project: Universalities in Social Housing


This project began as an application for the 2011 Kohn Pederson Fox Traveling Fellowship, which essentially sponsors student research in which recipients travel to obtain research for a presentation and exhibit of their findings on a topic important and relevant to architecture and modern society. While I was not a recipient of the award, it has become a personal goal to complete the project over the coarse of my career and through my travels.


While having worked on various types of projects throughout my education thus far, my main architectural interests lie in housing. Architecturally designed housing has seen many changes through history, but elements of public social housing that have proven to be consistent, successful, and desired by the people who live in such projects can be and should be studied. Housing is a constant that remains always important for people, and therefore through studying firsthand the architecture of these projects, I intend to learn what truly makes a livable housing community.

I have identified six major cities in four countries that warrant a closer study of housing situations.


My proposed itinerary takes me through the European cities of Madrid and Barcelona, Spain; Frankfurt and Berlin, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and Venice, Italy. Each of these cities has numerous examples of historical and modern housing projects.


Madrid offers an introduction to the works of Spanish architect Jose Antonio Coderch, who built many projects during 1960 and 1970. The Girasol apartments, for instance, adapt the large single-family dwelling to a multi-family living situation. Modern housing projects in Madrid include the Celosia Building and Mirador Building by MVRDV, 168 VPP en Carbanchel by Coco Arquitectos, and the recent Madrid Housing by Morphosis Architects. These modern examples explore the fundamental desire of people to have individuality and identity of their home.


In a previous trip to Barcelona, I identified an area south of the Zoologico de Barcelona and bordering the Ronda del Litoral that had developed into an urban void. I had considered redeveloping this area for my thesis project, and studying the high-density housing surrounding it, as well as housing projects by Coderch and Gaudi, warrant a return to Barcelona.


Northern Germany has many projects from the early 1900’s that are essential to understanding housing needs. Ernst May designed many projects in Frankfurt, such as Siedlung Romerstadt and Praunheim that function as semi-independent communities with supporting active program. Science

City Frankfurt Riedberg is an urban project about 10 minutes outside of Frankfurt that will also serve as an independent community. In Berlin, Bruno Taut comes to mind with the 1920’s project Britz Hufeisensiedlung, as well as the Lindenstrasse Apartments by Kollhoff, Hans & Arthur Ovaska.


Vienna saw a major demand for social housing following World War I, where the middle class found their war bonds no longer valuable and were forced into poverty. The inflation, poverty, and the Tenant Protection Act of 1917 facing the so-called "Red Vienna" created a high demand for affordable housing. The Karl Marx-Hof by Karl Ehn was a major project resulting from this period that integrated transit with the massive building. Rupert Falkner’s Bezirk and numerous projects by Baumschlager Eberle and Delugan Meissl Associated Architects also serve as viable housing examples within Vienna.


Venice presents a unique situation: the confines of urban space because of canals, historic buildings, and structural problems make housing an interesting study of any time period in Venice. While historic examples are numerous, more modern examples include a project by Gregotti, Cino Zucchi, Ignazio Gardella, and Boris Podrecca. Many of these projects are built on the Isola Giudecca, and I am curious to discover why.


In conclusion, these European cities offer many examples of what elements compose successful housing. I believe a comparison of historical housing projects, vernacular architecture, cultural issues, and modern examples would offer insight into successful residential design.




This portion of project: Universalities in Social Housing is under construction. Please check back soon for updates.

© 2013 - 2019 Nathaniel H Rice. All rights reserved.

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