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A Comparative Study of British and European Housing Schemes

Housing and Social Cohesion U30099: An Architectural Dissertation Bryony R. Henson 09030228 January 2012

09030228 Bryony Henson

Contents PART I



4: Paris, France

7: Power of Three


1: British Housing History of housing and social design

2: Unsocial Housing Social Stigmatisation

3: Social Housing Management

Les Banlieues UnitÊ d’habitation

5: Vienna, Austria Reumann Hof Werkbund Estate Neue Donau Estate

6: Madrid, Spain El Mirador

Contemporary design approaches


Contents Introduction

A century of British socio-political housing schemes reveals an urban landscape into which social division

has been designed (Hanley, 2007, p.18). In 2012, these social divisions continue to worsen as economy declines and lower income households suffer from the decrease in public sector employment (Panorama, 2011). For as long as economic divisions hinder social cohesion, mixed-income communities are essential to ensuring that private and council households enjoy equal social opportunities. Instead, lower-income households depend upon social housing that not only fails to meet their household’s needs but geographically isolates them from society (Graham and Clarke, 1998, p.158). Consequently, social discontent in Britain’s urban areas is highest where the need for affordable and sustainable housing (both private and social) is most urgent. In 2011 the extent of Britain’s social discontent peaked as August riots raised further questions upon the management of the welfare system that its society is founded upon. This ‘social explosion’ (The Independent, 2012) presented Britain with a physical embodiment of the social dissatisfaction that has been designed into the walls of its social housing (Rykwert, 2011, cited in Murray, 2011). As economy and social fractures worsen, further pressure is placed upon the government to provide affordable housing that meets its users’ changing needs and crucially, improves social content. The demands are high and so the necessity to evaluate the current design and management of housing, particularly social housing, is imperative to securing and improving Britain’s social fractures (Rykwert, 2011, cited in Murray, 2011).

This study aims to identify design approaches from a century of European private and social housing that

could be used to dispel the stigmatisation of British social housing and on a larger scale, form mixed-communities through its housing design and management. Part I covers a history of British housing design and explores its affect upon modern society. Chapter 1 begins by discussing how the design of today’s society has been informed by past housing movements. The relationship between housing design and management is instrumental to establishing why social dissatisfaction has been designed into the walls of British social housing. Hence, prolific British housing movements will be visited in order to establish the social effects that arose from their methods of design and management. Chapter 2 and 3 brings us to the present day where a study will be made on the effects that a declining economy has upon the management and stigmatisation of today’s social housing.


Part II visits housing schemes in France, Austria and Spain where the design of social and urban planning is

managed very differently. Examples of prolific housing from each country will identify specific design techniques that have either positively or negatively contributed to forming a sustainable community. These design techniques will then be discussed in Part III where we turn to the future design of British social housing. Chapter 7 will provide a discussion of the contemporary design approaches of British architects that will be compared to those of European projects to inform a concluding chapter on the findings of this study. It is necessary to note that because the topic of housing and community is subject to many changeable factors, neither regional nor ethnic factors will be discussed as these subjects require studies of their own. Finally, whilst it is not the intention of this study to offer a fixed formula to mending Britain’s social fractures it is the author’s intention to emphasise the increasing importance of housing design to mixed communities by collating design techniques that could aid their future design.


PART I CHAPTER 1: BRITISH HISTORY A History of British Housing Design and Social Division

“One of the greatest changes of modern society has been the



of the classes in Britain…The rise of council estates and the bourgeoisie’s flight to suburbia have introduced an unintended social zoning into the cities.” Mount (2004), p.86

One of Britain’s earliest social movements arrived

Garden Cities were intended to provide an ideal model

during the Victorian slum-clearance of London’s inner-

for the suburban home away from industrial urbanity

city workers where there the dire living conditions of

(Towers, 1995, p.25). Recognising the importance of

dense terraced housing determined the Housing of the

greenery to aid healthy and self-sufficient communities

Working Classes Act.The Act specified the re-housing of

(Colquhoun, 1999, p.3), Howard implemented private

industry workers to state-funded dwellings (Graham

gardens and green parks into his town plans. In-keeping

and Clarke, 1998, p.158) encouraging state schemes

with Howard’s principle to combine the best elements of

such as the Boundary Estate, Bethnal Green that were built to improve sanitary living conditions. For the first time in history, state-funding was available to set up housing trusts that were dedicated to improving social conditions; ‘healthfulness, comfort, social enjoyment and economy’ (French, 2008, p.18). As a result of additional plumbing services to communal dwellings, sanitary conditions improved significantly inspiring more councils to consider the health implications of their housing design. The floor plans of the Peabody building, Herne Hill (Fig.1), were dictated by the London Borough of Chelsea’s concern to reduce the risk of disease by the separation of WCs and sculleries from living spaces (French, 2008, p.18). Reduced mortality rates of Peabody Trust residents (French, 2008, p.18) proved the success of regenerative re-housing to improving the health and wellbeing of its residents.

In the private housing sector, Ebenezer Howard’s

pursuit to improve the living conditions of suburban housing informed the Garden Cities Movement (1898).

Fig. 1. Upper Ground Floor of the Peabody Building, Herne Hill, London



p.24). The design of the semi-detached house became

Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker designed the first

enormously popular and provided a fast solution to

Garden City in Letchworth (1905), Hertfordshire. As

the substandard living conditions between 1920-40s.

with the inner city municipal housing blocks, the concern to improve sanitary conditions dictated the floor plans

of Letchworth’s houses. Plumbing services and hot

of municipal housing and garden suburbs that

water supplies were the predominant contributions

social division became distinguishable upon Britain’s

to improving living conditions (French, 2008, p.22)

landscape. Typically, garden suburbs were built next

and so they informed the arrangement of rooms in accordance to water supply. Consequently, living spaces were at the front of the house whilst services, kitchens, WCs and baths remained grouped together at the back.

Howard’s new image of suburbia influenced

housing designs that provided returning World War 1 soldiers with decent homes (Homes Fit For Heroes). The Housing, Town and Planning Act was created to fund a regeneration programme and urge councils to survey the housing needs of their residents (Colquhoun, 1999,

It was during this rapid urban development

to socially inferior council estates causing major social tensions between communities (Towers, 1999, p.25). During the 1930s, the resurrection of the Cuttleslowe Walls, North Oxford demonstrated the extremity of middle and working class division that allowed the wall to exist for 25 years (Towers, 1999, p.25). Nearly 80 years later, the Cuttleslowe Walls continue to exist in the form of gated-communities (Mount, 2004, p.86). Self-sufficient housing estates already surrounded by extensive grounds choose to place additional barriers

p.6). Although regenerative designs were inspired by

around their property. Private facilities such as gyms,

Garden Cities, houses were standardised to allow for

restaurants and even post boxes relieve residents of

reasonable mass production (Towers, 1995, p.23).

the need to leave the safety of their community (Rice,

Consequently, the British semi-detached house was

2004). The incestuous nature of such communities

created. Following Howard’s principles, the semi-

makes residents less inclined to socialise outside of their

detached house accommodated a wider frontage to

complex allowing them to shun social diversity. Similarly

allow for healthier living spaces that received more light

to the Cuttleslowe Walls, the extreme privatisation of

and air and avoided negative connotations with the

gated-communities reflects the remaining unwillingness

narrow-fronted terraces of the slums (Towers, 1995,

of an elitist part of society to live cohesively with others.



country and urban living (French, 2008, p.15), architects

In Central Europe, the 1920s Modernist

the floor plan arrangements of Corbusier’s Unité

Movement was to influence the future of British housing

d’Habitation model. The invention of prefabricated

design for years to come. Designs for collective living in


times of dense urbanisation inspired architects to design

the wide-spread use of multi-storey construction.

larger and predominantly, higher. In France, Corbusier

Additionally, principles of Austro-Hungarian architect,

theorised designs for a multi-storey prototype (Unité)

Adolf Loos concerning the strict use of ornamentation

to house high concentrations of people and liberate

became synonymous of the Modern style and

the urban chaos of the ground below (Curtis, 2010,

informed Kensal House’s undecorated concrete facade.

p.441). His design of the ‘model family-unit’ within a self-

Community principles from the municipal housing

sufficient high-rise community meant the integration

of Red Vienna also informed the design of Kensal

of communal facilities into the design of the Unité

House with central on-site facilities. Public facilities

d’Habitation (French, 2008, p.82). Universally, architects

such as allotments and a playgrounds encouraged

adopted Corbusier’s Unité as a solution to urban density

outdoor socialising and leisure reflecting the Modernist

(Curtis, 2010, p.441) and applied it to cities around the

era’s promotion of healthy and communal life.





world. However, his high-rise concepts were published before the social implications of his designs had been

Whilst Kensal House continues to exist as a

realised yet his principles were already informing the

working example of urban high-rise communal living,

design of 1940’s British housing (Curtis, 2010, p.442).

the common misapplication of multi-storey apartment blocks resulted in disastrous social consequences. Used

Modernist principles emigrated to Britain where

as a fast solution to Britain’s need for high-density

the construction of high-rise apartments rose significantly

housing, multi-storey apartment blocks aided the 1930s

between the 1930s-50s. Five-storey apartments such

slum clearance (Towers, 1995, p.32). Consequently,

as Kensal House (1936) are representative of municipal

the rate of high-rise construction rose dramatically

pre-war housing estates that were specifically built

throughout Britain’s largest cities and the working class

to house working classes. Internally, the separation

were relocated from the decay of inner-city terraced

of services rooms from living spaces in order to

houses to tower blocks on the cities’ peripheries

encourage family leisure (French, 2008, p.72) reflects

(Graham and Clarke, 1998, p.158). Yet insufficient



Brutalist designs of the high-rise estates contrasted

Modernism’s architectural ancestors were achieved.

the landscaped suburbs of the New Towns Movement

Typically, tower blocks were distanced from private

(Graham and Clarke, 1998, p.128) and the two types of

suburban neighbourhoods and became isolated due to

housing came to represent two very different lifestyles.

a sufficient lack of social amenities (Hanley, 2007, p.61).


Unlike the tight-knit communities of the inner city

social high-rise is largley responsible for having

terraces, the enormity of high-rise estates were

determined the social divisions of today’s cities.






impersonal and unfriendly in comparison (Hanley, 2007, p.48). Graham and Clarke’s description (1998, p.159) of this transition as a social and geographical ‘escalator’




in isolated suburbia illustrates the irreversibility of their social exclusion.

It was the speed of construction and lack of

social facilities in British high-rise housing that failed the socialist ambitions of its European relatives. By 1965, the tower block had become Britain’s favouredmethod of social housing construction as they made up approximately half of municipal housing (Merrett, 1979, p.128). Meanwhile, private development continued to favour the ‘all too familiar’ semi-detached house (Colquhoun, 1999, p8) forming urban distinctions on Britain’s urban landscape. The notion of landscaped ‘corridors’ of housing (Graham and Clarke, 1998, p.159) depicts the visual segregation of housing types and their representative social classes. The harsh



care was taken to ensure that the social intentions of

PART I CHAPTER 2: UNSOCIAL HOUSING Perceptions of Social Structure

“How much of the stubborn rigidity of the British class system is down to the fact that class is built into the physical landscape of the country?”

Hanley (2010), p.20

After years of housing and social segregation, the

2011 August Riots dispelled any remaining notion that Britain is a classless society within which the topic of social class is outdated. As higher taxation and jobs cuts continue to drive a further wedge between existing social divisions (Ramesh, 2011), an introduction to British perceptions of social housing and social structure illustrates the importance of mixed-communities to dispel the stigmatisation of social housing.

During this time of economic recession, British

households are presented with limited spatial mobility as many lack the financial freedom to move house.

“As higher taxation and jobs cuts continue to drive a further wedge between




(Ramesh, 2011), it becomes increasingly more important to dispel the


stigmatisation of social housing through the establishment of



Presently, in the private housing sector, rising rent prices and scarce offers of home mortgages makes housing

the welfare system determines prospective tenants to

unaffordable. Consequently, increasing numbers of

minimise their credentials in order to be legally classed

both private and social households cannot afford to

as vulnerable and therefore, more qualified for housing

move house in order to meet their changing needs. If

(King, 2010, p.80). Meanwhile, the Right to Buy Act has

we are to agree with Mount that ‘mobility is the key

enabled financially better-off tenants to purchase larger

both to success and to happiness’ (2010, p.75) then

family properties and leave the public sector (King, 2010,

British society will have little choice but to endure

p.78). Hence, the stereotype of social housing tenants

limited spatial mobility at the expense of meeting the

remains as non-working class which allows for social

needs (‘happiness’) of their households.

stereotyping and further prolongs social acceptance.

Extensive media coverage of events such as the The current management of the welfare system

Broadwater Farm riots (1976) and the recent August

attracts a social stigma that causes both social and

riots (2011) contribute to this social stigmatisation

geographical divisions. It is a common misconception

(Dean and Hastings, 2000, p.4). Consequently, we look

that social provision solely houses a demographic

to Chapter 3 to determine how the true management

defined by media as non-working class (King, 2010, p.81).

of social housing contributes to the formation of mixed

This stigmatisation originates with far-right opinions that





“...ownership means that we are responsible and no one else, and that we can make the decisions ourselves without having to defer to others who have no personal stake in our household.� King (2010), p.6

obligations of private developers and their architects.

management is the resignation of council development

Unfortunately, the reluctance of some housing

to housing associations and private companies (Reeves,

associations to house mixed-income communities

2005, p.3). The transition from council to the private

for fear of producing undesirable purchases (Reeves,

development of housing associations is due to the

2005, p.37) is a possibility. It is in this instance that we

government’s necessity to generate private income

must appeal to architects to engage with communities

(Reeves, 2005, p.32). With a lack of public funding,

in order to voice and realise their housing needs.

councils can only satisfy housing demand by sustaining a low turnover of development in order to engineer

Additionally, the change in social housing

higher demand by recourse to housing associations

management has had an affect upon the quality of

(Reeves, 2005, p.33). The role that local councils now

both existing stock and of new construction. In 2000,

play in housing development is one of enabler; initiating

the government launched the Decent Housing Standard

communications between supplier and purchaser

to improve the unliveable standards of Britain’s social

(Reeves, 2005, p.40) rather than of developer. The

housing as records collected in 1997 showed that

financial shift in social housing construction is evident

2.1 million council owned properties (Homes and

in figures that show only a minor decrease in the

Communities Agency, 2011) did not classify as decent

construction of housing association completions

enough to live in. To officially qualify as decent, a social

compared to the significant decline of council construction

property must meet liveable standards of structural

(Communities and Local Government, 2010, p.xi).

repair, thermal comfort with the provision of modern

facilities (Department for Communities and Local For aslong as housing construction becomes

Government, 2006, p.11-12). Funding from private

increasingly privatised, local councils continue to

developers ensured that by 2010, 92% of Britain’s

have less involvement in housing construction which

social housing had met these standards (National Audit

hinders the possibility of social cohesion. The intention

Office, 2010, p.7.). However, priority funding to improve

of transferring social housing construction from

existing stock has hindered the design of new (post-

councils to private developers is financially viable

2000) housing (King, 2010, p.79) as a CABE report

yet socially flawed. Whilst it used to be the non-

revealed that 82% of new build social housing (2005-7)

profit nature of councils to provide social housing,

rated as unsatisfactorily designed (Story, 2009). Either

community interests now depend upon the moral

social housing is not being designed to standard in the



The most noticeable change to social housing

first place or private landlords/authorities are failing


to maintain their properties to acceptable standards. Either way, British social tenants endure substandard housing until standards decline so much that another regenerative scheme is needed.

The underlying

question here, is why social housing is not being designed properly must be addressed or in the case of this study, how can social housing be designed to standard?




France suffers from some of the worst social segregation in Europe and scenes of Britain’s August riots

are synonymous with the levels of violence that continue to plague Paris’ most deprived suburbs (les banlieues). Although racial, legal and educational factors are predominantly responsible (Sayare, 2011), Paris’ management of social housing is also largely accountable for its worsening social divide.

During the 1950s, high-rise apartments provided a short-term solution to Paris’ housing shortage (Blanc and

Bertrand, 1996, p.125). However, long-term problems arose from Corbusian ideals of the high-rise apartment as a unified community (Unité) (Curtis, 2010, p.441) as the mis-use of high-rise housing formed ghettos of high crime and social exclusion (Rieff, 2007). As crime rates increased, the reputation of housing estates declined to the degree that facilities and businesses migrated whilst transport links to the city centre were terminated (Sayere, 2011). Additionally, poor quality concrete construction brought inevitable dilapidation resulting in the total demolition of some Parisian estates (Sayere, 2011). As noted by Curtis (2010, p.441), the universal application of Corbusier’s were to encourage community living within high-density housing to provide a prototype for rapid urbanisation. However, Parisian suburbs illustrate the extent that neglected high-rise development can cause devastating effects of social isolation. As Parisian ghettos remain to exist today and continue to aid social isolation (Reiff, 2007) the following study seeks to establish how the built reality of Corbusier’s Unité d’ Habitation has failed both his own social ambitions and those of Paris’ social residents.



Unité has only heightened social isolation which is paradoxical to his conception. Corbusier’s ambitions for the Unité

U nit É d ’H abitation


Fig. 3. Facade view, Unité d'Habitation, Berlin

Architect: Le Corbusier Movement: Modernism Construction: 1953 Type: Multi-storey high-rise Facilities: Laundry, créche, kindergarten, hotel, restaurant, bar shops, sick-bay, roof terrace: playground and paddling pool, sports: running Fig. 4. Unité d'Habitation, Berlin

track, open-air gym



Fig. 5. Interior street intended to encourage chance encounters

Corbusier intended the Unité d'Habitation, Marseille, to provide a prototype for communal high-density urban living (Curtis, 2010, p.419) and he was successful, inspiring

Fig. 6. Roof Plan: Terrace accommodates activity

Fig. 7. Floor Plan: Corridors run the length of the Unité

high-rise design principles to be adopted by modernist architects for years to come. His encouragement of the family unit within communal dwelling informed the provision of communal facilities including sport, leisure, commercial and practical facilities (French, 2008, p. 82). By the extensive provision of communal facilities, the Unité represented an all-providing community in which its residents' practical and social needs were catered for. Internally, central corridors through the length

of the Unité provided internal streets (Curtis, 2010, p.449) intended to connect apartments together and encourage neighbourly encounters (fig. 5). Externally, a roof terrace encouraged shared space for families to enjoy outdoor exercise and recreation (fig. 7). A founding principle of the Unité was to offer residents an improved standard of living free from the density of the inner-city (Curtis, 2010, p.439). Corbusier's open


plan floor arrangement allowed for living spaces to receive maximum amounts of sunlight from two sides

16th Storey

(French, 2008, p.82) (fig. 6 and fig. 8) whilst balconies provided additional external living space (Curtis,

13th Storey A

10th Storey

2010, p.439). Heated and air-conditioned services that were new at the time, offered a modern lifestyle. To the present day, Corbusian principles influence the design of high-rise building in cities all over the world. In cities of vast urban growth such as London, Paris, Vienna and Madrid, techniques from Corbusier's Unité answer to increasing rates of urban density. Corbusier had intended the Unité to become a universal formula

Ground Floor Fig. 8. Section: Nor th and South facing windows allow for sufficient light and ventilation

but as noted by Curtis (2010), the misapplication of his principles has led to high-rise estates of social isolation.

Fig. 9. View from the 10th floor (Point A)



5th Storey


“Put people in touch who otherwise would have never met, because they make reality richer, denser, more entangled.� Ganjavian, Portilla-Kawamura, Yamaguchi (2007), p.37


Unlike Britain, Austrian social housing has not achieved the same social stigma. The formation of its housing

policies, allocation and supply rates are very different to those in Britain. It is Vienna’s history of poor social housing during the Settlers Movement (1918) that motivates its state to provide social housing tenants with protective policies on the maintenance of housing standards (Förster, 1996, p.115). Whilst there is a strict nationwide implementation of the Tenancy Act to Austria’s nine provinces (Förster, 1996, p.115), local authorities are mainly responsible for establishing their own housing policies in accordance to their housing needs. Additionally, Austria’s avoidance of hard measure renewal schemes has avoided public unrest (Förster, 1996, p.123). Instead, opting for soft renewal schemes more strongly protects Tenants’ Rights (Förster, 1996, p.123). It is this insurance of tenant protection and the maintenance of standards that ensures that Austrian social housing remains unrivalled in Europe (Förster, 1996, p.123).





of social

Austria’s housing












housing of


policies users.

Within each province, areas are further subdivided into political districts. The subdivision of political power enables communities to more thoroughly meet their housing needs under policies formed specific by their province (Förster, 1996, p.113). The freedom of providence legislation attracts public interest and therefore encourages community participation ensuring that housing interests remain in the control of their local environment.





The formation of mixed-income communities has spared Austria the same stigmatisation as British social

housing. In the social-renting sector income limits dictate who is eligible for social housing but crucially, they remain high enough to ensure that the vast majority of citizens are eligible (Förster, 1996, p.117). In contrast to King’s views of the British welfare system (2010), there remains no emphasis upon especially targeting social housing to the poor but to house them alongside higher income households. Consequently, the integration of social housing is as familiar as the presence of privately owned accommodation. Austria's unique system of social housing management does not mean that the majority of its citizens are reliant upon social housing because whilst the majority are eligible, only a minority require housing benefits in order to afford their rent (Förster, 1996, p.115).

Vienna's Provinces (Bundesländer)



NeueDonau, Donau,Harry Seidler Neue Harry Seidler


Werkbund Estate, Werkbund Adolf Loos Estate, Adolf Rietveld Loos Gerrit Gerrit Rietveld



Reumann Hof, Hof, Herbert Gessner Reumann Herbert Gessner

Fig. 10. Geographic location of housing estates in relation to city centre


R eumann H of

MargaretengĂźrtel 100-110, Vienna


Fig. 11. Street Elevation

Named after the Mayor of Vienna (1919-24),

Jakob Reumann, the Reumann Hof is a typical example

Architect: Herbert Gessner

of Red Vienna social housing. Built to rehouse the working class during the housing regeneration of the

Movement: Red Vienna

post-Settlers' Movement (1918), it was the ambition of the Viennese government to house and improve

Construction: 1924-5

the standard of living for the inner-city slums of Vienna (French, 2008, p.42). To provide a better standard

Type: Multi-storey social housing

of living for Vienna's working class (proletariat), an emphasis upon communal living significantly informed

Facilities: CafĂŠ, kindergarten, public courtyards

the design of the Reumann Hof. Additionally, the


government's movement to strengthen the social

flower beds (fig. 15) detract from the distinction of



financially subsidised housing. Hence, it is difficult to

scale of the palace-like super-blocks, known as

distinguish from its appearance, whether the Reumann

“Palaces of the Proletariat,” (Förster, 2002, p.16).

Hof continues to exist today as social housing.





In spite of its size, the Reumann Hof achieves

a level of intimacy that Corbusier’s Unité Berlin fails to achieve. Situated near the city centre, the central courtyard unifies the estate with the street discouraging


total privatisation of the apartment block.The exterior remains in good condition and in spite of its sheer scale, well-maintained courtyards make the grounds of the Reumann Hof approachable from the pavement. Enclosed courtyards provide residents with private spaces whilst a coffee shop attracts public custom and offers social interaction. The courtyard (hof) is synonymous of the social programme of Red Vienna (French, 2008, p.42) as part of the movement to towards the socialisation of housing (Forster, 2002, p.16). Overlooked by apartments, the courtyards were inspired by modernist architects of the era: Hoffman, Behrens, Frank (French, 2008, p.42). They offer residents private spaces to own whilst encouraging the social cohesion between residents and non-residents. Additional on-site facilities provide residents with additional shared spaces and ensure that their practical needs are met. Ornamental detail in the form of glass lanterns, monumental plaques and well-maintained

Fig. 12. Young boy pushes tricyle around the cour tyard



Fig. 13. Plan of the Estate

Fig. 14. Memorial to Social Democrat, Jakob Reumann

Fig. 15. Communal gardens

Fig. 16. Monumental archways typical of Red Vienna architecture


werkbund estate

Hietzing, Vienna

Entitled ‘The Dwelling’, the Werkbund Exhibitions of the 1920s were born from a shared social ambition (Joedicke,

1989, p.8) to influence the future design of European housing (Joedicke, 1989, p.7). Having enduredWorldWar I, Modernist architects saw the 1920s as an experimental time in which they could surpass elitism and design housing for the masses (Joedicke, 1989, p.8). Branches of the Werkbund Exhibition were produced around Europe including Stuttgart, Vienna and Prague. Prolific architects collaborated in the Werkbund Exhibitions to design housing schemes founded upon Modernist ideals of self-sufficiency and community. This chapter will study houses from the Vienna and Prague estates in order to measure the social outcomes of the design techniques used to accomplish their architects’ social ambitions.


Fig. 17. Weissenhofsiedlung, Stuttgar t Exhibition


13-19 Woinowichgasse, Hietzing

adolf loos

Architect: Adolf Loos

Movement: 1920s Modernism

Construction: 1931

Type: Terraced housing

Loos was a prolific architect of 1920-30s

Fig. 18. Street view

Whilst French denotes that Loos accounts for

Modernism and characteristics of the style were founded

the minimum wastage of space (2010), it is arguable that

upon his design principles of ornament and placement.

double-height rooms deprive residents of additional

He worked for a great revolution in floor plan design

floor space. Whilst double-height rooms make for

seeking to divide living rooms in vertical space as well as

enjoyable spaces, additional rooms with room-length

in floor plan (Kirsch, 1989, p.88). In the design of these

windows would have earned residents more floor space.

terraced houses, Loos has formed vertical connections between floors (Kirsch, 1989, p.90) by doubling ceiling heights. Double-height rooms ensure that living spaces receive the maximum amount of light and room-length windows further emphasise this intention. In contrast, rooms of short-term occupation (through-spaces) have the smallest windows and utility rooms are even situated in the basement. Consequently, Loos pre-determines room occupation by his manipulation of sunlight. Hence, the facades of the terraces reflect the users’ occupation

The terraces’ white facades are typical of

the Modernist style that was informed by Loos’ condemnation of unnecessary ornament (Curtis, 2010, p.71). He advocated ‘true modernism’ in which architectural form was determined only by use (Curtis, 2010, p.71). Similarly to his Steiner House, the terraces exterior are only interrupted by large spanning windows (Curtis, 2011, p.71) to utilise sunlight.

of their rooms.



Facilities: Balcony, basement, double-height living space

14-18 Woinowichgasse, Hietzing

gerrit rietveld

Architect: Gerrit Rietveld Movement: 1920s Modernism Construction: 1930 Type: Terraced housing Flexible design feature: Sliding partition walls


Fig. 19. Street view

Rietveld is well-known for his adaptable designs

Similarly to Rietveld’s Shroder Huis, a spiral stair-

in which users could determine their own interior

case acts as a central core (Schneider and Till, 2007,

spaces (Schneider and Till, 2007, p.20). The replacement

p.57) to these terraces. In contrast to Loos’ use of floor

of permanent interior walls for sliding and folding

plan, Rietveld maximises the amount of floor space by

partitions, allows the residents of Rietveld’s Shroder

distributing rooms around the staircase. Although ceiling

Huis and Werkbund terraces to take control of their

heights remain one storey high, larger more functional

environment (Schneider and Till, 2007, p.152) by either

rooms are created making the occupational programme

subdividing up opening up the ground floor living space.

less defined. Residents therefore have more rooms in

As service areas remain grouped together, the use of the

which to inhabit and personalise to their preference.

surrounding space is left to be adapted and defined by its residents.


N eue D onau E state

Donau, Vienna


Fig. 20. View from Donauinsel Station (U1 Line)

Architect: Harry Seidler Construction: 2001 Architectural Movement: 21st Century Size: 18 storey, 337 apartments (23 different types) Communal Facilities: Kindergarten, 2 community rooms (multi-purpose hall, sauna, gym, terrace), cinema, Fig. 21. Balcony view of central shared spaces

entertainment centre: restaurants, shops, gaming.


Seidler’s design encourages mixed communities through

residents and members of the public. Centrally placed

the inclusion of mixed-income apartments and the

children's playgrounds (fig.21) allow for natural surveillance

provision of communal facilities. It is the collaboration of

and provide public spaces for both children and parents

three different developers that makes it possible for both

to socialise in. In contrast to the Unité. Sneider's external

private and social rented flats to inhabit the same building

ground floor placement of public facilities discourages

(Forster, 2002, p.37) whilst communal facilities ensure that

social isolation by avoiding privatisation. Additionally,

both private and social residents are offered the same

balconies over-looking the central public areas connect

services. Landscaped communal areas provide facilities

residents to ground floor activity in spite of the high

for residents to use and in contrast to the Unité, they

placement of their apartments.

are placed externally so that they are accessible to both Aesthetically, there is little about the Donau Estate that suggests that it exists as social housing. In contrast to not been made ensuring that the Neue Donau Estate remains well-facilitated with transport,leisure centres and landscaped shared spaces.As seen in the French banlieues, insufficient landscaping allows for communal spaces to become neglected and unused but sculptural white walls bisect the otherwise flat landscape of the riverside (Förster, 2002, p.35). Additionally, the waterfront remains as a greenbelt alongside the Danube River providing both aesthetic value and additionally recreational space. Direct transport links ensure that the Neue Donau estate is accessible from the city centre (Förster, 2002, p.40) but it also exists as a positive icon of quality residence in the newly developed Donau district (Förster, 2002, p.41). Whilst the cinema and entertainment complex offers Neue Donau residents social facilities, sufficient transport ensure that the complex is accessible to members of the public (Förster, 2002, p.40). Consequently, Neue Donau residents remain well-connected to the inner-city ensuring Fig. 22. Sculptural walls bisect the landscape

that they do not fall victim to social isolation.



Britain's 1960s high-rise schemes, financial shortcuts have

CHAPTER 6: SPAIN Case Studies


The Spanish management of housing differs to that of the rest of Europe with a distinct absence of

public-rented accommodation (Alberdi and Levenfeld, 1996, p.173) and particularly high levels of homeownership (Alberdi and Levenfeld, 1996, p.170). Consequently, when housing shortages hit Spain in 2003-4, Madrid’s outskirts were turned into a playground for private development in order to meet the demand for denser rented accommodation. Architects from around the world were invited to transform the outskirts of Madrid and provide high-rise housing to accommodate its growing population rate (Alberdi and Levenfeld, 1996, p.184). However, economic collapse in 2008 terminated the completion of construction and landscaping (Bovin, 2009) to leave vast areas of unfinished suburbia. The following case studies will discuss the extent that projects in the districts of Carabanchel and Villa Verde are contributing towards social satisfaction.


Fig. 23 and 24. Undeveloped landscapes of the SeseĂąa district


Madrid's Districts




Carabanchel 16



Celosia 1

El Mirador

Fig. 25. Geographic location of Madrid's housing estates in relation to city centre


E l M irador

Princesa de Eboli, Madrid

To the far north of Madrid’s periphery, MVRDV

and Lleo's Mirador may exist as a response to Madrid’s requirement for dense housing but whilst in wait of completed development, it currently fails to provide sufficient social facilities. Situated in a partially developed site, the 21 storey block is visible for miles as intended in order to provide a landmark for the future of Sancharro’s suburbia (French, 2008, p.222). Accessible by road and


rail, few facilities surround the apartment block at ground level. In keeping with Modernist convention, the highrise apartments liberate the Mirador’s ground level for transport (Curtis, 2010, p.441) and its setting is interupted only by access roads and flat landscaping. Local shops and playgrounds are central to the neighbourhood’s landscape but their distance from surrounding high-rise residences is so vast and impersonal that they do not allow for natural surveillance.

Although there is a distinct lack of communal

facilities at ground level, aspects of MRDVR’s design are intended to encourage internal communities (French, 2008, p.222.).The apar tment block is divided both internally and externally by the grouping of apartment types. Visible from the elevation (fig.26), window types reflect varying plan arrangements whilst differing exterior facades represent varying economic values.


baroness of the landscape below. In spite of housing 152

to represent nine differing communities that are united by

apartments, there was little sign of inhabitation on visit to

their shared identity and belonging (French, 2008, p.222).

the site apart from hung washing in the windows which

Comparative to the Smithson’s Streets in the Sky, MVRDV

remained as one of the few clues that the Mirador was in

intended the Sky Plaza to act as an extension to the urban

use. In contrast to five storey housing in the Carabanchel

landscape below (French, 2008, p.222.) which residents

district, the Mirador's lack of balconies and large-span

can own and occupy. However, with vast amounts of baron

windows formalises the facade and privatises activity to

landscaping, the social benefits of privatising public space

remain concealed behind shutters.

to economise on ground floor space is put to question.

The Mirador currently exists as a 21st Century

Whilst interior elements of the Mirador’s design encourage

reincarnation of the failed values of Corbusier's Unite.

internal interaction, they are overwhelmed by its external

Whilst it fulfils the requirement to provide dense urban

design which encourages resident isolation.

living its sheer scale and privatisation, ensures that its atmosphere remains impersonal and socially isolating.The

Although the Sky Plaza is intended to encourage

design of public facilities is therefore crucial to forming

residents to commune in shared space, it isolates its

a relationship between the Mirador's top-floor residents

residents from ground floor activity further adding to the

with activity on the ground below but isolating design ensures that residents remain socially isolated in their 'superblock' (French, 2008, p.222).



This variation of nine apartment types is intended


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Housing and Social Cohesion, an Architectural Dissertation  

During a time of further economic recline, British society continues to divide heightening social unrest. Housing and Social Cohesion' discu...