A'foldable Housing

A’foldable Housing is a play on words for affordable housing. We use creative workshopping techniques to engage various stakeholders of the housing industry with alternate perspectives. Our attempt is to use off the wall ideas and speculative environment building  to widen participants frame of scope with regards to housing solutions, seeing the problem through a different guise.

Before getting to this point, our research took us to a healthcare and homelessness conference, to Lewisham county council and to three community support groups that helped people who had become homeless.

We volunteered our services, cooking and cutting hair, in exchange for conversation and spoke to the different groups of professionals to hear what they were doing about the problem, why they were doing it and to hear what they thought could be done. 

The intentions of services provided from the top down were clearly out of sync with what those who needed help expected from them. This seemed to a communication problem mixed the dilemma of compromising individual needs with scale and available funding. However, for the people trying to find a place to live, this came across as a system that was deliberately designed to repress them whilst hiding behind the false pretence of 'caring'.

This three way balancing act that causes ingrained distrust is a turbulent problem that needs to be addressed systematically, especially at the point of service with the user. But we noticed another problem that actually concerned us even more. 

This seemed really sad. These were people who were applying themselves to help but had been subdued and diminished by the legislative and capital barriers that had grated them down over the years. We hoped that by generating unthinkable, ridiculous solutions, and setting a childlike scene of imaginative freedom that we could reinvigorate the field of possibility for new ideas and open the Overton Window. To give others the opportunity to be forward thinking in their designs rather than being subject to standard discourse. 

I mention standard discourse here because from developers to the council, each group seemed to have gotten stuck in the groove of their rehearsed arguments. This is something we wanted to break away from.

the overton  window

There was a shared belief from everyone we spoke to that any efforts were futile:

That this problem could not be fixed.

We we looked at a few different subjects for the workshop: development laws, home sharing, and place finding services. Development sparked the most debate, so that became the motive. 

We wanted to get council members, developers and a few public participants in the same room, so that we could utilise the insight of experts and because it was the professional stakeholders who would gain the most from a fresh perspective. But unfortunately we couldn't get any professional participant involved. (Maybe with more time outside of the confines of university this could have been different.)

To subvert the repetition of rehearsed routes of discourse and taking the participants out of character and into a naive state of creative freedom where they each have to argue both sides of the  argument without bias.This was achieved by using a fictional space where participants needed to be provided housing solutions for different neighbouring animals with different needs. Followed by extrapolation of core values and then bringing it back to reality to realise how these principals effect real people in an urban landscape and collaging their final proposals.

The fictional realm

Extrapolation of values

Back to reality

World Building

Landscape of change 

(1) Participant chose an animal and then became that animal. They were tasked to consider the unique needs of sed animal then quickly draw their animal house. Moving onto a bigger sheet of paper they next had to work together to draw a landscape/community that catered for all their specific needs.

(2) Armed with their learnings from the last exercise they had to extrapolate the core values and creative infrastructure from their community and (3) apply them to the context of a human city with many more inhabitants. What would this look like, how could you apply your ideas to real world problems, what is happening in this fictional world?

(4) Now they could use collage to illustrate this narrative and describe (5) what current day problems they were addressing with their speculation + how could this be implemented in real life.

Example proposals
Unthinkable -
Duplicate London

Buildings either built up or on stilts

Avoiding permanent shade anywhere

Elevated electromagnetic autonomous highway

Reduces fuel emissions, saves space, safe

Housing supply overtakes demand, property prices decrease, land tax can be introduced to restore assets

Opportunity for engineers, architects, designers, construction, developers, start up business’ and anthropological work etc.

Saturate London
Ridiculous - 

Uses spaces between detached houses.

Proposal to make London a car free zone improving air quality and creating space for affordable housing

Predetermined spaces can easily use off site construction.

Opportunity to promote future thinking technologies -boosting tourism  - Setting a metropolistic example

Rooftop gardens and green roads.

Her Majesties homelessness scheme
Radical -

Once a property is vacant 11 years it becomes part of the crown estate

The crown estate owns 312 vacant properties in london

We estimate this equates to 546 flats

Properties already exist

Minimal cost

Properties are often large and high quality

Housing families who could spend years on social housing waiting lists

Properties in affluent areas

Good transport links for work or family

Sets a high bar for social housing

Social influence

Being in the Queen's name generates public awareness

Incentivising landlords  to build into Air space
Acceptable -

It’s extremely profitable to develop into airspace.

The extension can improve building quality; better insulation, rooftop gardens, solar panels

The profitability of these developments may prompt larger properties owners such as supermarkets to only develop luxury housing to increase capital.

This can be combated with policies like: inclusionary zoning which establishes quotas for new developments to sell or rent at submarket prices, in return for a density bonus allowing them to build over regulatory limits

Provides an ethical USP to the supermarket that first utilises the opportunity.

These images come from the a set of flat pack buildings that we gave away to the public in return for voting on what proposal they thought was feasible.

The workshop is an on going method for it's own improvement. with every iteration we analyse the participants responses to our actions so that we can improve the next one.

The workshop simultaneously educates the public to the causes of homelessness, and inspires a new alternate way of thinking about creating more affordable homes. 

The outcomes for which are being displayed on our blog 'Housing Thirst' where we are using as a platform to spread the idea's and encourage others to think in a similar way.

Feel free to contact me with any queries or for more information. 

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