10 Projects That Showcase the Future of Affordable Housing

These projects redefine how affordable housing responds to its users and environment.

Nathan Bahadursingh Nathan Bahadursingh

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When thinking about those urgent issues, one at the forefront of public consciousness is the question of affordable housing. Providing adequate amounts of public housing and improving the living standards of its occupants is a perpetual challenge for governments around the world. Some have been able to provide the quantity and others the quality, while others have struggled to provide either. Recently, however, there have been refreshing approaches to affordable housing design and construction, giving rise to architecture that weaves these much needed qualities together.

New trends in affordable housing include the creation of open, adaptable spaces, the rise of modular and prefabricated construction and the development of projects that respond more sensitively to their surrounding environment. The common thread, though, remains the goal of minimizing construction costs while adequately addressing the needs of residents. The following affordable housing projects — many of which are past winners of Architizer’s iconic A+Awards program — managed to pull it off, and provide inspiration for future developments:

Collective Living: New Forms of Affordable Housing for Relocalized Farmers in China by gad·line+studio, Hangzhou, China
2017 A+Awards Jury Choice Award

This project addresses the increasing urban-rural disparity in China. Assigned by the municipal government of Hangzhou in China, the project aims to provide 15,300 square meters of affordable housing for 50 households in Dongziguan Village.

The main challenge here was to design and construct quality housing for relocalized farmers with a small budget, while maintaining their original lifestyle of collective living. The design and planned layout was informed by information collected from discussions with families. The buildings possess a vernacular language, with special attention given to the distinctive roof details.

affordable housingSocial Housing Z53 by MICHAN ARCHITECTURE, Azcapotzalco, Mexico
2015 A+Awards Popular Choice Award

This project is located in an area with high demand for social housing in Mexico City. The 42 units are placed in three towers, generating interior courtyards for views and natural ventilation for each apartment. They are connected by two vertical cores and bridges above the patios. The masonry brick walls play an important role as they are a part of the structure and re-interpret the traditional brick wall.

This blurs the boundary between structure and ornament. The constraints of the project, such as budget, materials, structure, and density generated new spatial qualities that respond to the local aesthetic. The limitations altogether produced new alternatives and relations between technology and tradition.

affordable housingAffordable Housing in Zürich for the Baechi Foundation by Gus Wüstemann Architects, Zürich, Switzerland

This housing project is a building of nine flats in the outer green belt of Albisrieden in Zurich, Switzerland. The core aim of the project was to provide a greater quality of living, with natural light, privacy and generous space being key elements of the development. By shifting the focus away from typical housing standards and installations and use raw, exposed materials instead, the architects were able to provide open yet cosy spaces at a low cost.

The Iceberg by JDS ARCHITECTS, SeARCH, CEBRA, Aarhus, Denmark
2013 A+Awards Jury Choice Award

This is part of the Aarhus Harbor development, which seeks to help Denmark’s second largest city develop in a socially sustainable way by renovating its old and decommissioned container terminal. A third of the Iceberg’s 200 apartments are designated as affordable rental housing, aimed at integrating a diverse social profile into the new neighborhood development. The varying heights of the buildings ensure each dwelling is supplied with natural lighting and waterfront views.

Longnan Garden Social Housing Estate by Atelier GOM, Shanghai, China

For this project, the architects aimed to combine permeable courtyards with more private, enclosed spaces to provide different options for residents. There are eight buildings in the estate, which abandons the typical models of, high-rise, low-density, and determinant residential estates. The gradually descending roofs create rich activity spaces, acting as gardens and observation decks, while allowing more sunlight to reach the courtyard.

15 Social Housing in Aigues Mortes by Thomas Landemaine Architects, Aigues-Mortes, France

This collective housing project is located in a factory estate characterized by architecture with a modern style. The main challenge of this project was to conciliate cost, comfort, aesthetic, social and environmental needs. Wooden materials were used to give the project an identity that distinguishes it from its surrounding context. These materials come together to form loggias, which create intimate outdoor spaces. The wood emphasizes a feeling of warmth and interiority, while also acting as a literal filter for light and air.

71 Social Housing Units by Mobile Architectural Office, JTB. architecture, La Courneuve, France

This collaborative project is a regeneration of the Cité des 4000, which was originally built in 1956. The transformation sought to suppress the effect of uniform and impersonal blocks and give meaning to the public space with a true human dimension.

Through a detailed analysis of the community to establish cultural, economic, urban and architectural expectations, the development considered the landscape and its appropriation by residents. This is reflected through the spatial layout of the new buildings. The varying sizes and configuration of the housing blocks avoid monotony, allow ample sunlight to enter and maximize views for each housing unit.

Photo by Jaime Navarro

Social Housing Prototype by TACTIC-A, Apan, Mexico

This is 1 of 32 rural housing prototypes constructed through INFONAVIT’s investigation center for sustainable developments (CIDS). The project was designed to use as few components as possible to keep it economical, while being as adaptable as possible in relation to its own materiality. The floor and walls were fabricated using traditional construction materials, and the remaining elements are modular. This modularity decreases the overall cost and allows the configuration to be based on the needs of the residents.

Photo by Rafael Gamo

Project Housing No. 8 by Pérez Palacios Arquitectos Asociados, Apan, Mexico

This project is also part of INFONAVIT’s investigation center for sustainable developments (CIDS). The main objective of this structure was to provide a home that meets the needs of its residents, while also responding to the climatic conditions.

The house is divided into two volumes that demarcate private and public functions. The home was built in modules, which allows it to grow over time if needed. Each of the house’s walls have a concrete floor to withstand the local humidity. The roof reflects the vernacular style of surrounding rural houses, as does the traditional rainwater drainage system.

Granny Pad by Best Practice Architecture, Seattle, Washington
2019 A+Awards Jury Choice Award

While technically part of a private residence, this project explores a different kind of “affordable” housing challenge: The need for a budget-conscious family to expand their residence to accommodate aging family members. To meet the client’s needs, the existing garage of this 571-square-foot detached dwelling was transformed into a lofty, open living space.

To accommodate the decreased mobility associated with aging, the living area needed to be all on one level. The home’s lofted space and carefully placed windows come together to make the small Granny Pad feel much larger.

Architects: Want to have your project featured? Showcase your work through Architizer and sign up for our inspirational newsletters.

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