home for All: Six Experiments in Social Housing

In a time when there is an unprecedented crisis of housing availability and affordability, looking back at historical housing projects and analysing if they have worked or not is a way to ensure that future designs can be as effective as possible. The exhibition A Home for All: Six Experiments in Social Housing presents 6 different pioneering schemes in social housing.

One of the main issues with social housing is the loss of identity for those living within them, having a big tower block with hundreds of flats all being the same categorises everybody as the same. It doesn’t allow for individually or self identity, people can’t truly make their space their own. Keeling house was the first out of the six experiment to include the potential future residents in the design process, giving them a greater feeling of ownership of their homes. One of the main focuses of this scheme was to “re-establish the importance of human scale in mass housing design. ” By giving residents the opportunity to have their say in the design process in give them the opportunity to feel more in control of the build and almost allows them to encourage a design that is more focused on the needs of the user rather than the developer. If the occupant feels like they have been part of the design process they are potentially more likely to stay longer as they may feel a greater senses of belonging.

Furthering the idea of the occupier being at the centre of the design was the Byker Estate by architect Ralph Erskine, in which he set up his office within the grounds of the development allowing future residents to go on site and be able to see the plans. This meant that residents felt as though they were being listened too and their ideas would be put into the plans. Erskine stated he wanted the design to be ‘a complete and integrated environment for living in the wildest possible sense’ For this to be possible it was essential for the residents to be part of the design and planning process so that residents could insure the integration was designed in the way that best suited the residents of the building, as well as making sure that would have the amenities within the space that worked for them.

Whist theses designs did clearly show how the architects were working in partnership with the future residents of the space, nobody else seems to have gone as far as the PSSHAK project by Nabeel Hamdi and Nicholas Wilkinson, who actually created a instruction manual in which each resident of the building were able to play an active role in designing their own apartment. It gave residents the ability to make personal choices about how they wanted their homes to be designed. By doing this it goes a step further than the other projects, they did allow the residents to have an active role in the designs but they still created a single design style, whereas the PSSHAK project meant that there was the potential for each apartment to be slightly different.

This is something that I think would be a good way to design in the future, as allowing individually to each space gives residents the feeling of it being a more personal space, that they can feel a connection with as it is something that they have had involvement with.

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