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Architecture For The Wellbeing of Homeless Youth Dissertation Thesis for WSA Masters in Architectural Design (MA AD) Zhaozhan Lu Unit C Communities on the Edge

Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University AUGUST 2019

Dissertation Thesis for MA Architectural Design

Zhaozhan Lu

ABSTRUCT This dissertation covers the research by design that examines the architectural design methods for homeless young people's wellbeing in a self-built housing assistance program with architects’ involvement. Homelessness is a global issue. Therefore, the provision of housing is one of the common policies in many countries to rescue homeless social groups. However, though housing is essential for homelessness settlement, it cannot help the homeless to reintegrate into society directly (Busch-Geertsema 2005). This research by design investigates how the process of self-build can bring multiple benefits to the users, through comparative analysis of self-built case studies in the UK and a survey of homeless groups. The work concludes that the wellbeing of homeless youth should be prioritized within the assistance project’s agenda. This can be done through considering how to establish place attachment that would empower residents through self-built housing. The involvement of architects can play a critical role in such projects by designing, for example, a system modular flexible adaptable (structural) system which allows for user action in construction and adaptation over time. The diversity of housing and community spaces and the flexibility of housing design that meets the needs of individual users and the empowerment of community landscapes are conducive to the formation of place attachment of the residents. For the empowerment of the user group, in-depth consideration of the building structure is required to provide user-friendly incremental housing that can be built by themselves with flexibility and stability. Based on the thoughtful design, an architect-led participatory design strategy with positive collaboration between homeless youth and other stakeholders can not only guarantee the quality of the building but also enhance the homeless youth’s connection with the community and other social groups, benefiting their wellbeing.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT Appreciate the patience and guidance from Miss Tabitha Pope, Mr Rowan MacKay and supervisor Dr Marie Davidovรก, the encouragement and guidance they gave me made me confident and guided me to think more carefully about the connection between architecture and users.









CHAPTER 2: 2.1.




















CHAPTER 5: 5.1.
















Chapter 1: Introduction 1.1. Homelessness worldwide Homelessness is a global issue. The Article 25 of La dÊclaration universelle des droits de l'homme in 1948 defines housing, food and clothing, health care as basic human rights (UN 1998). Decades passed, however, according to Chamie’s (2017) report, the world approximately has a population of 1.6 billion lacking of adequate housing and the proportion of homeless people in developing countries is similar to that of developed countries. Former British Prime Minister Teresa May determined to end the Homelessness of UK by 2027 and has allocated £100 million to accomplish this goal (Historyextra 2018). According to a report in late 2018 (Butler 2018a), there are at least 320,000 homeless people in the UK, increasing by 4% over 2017, which was the seventh year of the homeless population growth in England and the homeless population of which has risen by 169% since 2010. Polly Neate points out that homelessness has a devastating impact on the lives of people in the UK (Robinson 2018).


Initial Design, Pioneering buskers

Plasdwr is a new development of 7000 homes on the edge of Cardiff, and the lands are currently farmland and pasture. Inspired by Howard's garden city, this area aims to create a world-class sustainable community, which was approved by Welsh Government Planning Inspectorate in 2016 and began construction in 2017 (Plasdwr 2018). Since homelessness cannot be ignored in the UK, the initial design, PIONEERING BUSKERS, aims to explore a development mode on the edge of developing cities. It plans to promote participation of the residents under the guidance of architects, benefiting the future development of the community and neighbourhood. Cardiff was chosen as the research object. The initial design includes a housing programme that begins with a series of street activities in Cardiff city centre. These activities are used to attract homeless buskers, and gradually all the homeless, to the event venue in Plasdwr, providing an opportunity for homeless groups to socialise. There are temporary housing adjacent to the stage for homeless people to receive assisting services and gain trainings for the construction of their own homes from architects and NGOs so that the homeless would participate actively in the development of Plasdwr. During the process, they can also gain happiness. 1.3. Research Aim Base on the initial design, this dissertation examines the architectural design methods for homeless young people's wellbeing in the self-built housing assistance program with architects involved, via literature review and case studies, as well as testing of design methods; further reveals how architects can design for vulnerable groups by participation.

Chapter 2: Review of Literature 2.1.

The First Review of Literature

2.1.1. Who is the most at risk among homeless? Homelessness is defined and perceived differently in different countries. According to the United Nations, homelessness is defined as sleeping in uncertain public spaces or other spaces randomly with their possessions (Springer 2000), which is widely accepted by other countries. Homelessness in the UK also includes groups whose housing rights are threatened or assessed because of domestic violence or other reasons (UK Legislation 2018). In the UK, factors like safety, health and psychological status, are considered in the assessment and assistance of homelessness (Shelter 2018). The causes of homelessness are diverse and complex, including social resources allocation, individual conditions, housing and welfare systems (Anderson and Christian 2003). According to an NGO (Homeless link 2018), young homeless people (aged from 16 to 24) are one of the most vulnerable groups. About half of the homeless groups are homeless youth in England (Hodgson et al. 2015; Landsid 2018). The causes of this situation are various, such as a) high rates of psychosis; b) drug or alcohol addiction; c) crimes; d) lack of education and employment support; e) experiences of physical, sexual or emotional abuse; f) social exclusion (Gaetz, 2004). These make homeless youth more possible to be isolated in the city and even drag them into illegal activities. Currently, providing social housing and accommodation (Crisis of 2019. Llamau 2019; The Wallich 2019) are main measures proposed by mainstream media and NGOs to help the homeless, along with other supportive services like health care and career guidance. 2.1.2. What do they need beyond the placement? Busch-Geertsema (2005) points out that housing is essential for homelessness settlement but cannot help the homeless reintegrate into society. He mentions that the significance of houses lies in the support and services they can provide for the homeless, such as treatment (physical and psychological), employment support and social network establishment, as well as the flexibility and personalisation that prevent re-homelessness and promote further social integration to meet the homeless’s need of development, adjustment and other changing demands (including living environment). Well-being of homeless people and reintegration should be concentrated on when solving homelessness. According to the report of Bulter (2018), the British government is investing the Finnish-style Housing First projects. The core of the Housing First model is a combination of placement and treatment (physical, psychological and addiction). The project resettles homeless people respecting their preference of 'homes', provides rehabilitation-oriented medical services and promotes community integration (Aubry et al., 2015). Aubry’s (2015) preliminary studies indicate that Housing First is effective in solving homelessness and establishing stable resettlement houses. Rhoades et al. (2018) also prove that social network is enhanced while addiction issues are decreased in the project based on Housing First model. This outcome expanded the scale of relevant research from housing to communities, but most Housing First projects still emphasise resettlement rather than community integration. Differing from Housing First, the Community First! Village project in the southern United States values social networking equally as resettlement, focusing on housing for the homeless on a community-based foundation (Kimble 2018). Community First helps residents to change old habbits, make new friends and prevents them from re-homelessness. Relief of homeless groups should focus on improving the sense of happiness of the homeless, which is associated with participation in social activities (Dunleavy et al. 2014).Thomas et al (2012) agree that the homeless’s participation in society should be valued when resettling them. In summary, projects should be concerned more about the relationship between Housing and the well-being of the homeless, like the Community First. As a result, the scope of this research is defined as community.

2.1.3. Design and wellbeing Architectural design should be innovative and practical to meet the needs of the homeless people (Davis, 2004). According to the participation level of the architects, the current assistance housing can be divided into: (Yanos et al. 2007), a)new-constructed housing which includes: 1)general;2)modular;3)self-built;4)Incremental; b)Renovation. The project Holmes Road Studios (Reynolds 2016) is a community-based project that provides the homeless with comfortable tiny houses with a shared self-built garden (Peter Barber Architects 2019), which aims to promote community integration via the participation of residents. According to the feedback of users, their homeless community projects can help build a better neighbourhood (Wainwright 2018). Modular housing is popular in the UK due to its short construction process, high quality and flexible design as well as low construction cost (Hutchinson 2013). Considering these advantages, the YMCA projects in London and Seattle have involved the feature of modularity (AriesBuildings 2019). Similarly, Wikihouse, with an open-source modular building system, is also highly awarded because of its features of modularity and human-only construction (Majhail 2008; Cox, 2018). Self-built houses like the Wikihouse system are also prevailing in managing homelessness (Majhail 2008; Cox 2018). UWE Bristol reports (2017) that the homeless ex-services self-built community project in Bristol has successfully improved the physical and mental health of the homeless and has helped them get back to normal life. Another self-built project, Valleys Scheme from Wales, involves mostly young homeless people, which is advocated by Self-Build Agency, CHISEL and Walter Segal. The project has tightened their connection with their neighbourhood (Hutson and Jones 2002). However, in the project, the ownership of the house does not to belong to the homeless; instead, the homeless, deciding to start a family, tend to choose houses with permanent ownership for a lifetime relationship (Bredenoord and van Lindert 2010). Incremental housing is designed for the growth of resident families and has been widely applied in developing countries (Ferguson and Smets 2010). Incremental housing is considered as an affordable housing solution for vulnerable groups, providing only the basic living space (e.g., toilet, kitchen, bedroom) at first but also spare space for incretemtal expansion when the residents can afford it later (Wakely and Riley 2011). The concept of incremental housing is therefore effective in solving the problem of slums, forming the sense of identity of residents and benefiting the cohesion of the community (Chavez 2009). One of the most famous incremental housing projects is the 'Half-houses' in Zimbabwe (Chavez 2009). According to the Building Centre (2017), these projects have made a difference on the residents' wellbeing. The three design concepts mentioned above, Self-built, Modular and Incremental, are compatible to a certain extent. Wikihouse reduced the technical requirements of the construction by using new technology (laser cutting) and rational design, which enables the combination of self-building and modularity (Parvin 2013). 2.1.4. How can residents reach their wellbeing? Many projects and much research has been carried out to explore how homepless people can participate in the creation of their new neighbrouhood and what affect this could have on their wellbeing.(Hutson and Jones 2002; Alvarado et al. 2009; Thomas et al. 2012; Dunleavy et al. 2014). Participation are also influential in the formation of community cohesion. Joint construction process of the community will help promote community integration (Allweil 2018). In the Valleys scheme, Hutson and Jones (2002) point out that through construction, the homeless youth are easier to build confidence, and learning together with peers can help build their social networks. In summary, the homeless groups' wellbeing is of highly importance for their integration and development after their settlement. In this regard, interaction between users' development and the development of a sense of community are the key points (Bredenoord and van Lindert 2010; Cox 2018). Therefore, the research scale of architecture should be community, and the focus should be community architecture and its internal open space, stakeholders' participation in the community construction process, cooperation strategy, construction method, and structural design matching with the strategy. In the initial ADR design, the emphasis was on the change of homeless people and the relationship of their change, participation and architecture. It was identified in the literature review that the research gap is the connection between incremental modular community design and homeless youth’s wellbeing.

further research topic

2.2. The Second Review of Literature 2.2.1. Wellbeing in the community Homeless people's sense of identities is linked with their wellbeing (Thomas et al. 2012; Erete 2013; Iveson and Cornish 2016), and their sense of belonging is closely associated with their sense of identity. Residents' experience in community space helps build their self-cognition and selfidentities in the community environment (Thwaites 2001b). According to Jacobs and Malpas (2013) 'home' is one way that people express identity and know themselves. Through sensory experience and unique memories in ‘home’, people are influenced by their living environment and influence the ‘home’ as well, and as a result the unique features of the homes constitute the unique identity of the residents (Teo and Huang 1996). The sense of belonging in the community is also significant for the wellbeing of homeless groups (Thomas et al. 2012). Teo and Huang put forward (1996) that residents establish their sense of belonging by using open spaces of the community frequently (such as hard ground built for sports activities and landscape for recreation). The overlapping daily tracks of different residents create interactive emotions that bring them a sense of belonging. Manzo and Perkins (2006) point out that the residents’ willings to built space themselves in the community is significantly meaningful for community development and the wellbeing of residents. Their attachment to the community spurs themselves to participate into building the community, and their participation will facilitate social cohesion of the community in return. Through collective action, conflicts can be minimized and social capital can be accumulated, the sense of identity is buit(Teo and Huang 1996; Colclough and Sitaraman 2005; Manzo and Perkins 2006).

Young people can benefit more from cooperation in the construction of their own home (Arnstein 2019). In the Valleys scheme project, most homeless youth have built good relationships with the residents nearby. ‘Community architect’ shows that the successful cooperation between designers and residents can also promote social cohesion (Wates 1985; Wates and Knevitt 2014).

2.2.2. Defined Research Question Main Question: What kind of modular self-built incremental community design can benefit the wellbeing of homeless youth? Sub-questions: 1.What kind of community open space design can encourage diverse community residents' activities and experiences? 2.What kind of community empowerment can better encourage people to develop community spaces and housing to create uniqueness to express themselves? 3.What kind of housing design (including structural design) can respond to the space requirement of homeless youth housing over time; help them continuously develop the community?

Residents' Wellbeing in Community


Place Attachment


Social Cohesion /Social Network

Promote Interact Promote

(Manzo and Perkins 2006)

Social Capital

Stronger Impact





Research Gap

At present, there is hard to find research will be Homeless Youth wellbeing and incremental modular community design together.

Chapter 3: Research Framework Original Research Question

Advance, direct contact


Related or consist of


Assistance for Homelessness

Vulnerable Group Resettlement


Resettlement for Homeless people

Assistance for Homeless Youth

Housing First

Social Exclusion


Precedent classification




Lifestyle Employment




Community First




Context of Plasdwr



Well Being

Sense of Identity

Sense of Belonging Social Cohesion

Literature Review: Theory and Practice

Redefined Research Question and Research Aim

Place Attachment


Spatial Experience Diversity


Route Diversity Spatial Transition (From Open to Privacy)

Spatial Information Activity Information

Opening Activity Diversity

Discussion of empowerment would conisider stakeholders' involvement and the structure of the housing. According to Jacobs and Malpas (2013), the personalisation of the living space is an reflection of builders’ personality and lifestyle and a measure to build selfrecognition. Therefore, the reflection of residents' personalisation in housing will be discussed in this research. In summary, the contents discussed in the case studies includes: 1Housing Diversity 2Landscape Diversity 3Route Diversity 4Spatial Transition 5Activity Diversity 6Construction details (Stakeholders involvement, Construction steps) 7Structure 8Change from the original 9The overall perception of the observer to the community 10Residents’ feelings: Their sense of identity – ie attachment to place, empowerment (includes level of participation)


Landscape Diversity

Field Work:

The ladder of participation (Arnstein 1969) will be used to classify the levels of participation in the case study. Due to the different educational background and learning ability, the quality of self-built houses cannot be guaranteed (Bredenoord and van Lindert 2010). Therefore, in the case study, the quality of the house will be considered as a key element to evaluate the participation process.

Ladder of Participation

Spatial Experience Diversity

Case Selection

3.3. Architectural elements involved Place attachment to the community is influenced by the unique experiences of each resident, which are mainly stimulated by the diversity of the landscape, route, architectural forms (Bredenoord and van Lindert 2010), and space transition (Thwaites 2001a). These stimulations above can be interpreted as spatial experience diversity in the community. In addition, the ways residents behave in community spaces reflect their needs, their understanding of community space, and the way they build their sense of identity (Jacobs and Malpas 2013). Therefore, the types of activities in different open spaces are to be discussed in the case studies.


Understanding of Places



New Ideas for Redesign

Related Architectural Details


3.2. Criteria for Case selection According to literature review and previous analysis, the criteria for case selection are relatively open, including: I Self-built community that does not use or has few large machinery II community for the homeless people and with open spaces for improving their wellbeing III The incremental community that can be expanded by the user without the requirement for large machinery or specialist construction skills IV affordable modular community for low-income groups In the case of selection, any of the above conditions may be superimposed on each other.


Place Attachment Empowerment Social Capital

Case Studies

3.1. Research context Residents' participation could fasten residents' relationships and thus promote cooperatively development and social capital accumulation of the community (Manzo and Perkins 2006; Friligos 1985;Hutson and Jones 2002). The basic theory used in this research is the concept of self-built community with a key feature of a high level of participation in community. Empowerment and place attachment will be explored and analysed in the case studies.



Stakeholders Involvement + Roles Structure Control of Living Space Personalised Changes


Housing, Community Privacy


Clues & Limitation


Investigation: Process Information

Community Design for Well Being of Homeless youth

Analysis of Information

Multiple loops for several cases

Design that causing phenomena


Comparative Analysis of Multiple Redesigns Review of Case Studies Analysis and Redesign

Integrated better design

Ladder of Citizen Participation

Ladder of Resident Participation

Chapter 4: Methodology 4.1.

Measures for collecting information

The timing of the site investigation will avoid special holidays, working hours and residents' rest time to ensure that the observed community spaces are in a period of time that is diversified use by residents. 4.2.

1.Housing Diversity

2.Landscape Diversity

3.Route Diversity

4.Spatial Transition

5.Activity Diversity



Analysis methods and evaluation criteria

4.2.1. Spatial analysis: - Housing typology analysis This aims to classify the similarities and differences of the houses. Higher diversity means that the house has a greater chance of responding to the residents' characteristics. - Route Analysis The more diverse the landscape routes are, the more successful the community will be. Various landscape routes can help residents create their unique local memories in the long-term spatial experience. - Plane and Profile analysis :This part of the analysis is used to mark spatial transitions and activities to explore the connection between the phenomenons and specific designs. Additionally, the analysis also includes sight and landscape analysis. Since the higher diversity provides the residents more experience options to enhance their place attachment, the case is more possibly to be successful. - Spatial transition analysis The spatial transition is evaluated by whether the design can attract residents or improve the sight situation to better guarantee users' non-open activities(or privacy), so it needs to be analysed in line with the sight analysis. There are no concrete criteria for this analysis. The key criteria to evaluate case study lies in whether the observation results meet the design requirements and residents' requirements. - Activity analysis This analysis is concentrated on locations and activities. This, along with the sight analysis and public function analysis, is to explore how the design spaces engage residents to use. This analysis is based on the fact that residents use the functional spaces according to the design intention. Diverse functional spaces often indicates the success of the design and reflect users' different understanding of the spaces. However, whether the project is satisfied also depends on the expectations of the users to the spaces. 4.2.2. Participate analysis The purposes of this analysis include: 1) evaluating the levels of residents’ participation by the tool ‘Ladder of Participation’; 2) exploring impact of stakeholder involvement on the architecture, the impact of human-made changes on the entire construction process. Structural and construction method analysis This analysis includes structural design, construction method, sizes and weight of materials, construction steps, and is used for exploring the requirements of different residents participation levels on building structure and construction methods.

6.Construction Details


6.Construction Details

10.Residents' Feelings

Online Checking



Building quality comparison Used to discuss that different participation leads to different building quality for getting a more credible way of participation.

5.2. Test of Place Attachment 5.2.1.a. Case study 1, Y: CUBE The features of the case Y: CUBE are listed as follows: the landscape lacks diversity in the community and the design of paths is relatively simple and there are rarely facilities in the community courtyard. These features allow the community to hold different activities, but also cause the common spaces to be used seldomly. The residents do not have a strong connection with the community, therefore it is difficult for them to organise activities spontaneously. Besides, the diversity of landscape experiences in the community is relatively low: only a grassy courtyard and a small garden outside. Moreover, the visual experience is monotonous in the community. In this way, it is unlikely to build the residents’ place attachment according to their experiences and memories. In the initial design, the community has defined functions with facilities (Music studio) but merely limited to the functions of performing arts activities. The participants of performing is not as wide-ranging as gardening, nor can it create visible labor results, which may not help the wellbeing of all homeless community members. These drawbacks have been corrected in Design Outcome 1. With reference to the design of Peter Barber Architects, there are vertical gardens for residents on every floor, creating more opportunities for residents to communicate in this process. The diversity of the landscape can also be improved by the cultivation of the residents, further enhancing their place attachment.

Another reason that the residents rarely use the community central courtyard in the Y: CUBE is the lack of privacy. Since the two entrances of the community expose most of the courtyards to public areas, residents are not willing to conduct activities except large group activities in the courtyard. In the initial design, there is only shrubs at the opening of the community courtyard facing the outside to block the view of the outsiders, thus the residents' privacy is hardly to guarantee. Therefore, in the design outcome 1, the outward openings of the community courtyard combines shrubs and trees in the design, creating a height difference to protect the privacy. With the height difference, the community is not isolated from the outside, communication between the inside and outside of the community can be achieved. This design ensures the privacy of homeless residents and encourages them to use community spaces, thus helping the homeless to build their own unique place attachments.

5.2.1.b. Case study 2, WALTERS WAY In the case of Walters Way, there is no clear main activity area, as the housing outlines define two open areas within the community. The group activities in the community mainly take place on the road, and the residents' daily activities outside their houses are carried out in their own design yards. Due to the height difference between the community, the road and the dense greening of the community, the privacy of the residents' activities is well protected. Since all the houses in Walters Way are single-family homes, each resident is allocated a piece of ground space as their yard. Residents' yards are designed and decorated by themselves according to their own preferences, this will help form their unique memories of their yards. The diversity of the interior landscape of the community consists of different courtyards of the residents and the different appearances of each house. The residents of Walters Way recieve positive emotional feedback in the self-built process, and they will spontaneously organise group activities. These activities can also help the residents form their place attachment, and the empowerment of selfbuilding also reinforces the significance of the building and physical environment of the entire community to the residents. In the initial design, the housing was in the form of cohousing, and residents did not have their own ground space for planting and daily activities. Therefore, in Design Outcome 2, all the homes are changed from the original to the single-family self-built house, and each homeless youth has his/her own front yard and backyard. Due to the flat terrain of the site, the design was replaced with the enclosing of fences and trees to protect the privacy of residents during community activities. The garden in community centre is designed for the residents to carry out community collective activities. Some residents chose to open to their neighbours by developing glass curtain wall, which is benefited for the connection of the exterior and the interior environments. Thus, in Design Outcome 2, the living room section is designed with floor-to-ceiling windows to create more communication possibilities for homeless youth.

5.2.1.c. Case study 3, HEDGEHOG Similar to Walters Way, Hedgehog community also has no clear area for community activities, and community group activities can only be held on the main road within the community. Residents' personal outdoor activities are carried out in their own private forecourts, and due to the difference in height between the road and the building, gardening is not insulated from the group activities on the internal road (they can choose whether to let the plants block the view from the internal road of the community). Dense planting and height difference around the community effectively block the view from the outside of the community and ensure the privacy of residents' activities. In addition, same as Walters Way, Hedgehog Self Build Co-op is also a self-built housing project. Community residents built their emotional connection during the self-built process and will organise community activities spontaneously as well. Due to these factors, residents of this community form place attachment similarly to residents of Walters Way. Different from Walters Way, the designs of this community are dominated by architects, thus, the landscape design is not to simply overlay landscape elements. The architects defined the forecourt area of each house, the facilities and planting inside are determined by the residents. In addition to the front yard of each household, there is a sidewalk at the rear of the house, which provides open views of the garden between every two houses. This design can increase the diversity of the landscape experience. Meanwhile, the rhythmical alternations of the garden-road bring unique place attachment to the residents. In the initial design, the landscape changes with the road is not taken into consideration. Therefore, in Design Outcome 3, the landscape was designed in accordance with the shape of the housing, and the combination of walls and planting was also used to block the visual interference from the outside to the inside. Due to the low land utilization rate of single-family houses, co-housing is adopted in Design Outcome 3. For the upstairs users, vertical gardens are designed to varify their experience and thus guarantee their unique place attachment. of the residents, a participatory landscape design guided by an architect or with clues can form a quality and diverse community landscape and therefore enhance the homeless youth's place attachment.

In general, community landscape design can better protect residents’ privacy and empower residents into community greening, especially for the group of homeless young people. A more controllable environment is also beneficial to residents’ mental health. Due to individual preferences and the lack of basic architectural knowledge

5.2.2. Housing Spaces 5.2.2.a. Case study 1, Y: CUBE The interior design of Y: CUBE is to reduce costs and increase construction efficiency. However, the only differences between houses lie on their location and color and there are not many choices about housing types for the homeless youth. Fortunately, due to the clean and bright living environment, the monotonous housing type does not lead to negative results. This community do not provide ownership for the homeless youth, which means the housing and environment could not meet the chaning preferences of all residents. Therefore, it is difficult for them to build a sense of belongingness to the living environment and the neighborhood (for example, one respondent who has lived in this community for three years is only familiar with two residents). Also, as the homeless do not own the house, before self-building process, the homeless young people need external temporary housing to live during the rescue and training. In the design, some houses face the sidewalks and city roads. The greening is not proper alongside the entrance. The strong contrast between the internal and external environment stop the homeless youth from participating in community activities, disadvantaging theformation of place attachment.

Therefore in Design Outcome 1, the ownership of community homes should belong to homeless young people. As the housing is also prefabricated, the interior layout of the community housing has a uniform design. Considering spatial transition, all entrances of houses in the community are facing their own vertical gardens. There are reserved areas, and the windows are designed with removable louvers for personal DIY replacement. Housing design also adopts the concept of incremental housing, and the diversity of housing will be improved by their housing increment according to their individual needs.

5.2.2.b. Case study 2, WALTERS WAY In Walters Way, each home is unique and the initial layout of each house is different as well. The houses were guided by the architect Walter Segal and designed by the residents. Additionally, the houses are incremental housing and continuing developing according to the preferences of residents. Their labor outcomes (housing) and their experience in developing communities can form their strong place attachment. In the initial design, houses are incremental housing, but these increments are not as free as Walters Way – can only be expanded by the reserved areas (Incremental clues). However, these clues are not well arranged, and as a result the expansion may bring new problems. Given the low-education level of homeless youth, the interior design of Design Outcome 1 is by architects and there are incremental spaces around the houses. The improved Walter Segal timber structure allows the homeless young people to expand upwards with designers’ guidance. The diversity of housing is shaped by the color of façade according to residents' preferences and will further be increased after the increment. The ground floor layout and design guidelines will ensure the quality of incremental results. In addition, the community development with participation can enhance their place attachment.

5.2.2.c. Case study 3, HEDGEHOG The appearance of houses in Hedgehog is similar except the color and the size, but it does not affect the satisfaction of the residents. The architect adjusted the interior space of each house according to the needs of the residents. As the residents do not need to expand their houses, the quality of the building is guaranteed to some extent. In addition, the large balcony further satisfies the needs of different lifestyles. The architect made a cushioning design between the balcony and the interior space, in conjunction with the stairs fitting the height difference of the site, allowing the residents to have a continuous and rhythmic space transition experience of indoor-balcony-side yardfront yard/rear path. Limited by the size of the houses, the transition of the indoor-outdoor spaces in the initial design was not considered. Space transitions are only considered in community landscape design. Therefore, in Design Outcome 3, the ground floor residential entrance is designed with a colonnade for space transition and also as a support for the upstairs corridor. The exposed beams can be used by homeless young people for growing climbing plants, which can be part of the transitional experience of housing for whom live in upstairs. These designs will strongly enhance their place attachment. As for the poor economic situation of homeless youth, the concept of incremental housing is still adopted. In this scheme, similar to the 'Half house', homeless youth can personalise their homes. Finally, a well-developed community with their devotion will bring a deep place attachment.


In summary, projects designed by architects are better in quality than projects designed by residents, and higher satisfaction of the design cause fewer changes to houses. The entrance design of Design Outcome 1 also delivers a spatial transition similar to Design Outcome3 and is more suitable for multi-story residential design (more fair for all households). The low land utilisation rate of Design Outcome 2 increases the cost of housing, so it may be less suitable for homeless youth.

5.3. Test of empowerment 5.3.1. Structural and incremental perspectives 5.3.1.a. Case study 1, Y: CUBE Each housing unit has a complete structural system in Y: CUBE case, and only need to build the foundation before assembly. This structural system is a shear wall structure, and the direct alignment and superposition of the units may result in the waste of structural materials without accurate calculations and tests. This restricts the flexibility of the internal layout of the houses. Addintionally, the corridor is a prefabricated frame structure attached to the main body of the building, while the staircase is separate. This enables a short construction period with stable building quality, and can settle homeless young people in an emergency. However, this construction method requires skilled technicians and large equipment, which limits the involvement of homeless young people. All in all, the construction process of Y: CUBE does not empower the user group, diabling the homeless from making preferable changes and makes their participation less influential. As the emotional connection between the homeless young residents and the houses is fragile, it is difficult for the young to participate in the development of the community, affecting their wellbeing. In the initial design, the homeless group is empowered to participate in the construction and development of the community. However, this design must rely on external temporary housing. Therefore, in Design Outcome 1, the prefabricated Incremental Area

concept is adopted to guarantee the high-quality houses for the homeless youth in the shortest time. The difference is that this design is a permanent community and allows increment. Due to its the prefabricated structural system,

Incremental Limitation

the building is stable and solid as a whole. The incremental changes only require young people to build the inner wall of the house, the service, insulation, and other nonstructural parts. This empowerment allows homeless youth to participate and directly influence the development of the community and responds to their own needs.

5.3.1.b. Case study 2, Walters Way The houses in Walters Way are timber frame structures, the components are not so weighted for self-building. Before construction, residents need to be trained. The foundation is the first to be built, and only needs to be processed in the part of the column. Benefited from the frame structure, the layout of the dwellings is flexible, thus easy for the residents to design on their own. In this structural system, detailed modularisation is given, such as the size of the column and the beam, and the dimensions of the exterior wall parts. This process requires the architect or technician’s regular guidance. The construction of Walters Way took about two years from the construction to completion. Due to the subdivision of building components, the construction steps are more complicated. The houses in Walters Way are incremental housing. Due to the lack of wet trade in the construction, residents can easily dismantle the building components and then modify or expand the building according to their own needs. This project provides the residents great control, so the residents genuinely participate in the development of the community through cooperation. This empowerment not only enables their work materialized and meaningful (home), but also offers them a sense of responsibility for the development of the community. In the initial design, the homeless group can participate in every step except the plan design. However, some structural component is too heavy to move by people, and the material processing is more complicated than that by Segal self-build method. Therefore, the Segal self-build method was adopted and improved in Design Outcome 2. This structural system adds metal fittings to the columns to allow vertically incremental changes and retains other features of Segal self-build methods, further enhancing the empowerment of residents.

5.3.1.c. Case study 3, Hedgehog Similar to the Walters Way, Hedgehog has been made some improvements based on the Segal self-build method (the more substantial main beam main column) to extend the building. Therefore, the heavy main structural part needs to be completed by machine and the residents. The adaptability and flexibility of the system allow the entire community to be built on the hillside, and the architects can flexibly change the internal layout according to the needs of the residents. The construction steps of this project are similar to those of Walters Way, and the construction period is also two years. The houses in Hedgehog also has the potential to increase although the tenants do not want to expand their homes. Despite that the design of the housing was led by the architects, the residents are invited in other processes. The residents are involved in the construction of the community and also responsible for the development of the community. In Design Outcome 3, the structural form is similar to Design Outcome 2, but given the strength of the structural system, the number of layers in the building is limited to three. Since the Design Outcome 3 incorporates vertical planting, the secondary beams in the structure are extended 300 mm from the exterior of the building to incorporate vertical garden components. Similar to Design Outcome 2, homeless youth is also empowered for community building and community development.

In general, the empowerment of homeless youth in Design Outcome1 does not necessarily allow them to participate cooperatively in community development. Due to the lack of emotional foundation, the motivation for community development and the efficiency of cooperation are unpredictable. Therefore the positive impact of this structure on homeless youth is not as reliable as the other two outcomes. However, this structure can accommodate the user group in the shortest time, and the other two schemes depend on additional temporary housing for construction. Thus, a better approach might be a mixture of these two structure systems.

5.3.2. Stakeholder cooperation

In the community construction of Y: CUBE, homeless youth did not cooperate with other stakeholders, due to the lack of emotional foundation and empowerment. Homeless young people in Design Outcome 1 have no strong connection with the community and do not participate in the initial construction of the community. As a result, their responsibilities and motivation for developing the community are unclear. In Walters Way and Hedgehog community, residents collaborated in self-building process, providing a foundation for place attachment. There is a lack of empowerment in Design Outcome 1 that allows the user group to collaborate to develop the community; therefore the results are uncertain. In Design Outcome 2 and Design Outcome 3, the community's design also involves cooperation, benefiting for homeless youth's wellbeing.

Chapter 6: Multivaria Design, a result learned from tests 6.1. Review of test results

Improved Segal self-build method with vertical gardens components

For the homeless youth, 1) participatory landscape design with gardening development and private internal community activities can help improve their wellbeing; 2) Multiple-layer co-housing is more in line with their economic situation, and the concept of incremental housing allows their own development to synchronize with the community development; 3) the overall prefabricated structure and the Segal method based self-built timber structure can be combined to settle homeless youth fast and promote them to participate in the community, laying the groundwork for their wellbeing and community development.

6.2.Test of Multivariate Design

6.2.1. Place Attachment Community courtyard in Multivariate Design is used as a shared planting garden, and there are open areas with vertical gardens on each floor to cultivate the gardening interests of the residents. Such individually different planting can largely increase the diversity of community landscapes. A combination of planting and walling is designed around the building to minimize the influence of the external light on internal activities.

Incremental Steps

Prefabricated temporary housing

Each entrance of houses faces an incremental area with vertical planting. These vertical planting devices are detachable afterwards and also can be remained as part of the balcony or placed to the corridor as their vertical forecourt. An incremental limitation to provided in each incremental area for the homeless youth to set a transition zone for the entrance.

Shared Vertical Gardens Incremental Area

'Soft Space'

There is also a blank space in the house for residents to define their own functional use. Each household can hang a vertical planting device on the external faรงade, which can change the size of windows via plants or baffle.

6.2.2. Empowerment

Temporary Housing & Foundation

Street shops

Basic Structural system

Vertical Gardens Components


Incremental Area

6.2.2. Empowerment Basic Unit

Incremental Area

Limitation of incremental changes

unit combination mode

The structure of Multivariate Design is prefabricated in its south ground part and the rest structure system is consistent with Design Outcome 3. When the people settle in the community, they will be trained in the tiny rooms on the prefabricated ground floor. After the construction, these tiny rooms will be rented as streetside stores. The Incremental area of each of the upper and lower floors is staggered, therefore, the incremental area is constructed after the finishing of the basic housing part under the guidance of architects. It reduces the difficulty of increment and guarantee the structure of the building by architects’ early participation. The limited incremental area would be better for the residents to carry out incremental construction.

Participation analysis Design




Check in




Floors & Walls


With their peers and other social groups in this project




Homeless Youth





By their themselves or help from other residents or hire workers

Non-direct Participation


Participation Level




Homeless Youth

Rensidents' Power


Local Residents






Tokenism Nonparticipation

Before (in PLASDWR)

Develops & Workers














The construction of Multivariate Design involves more stakeholders than the initial project, which incluses a prefabricated assembly similar to the Y: CUBE, and a selfbuilt with incremental section similar to Design Outcome 3. The results, however, were encouraging. The prefabricated temporary housing not only gives them an emotional base before they cooperate but also facilitates the participation of more social groups (workers). As for their cooperation in incremental changes, the completed structure gives users more cooperative options.

Chapter 7: Conclusion

In summary, the wellbeing of homeless youth should be put on top of the agenda, and the establishment of place attachment, empowerment of residents and the involvement of architects also ought to be valued in the self-build housing assistance projects. Considerations for building place attachment should include a) community landscape design needs participation; b) self-built houses based on Segal self-built method can increase the diversity of house and thus choices for residents; c) The spaces of the landscape and housing in the community needs transition. Landscape design in the community should be varied to provide residents more views other than monotonous landscape. Additionally, transitional spaces should be designed between the interior and exterior of the houses. Self-build housing assistance projects should first consider the structural design of the house. The combination of the prefabricated structure and the timber frame structure can provide a stable environment for self-built training. Based on this hybrid structure, an architect-led participatory design strategy with positive collaboration between homeless youth and other stakeholders can not only guarantee the quality of the building but also enhance the homeless youth’s connection with the community and other social groups, benefiting their wellbeing. Due to time constraints, the sample of this research is insufficient (only two of the investigate respondents per project), the contradictions within the user group are uncertain, which may bring hidden dangers to the products of their cooperative labour, housing. Future research should focus more on homeless youth and involve more case studies.

Appendix 1: Social Exclusion faced by homeless youth(Gaetz, 2004) a) Housing: basically, it is hard for them to maintain stable and safe houses due to their poverty, once they obtain shelters, it is high probability poorly managed, low-quality and unstable temporary housing. Therefore, most of the time they have to live in the public areas of the city, including the streets, parks and corners between public buildings, which means that most of their daily life is exposed to the public environment, and their rights to live in these places are questioned. This indicates that they have limited controls over their living environment and their freedom of movement in life is also limited, which makes it difficult for them to obtain a safe and stable living environment and form healthy lifestyles; b) Lifestyle: their living qualities and health are not guaranteed due to their living environments, more severe than threatening their health is that their lives are exposed to criminals and potential criminals, which directly leads they tend to be the criminal witnesses, victims and even participate in offenders, including physical, sexual, psychological violence. They are more likely to be injured and there is no ideal environment for them to recover. There is no doubt that these will have a negative impact on their growth, their property will not be protected in such an environment or they may lack the ability to protect their property. c) Employment: the jobs they obtain can be classified as legal, quasi-legal and illegal. They tend to be unskilled and low-educated due to their age (16-25) and growth, which brings enormous barriers to their employment, as a result, the jobs they get tend to be short-term, unstable and low-paying. These obstacles and their long-term environment would lead them to be forced to adopt dangerous 2money-making strategies and even to obtain money by participating in criminal activities such as theft, robbery and drug trafficking. d) Education: they may lack the knowledge of protecting their weak social capital and legal rights in addition to the skills they needed to earn their livings due to limited educational levels. Due to lack of knowledge they would voluntarily give up their legal rights as a result of participating in illegal activities and adopt extreme criminal means to protect their own interests. e) Isolation: As their livelihood means (begging, crime) and lifestyle make them easily isolated in the city, their accessibilities to semipublic areas such as shopping malls are unknown, which means they may not choose to enter or may be expelled. Linked to their chronically crime-ridden living environment, they may be forced by victimization to become interdependent with other street youths. Due to the lack of supervision and support from elders, it may be difficult for them to establish relations with other social groups in such an environment of displacement. The result of isolation is resulted by misunderstanding by the rest of society and their own choices.

Appendix 2: Presidents analysis & Classification


Ethics Form


Profile for ChilsonLu

Dissertation Thesis for MA Architectural Design  

Architecture for The Wellbeing of Homeless Youth Submitted by Chilson 2019 in MA AD WSA, Cardiff University

Dissertation Thesis for MA Architectural Design  

Architecture for The Wellbeing of Homeless Youth Submitted by Chilson 2019 in MA AD WSA, Cardiff University