Affordable Housing and Its Qualities
Scarcely a week goes by without some new headline appearing about the disaster on the housing market. Alone in Germany, roughly a million more homes are needed today. Of the four million social dwellings that still existed at the end of the 1980s, only one and a quarter million are left nowadays. In many cases, affordable housing space is hardly to be found, and accommodation in many towns and cities is more expensive than ever. Housing has become a field of speculation for investors with great prospects for profit.
What has happened over recent decades? Where is the enthusiasm with which politicians and architects implemented extensive developments in the 1960s and 70s like the Märkisches Viertel or the Gropiusstadt – both planned as new homes for 50,000 Berlin citizens? Why has the state largely withdrawn from the social housing field, and why are so many local authorities neglecting their responsibilities to provide sufficient affordable living space?
In the current, April journal, we have addressed these and other ticklish questions. With the present issue of DETAIL we wish to show economical forms of housing and illustrate the fact that, despite the plight of the housing market, there are positive trends as well — with solutions that point a way to the future for urban planning and promotion and the architectural qualities of affordable living space. For precisely these qualities are ignored or neglected in times of exploding rents.
In his essay on publicly sponsored housing in Vienna, Dietmar Steiner describes the tradition and the future of dwelling in his city, which is regarded as a model. Our documentation articles show low-cost housing developments that were implemented with various support mechanisms, including cooperatives, or as communal projects and in private-public partnership. Examples from Paris, London and Zurich show quite clearly that – despite tight budgets – means of realizing unusual architectural qualities exist that are of benefit to residents in everyday life. Communal zones, planted rear courtyards and living spaces bathed in light are a question of planning which, in view of reduced construction costs, set certain priorities and therefore have to be given greater consideration. In view of the present housing disaster, architects bear responsibility for this. The role they play is crucial because, with their concepts, they are in a position to point a path to the future.
Whether they are hiding and playing games or learning, chatting and relaxing, children and young people love exploring new places and interpreting them according to their mood. They are masters in the appropriation of space and experts in their surroundings. Berlin-based architecture firm Die Baupiloten works with this unfiltered knowledge. In an interview practice founder Susanne Hofmann explains how real-life architecture emerges from the discussion of atmospheric qualities and seemingly utopian wishful thinking and looks at what contributes to the success of participatory design processes (page 56). Integration and identification are key concepts in day care centres and schools. In addition to creative opportunities for development, current pedagogical approaches concentrate on promoting greater autonomy and the acquisition of social skills. The influence of these trends on interior design is the focus of this issue dedicated to the theme of ‘Playing and Learning’.
We take a look at the memorable colour scheme of a special school in Ghent (page 26), we show how a meandering shelf structure becomes an integral part of a Madrid language school’s spatial design (page 38) and we visit the play and learning environment of an Austrian kindergarten (page 32).