Sumit Singhal loves modern architecture. He comes from a family of builders who have built more than 20 projects in the last ten years near Delhi in India. He has recently started writing about the architectural projects that catch his imagination.
Hallway House in Beijing, China by NL Architects
March 27th, 2012 by Sumit Singhal
Article source: NL Architects
‘Housing with a Mission’ – Affordable Housing for the Ants Tribe NAi and VANKE, Huilongguan, Beijing 2011
The Dutch Architecture institute (NAi) together with Housing Corporation VANKE has organized a Sino-Dutch collaboration in social housing. Five Chinese and five Dutch architecture firms have created new concepts for high-quality affordable housing on a site in Huilongguan, Beijing.
Urbanus, Standard, NODE, O-Office and CAFA University, NL Architects, Arons en Gelauff, NEXT, KCAP and BARCODE collectively conceived a set up and the urban plan was further developed by KCAP.
The current generation of college graduates in China faces numerous difficulties; it is hard to find good jobs and hard to find affordable housing. The term Ants Tribe, coined by Lian Si, professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, was meant to describe a group of smart but individually insignificant young people who draw strength by gathering together in large communities.
In order to meet the demands for this type of young urban professionals construction has to be radical: as condensed and efficient as possible.
The requested residential units are small, very small. Starting point for our investigations were two types: one of 21m2 and the other of 14m2…
Residential developments in China have one common demeanor: all apartments face south. The site however was not meant for housing: this fundamental rule does not apply. The compound can be considered a group of long-stay hotels.
This gave the opportunity to play with orientation and to experiment with alternative urban arrangements. On a basement with parking 10 blocks are placed with different depths. The alternating narrow and bulky buildings cause the 6 meter wide street in-between them to meander. The particular dimensions are intended to create a form of protection from the sun and aspire to generate a sense of intimacy and togetherness: a ‘heap’.
Almost 1000 units have to be divided over the 10 buildings. The maximum height is 18 meters. A lottery decided on which block would be designed by which architect.
The compactness of the apartments leads to considerable density -lots of people on a small footprint- but also to ‘outsourcing’ of certain aspects of living. Meeting people, cooking and dining, laundry, storage…
These two particular aspects will form a base for lively city life. In order to accommodate this intense ‘urbanity’, the first two layers of each block are reserved for a rich variety of commercial functions.
Hallway-House is a mathematical game:
The given envelope measures 42.6 x 21.6 x 18m. Of each block at least 3 corners should be defined, 50 % of the roof area has to be build.
The first 2 layers are dedicated to retail, each 4,5m high. They occupy precisely 50% of the volume.
The other half of the block is residential: in principle 3 layers of apartments of each 3m high fit on top of this commercial base.
The master plan describes that it is obliged to reduce 22% of floor area, 1/5th of the total number of square meters should be ‘carved out’. As such creating enough room to ‘play’, this oversized volume can now envelop collective spaces or courtyards.
By making the apartments deep and slender, as opposed to the perhaps more obvious square footprint, the required number of units actually fits in two layers.
As such one layer can be skipped…
But 18 meter is also the minimum height! By enlarging the height of the units to 4,5 meters this regulation can be met. As such a truly radical apartment comes into being.
By raising the floor height to 4,5m, daylight will enter deeper into the room. The exceptionally high ceiling generates a spacious atmosphere.
Instead of investing in the semi-public space of the building the private unit is maximized. The footprint is still minute but the headroom sensational. Luxury in the 3rd dimension!
Moreover, the extra height gives the opportunity to create additional horizontal surfaces. Different levels can be created for sleeping, working, relaxing, hiding… A space comes into being that challenges the user to interact. Each unit is a blank sheet, a void waiting to be occupied…
So, in spite of the seemingly rigid, cell like organization each room will be unique. Hallway House is a form of mass customization. It will be created by the users, for the users, according to their individual desires.
In the framework of the Shenzhen Biennial the Dutch Architecture institute (NAi) organized and exhibition about the project: “Housing with a Mission”.
The entire project was built in 1:15 scale.
“Housing with a Mission” received the Shenzhen Biennial ‘Special Award’
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