Europe is currently leading the way when it comes to alternative housing development methods and some of the concepts are producing game-changing results to residential design standards and affordability.
In cities the world over, residential development is heavily reliant on a few key requisites – access to land at an affordable cost, access to development finance, and support from local communities and authorities. The issue of affordability is far and away one of the more crippling aspects of accessing new housing in Australia and, combined with shifting lifestyle expectations and changing social models development methods are scrabbling to play catch up when it comes to meeting individual needs.
In response, creative alternatives to urban development are popping up around the globe and the future, according to some, is very bright indeed.
Baugruppe (Group Building) is a Berlin-based residential development concept that optimizes the ‘power in numbers’ philosophy. Relying on a like-minded group of investors, this method effectively eliminates the profit-driven developer from the design and construction process and, in its best case scenario, can consequently cut completion costs by up to 30%.
Fostering a close relationship between the architect and the investors (often the future inhabitants of the project), the Baugruppe method has produced outstanding results in its mother city that demonstrate high standards of architectural integrity as well as unique design features tailored to the requirements of the residents themselves.
Baugruppe Berlin with Zanderroth Architekten. Photo © Simon Menges.
In Melbourne, Nightingale Housing is a social enterprise that has adopted and adapted the Baugruppe method to the Australian housing market and has multiple projects in development that address sustainability, affordability and social inclusivity in a city that continues to wallow in a crisis where new housing is known to be ‘severely unaffordable.” Utilising Baugruppe’s transparent methodologies and deliberative design methods, Nightingale Housing is reinventing living in urban centers.
Facade of Nightingale 1 in Brunswick, Melbourne with Breathe Architecture
Courtyard of Nightingale 1 in Brunswick, Melbourne with Breathe Architecture
Mehr als Wohnen (More Than Housing) is another holistic approach to urban development that provides its own revolutionary response to the crisis of inaccessibility to inner city new housing. Situated in Zürich, Mehr als Wohnen is an ambitious housing co-operative method funded by fifty small co-operatives who banded together to support the project. Mehr als Wohnen, designed by a collaboration between 5 architectural practices, seamlessly knits together an area of urban space. Rather than relying on larger land space, the project is designed to flow through existing topography in a coherent response to the multifunctional requirements of its occupants. Rather than an ‘estate’, the resulting project weaves throughout the city and provides built environments for residential, commercial and green space. Provisions are made for workspaces and subsidies provided to low-income earners in an effort to attract diversity in its residents whilst breathing new life into what was once a neglected neighbourhood.
Mehr Als Wohnen, House G, Zurich. POOL Architekten
Mehr Als Wohnen, Model, Zurich. POOL Architekten
Whilst Baugruppe and Mehr als Wohnen are but two of the ambitious urban housing development methods currently re-interpreting the fabric of high-density living, the scope and relevance of what they are achieving is huge. Their similarly aligned ideas of flexible and multi-functional design provide subsequent flexibility in affordability, whilst their literal response to the changing social landscape ensure they are constantly shifting and evolving to meet the unique requirements of their communities.
Words: Tiffany Vidinopoulos