Living in the city: exemplary social and affordable housing design

Showcasing exemplary social and affordable housing design by International and Australian architectural firms and researchers, curated by Lacaton & Vassal, 2021 Pritzker Prize Laureates and the Rothwell Co-Chairs, and the Sydney School of Architecture, Design & Planning.

“Inhabiting is the most wonderful challenge for contemporary architecture.”

Lacaton & Vassal

Launching their appointment with the Rothwell Chair Symposium 2021 – Living in the City a free, online event which showcased exemplary social and affordable housing design by International and Australian architectural firms and researchers, with an emphasis on engaging the real political, financial and planning contexts.

As a key issue in making the city comfortable, welcoming and affordable, Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal want to highlight the quality of housing. They defend the principle of generosity of space as a critical condition for living well in big cities.

“Every dwelling should be like a villa,” is the aim of all their housing projects. In each, through winter gardens and balconies that enable inhabitants to conserve energy and access nature during all seasons, they increase the amount of living space exponentially and inexpensively. This is their rule that they systematically apply to the creation of new housing as well as through the transformation of all existing buildings, which they see as an immense, unique opportunity.

“Transformation is the opportunity to do more and better with what already exists.” They oppose demolition that they consider an enormous waste, of energy, of material, of history … and with a profoundly negative social impact.

The Pritzker jury citation echoes The Rothwell Symposium topic: “By prioritising the enrichment of human life through a lens of generosity and freedom of use, … this benefits the individual socially, ecologically and economically, aiding the evolution of a city.

Anne Lacaton and Jean Philippe Vassal. Image courtesy of Laurent Chalet.

Session 1 – Living in the city: transformation, intensification

This introductory session will focus on conditions that provide us with good and affordable housing in cities: generosity of space; freedom of use; appropriation of what exists; smart relationships with the climate. Transformation offers this opportunity. To make-do with and to transform allows us to do much more with less.

Keynote lecture: Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal
Moderator: Catherine Lassen

Session 2 – Re-thinking housing models: Victoria

What new typologies offer improved social, spatial, environmental and economical alternatives to the current familiar affordable housing modes? This session will present some contemporary local projects with shifted realisation strategies that have helped to promote more generous, community driven, well designed and affordable living conditions.

Presentations: Clare Cousins, Quino Holland, Rob McGauran
Moderator: Roderick Simpson, architect and urbanist.

Session 3 – Re-thinking housing models

Which new housing typologies respond to inhabitant’s expectations in terms of quality of life, environmental criteria and economy? This session will present interesting contemporary projects sustained by research into new typologies but will also refer to modernity through ‘historical’ examples that brought together both an innovative housing proposal and an ‘enlightened’ commission, for example in France, Ivry sur Seine housing by architects Gailhoustet and Renaudie.

Presentations: Irénée Scalbert, Sophie Delhay Architecte, Christophe Hutin
Moderator: Kate Goodwin

Session 4 – new propositions, questioning politics, planning and policy

What are some of the economic, planning and policy questions in proposing new architectural and urban designs for local affordable housing?

Presentations: Peter John Cantrill, Professor Nicole Gurran, Future Method Studio
Moderator: Olivia Hyde

Session 5 – new propositions, questioning cost-per-square-metre and generosity

It is necessary today to rethink how we want to live. What do we expect from living space? How can we find conditions to create innovative and affordable housing in cities (in the sense of the amount of space and the quality of life it provides), while many large cities are now demolishing existing housing in favor of unaffordable ‘investment’ housing? This session will highlight experiences from innovative and qualitative affordable housing solutions and innovative modes of realization in Europe.

Presentations: Anne Lacaton & Jean Philippe Vassal, Andreas Hofer, Florian Köhl
Moderator: Hannes Frykholm