Economies of Scale: Housing Crises and the Architecture of Large-Scale Responses
Due to a lack of affordable housing, Europe faces a crisis. The financialisation of housing, combined with an ageing demographic and changing living habits, makes access to housing in cities particularly difficult. Housing provision is often addressed through small-to-medium-sized infill strategies that ‘massage’ the numbers without disruption to existing settlements nor living types. One major variable, not yet fully investigated from an architectural perspective, is the effect that a building’s scale can have on the affordability and the architecture of domestic space, leveraged through the introduction of new technologies, spatial organisations and living patterns.
On a macro-economic level, this project aims to investigate the role that institutions have played in the scaling up of housing through a comparison of three historic housing crises and their policy responses. London serves as the geographic context for the study, as an extreme example of the contemporary housing crisis and its history of addressing the problem in a capitalist system. The study will look specifically at housing developments during the Industrial Revolution, Interbellum and post-World War Two periods. On a microeconomic level, this project aims to investigate the relationship between building scale, affordability and architecture through a case study of an innovative housing model in each period. By comparing the financial, architectural and technical aspects of case study projects to the status quo of their time and place, this research project will demonstrate the critical role that scale can play, bringing to light overlooked figures such as planners, developers and constructors that contribute to the architecture of housing. The project will also develop a projective strategy for today’s crisis to test the potential that scale could play in architectural production. Bridging the fields of architecture, housing, finance and economy with spatial strategies, policy suggestions and quantitative analysis, this could potentially open new directions to the discourse and new agency to architectural practice.
PhD student working on this project: Jesse Honsa
Supervisor: Martino Tattara
image: Walter Gropius (1931) “Flach-, Mittel- oder Hochbau?” Schweizerische Bauzeitung 97/98.