Affordable housing around the world, Residential architecture, Social housing

10 well-designed social housing projects from around the world

At a recent roundtable held by Middle East Architect at Cosentino’s showroom in Dubai Design District, various architects discussed the region’s need for a new residential typology that would classify as social housing.

And while traditional forms of social housing haven’t been particularly explored in the GCC, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, recently instructed municipality officials to work on housing plans to meet the needs of the UAE’s citizens. Municipality officials were instructed to coordinate with relevant authorities to devise the plan.

A separate programme to revamp old neighbourhoods in Dubai would also be prepared as part of the Crown Prince’s directives. The programme would incorporate modern planning standards, while also maintaining “the distinctive character of those areas”, UAE news agency, WAM, reported.

While time will tell how this programme will respond to the market demands of more affordable housing in the emirate, and whether or not such initiatives will have a positive influence on neighbouring countries, designMENA collects 10 examples of social housing projects from around the world that prove such accommodation can be design-driven. A more comprehensive list can be found on Best MSW Programs.

Harold Housing Project. Paris, France

Completed in 2008 by architecture studio Jakob + MacFarlane, the Harold Housing Project came with a set of challenges including land rules, building restrictions and tree preservation orders. Divided into three separate apartment blocks, the structures are connected via a network of pathways. Each eco-conscious building contains 100 apartments and all three blocks have green roof elements and rooftop solar-powered heating systems that provide the buildings with more than half of their hot water.

Tetris Apartments. Ljubljana, Slovenia

Designed by local firm OFIS Architects, the Tetris Apartments consist of cost-effective, but good quality materials like granite tiles and oak flooring. Completed in 2007, the four-story structure’s balconies are arranged in such a way as to maximise views and ensure the privacy of each tenant. And allowing for individual customisation, only the main walls of the units are structural, while the rest can be repositioned as desired.

Vivazz, Mieres Social Housing. Asturias, Spain

Designed by French-Belgian design studio Zigzag Architects, the Vivazz, Mieres project maintains a connection to nature. While the outward-facing sections of the structure are made of corrugated steel, their inward-facing counterparts feature a ‘double skin’ featuring large windows and wooden shutters and the open spaces in the design allow natural light to enter and air to circulate. Complementing the views of the surrounding mountainscape, the development makes use of solar power and passive solar energy. Completed in 2010, the project was highly commended at the AR+D Awards for Emerging Architecture in 2011.

Monterrey Housing. Nuevo León, Mexico

Located in Monterrey in the state of Nuevo León, this housing project was designed by Chilean architecture practice Elemental, and won a 2011 INDEX design prize. The reinforced concrete units were design to allow for occupants to customise their spaces themselves depending on their personal budgets. For example, the empty spaces between the units provide space for future expansion and only the essential parts of the homes, like the kitchens and bathrooms, come ready built. According to the architects, the ability to modify the spaces gives residents the feeling of ownership.

Social Housing for Mine Workers. Asturias, Spain

Built in the Spanish mining town of Cerredo, Asturias, this housing project has been the area’s first residential project built in 25 years. Designed by Zon-e, the complex consists of two perpendicular blocks designed to complement the surrounding countryside and the nearby Cantabrian Mountains — views of which are provided through the windows. Completed in 2009, each apartment has a different floor plan, and all benefit from cross ventilation.

Honeycomb Apartments. Izola, Slovenia

Located in Izola, the southwestern part of Slovenia, the Honeycomb Apartments were designed by architecture studio OFIS, which was awarded a Slovenia Housing Fund Award in a competition. Consisting of two blocks that boast views of the Izola Bay on one side and the rolling hills on the other, the project offers residents shade and open-air access with well-ventilated balconies. Residents can also customise the interior of their apartments, while the coloured fabric shades above the outdoor spaces provide privacy. Completed in 2006, the project contains 30 apartments in each block.

Pearcedale Parade. Melbourne, Australia

Located in a suburb of Melbourne called Broadmeadows, the Pearcedale Parade by the Victoria-based branch of CH Architects was funded by the Brumby Labor government and Yarra Community Housing, a non-profit body committed to providing affordable accommodation. Completed in 2010, the development consists of 88 cross-ventilated units. It also features solar-powered hot water and heating.

Savonnerie Heymans. Brussels, Belgium

The Savonnerie Heymans social housing project is an attempt to create an entire environmentally friendly neighborhood consisting of public housing. Designed by local firm MDW Architecture, the development comprises various apartment types, from lofts to duplexes — all of which incorporate energy-efficient qualities, like solar power and rainwater harvesting. Consisting of 42 units, the complex was completed in 2011. It won a 2012 Prix Bruxelles Horta Award and earned a special mention at the 2012 Belgian Building Awards.

Elmas Social Housing. Sardenia, Italy

Reflecting the colours of the Mediterranean, the Elmas Social Housing project by 2+1 Officina Architettura features differently spaced and sized windows to “create a vibrant and binomial play of open-closed.” Featuring a walkway balcony with brise-soleil screening used for climate control, the development’s shutters on the north side shield against chilly winds. Opting for cost-effective and long-lasting materials, the architects also incorporated a courtyard and ground floor duplexes.

Hatert Housing. Nijmegen, Netherlands

Located in Nijmegen, Hatert Housing is part of the government’s plan to revamp local housing. Designed by Rotterdam-based studio 24H Architecture, the structure houses 72 apartments as well as a health care centre on the ground floor. The non-aligned balconies feature railings inspired by leaf patterns and offer residents uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape. Completed in 2011, the building applies  throughout that is FSC certified and each apartment receives plenty of natural sunlight.