Social Housing Architecture Takes World By Storm


Mention the words 'social housing' to someone and images of concrete towers and identical flats will often spring to mind.

However, a generation of architects are demolishing long-held prejudices against social housing by creating well-designed homes that are both practical and innovative.

From Chile to England, architects are creating imaginative social housing that is energy-efficient and low-cost, meeting the needs of the economically disadvantaged.

Social housing architecture particularly gained momentum in the past week after Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena - who is known for his low cost social housing - was awarded the world's most prestigious architecture prize, the Pritzker Prize.

"The biggest challenge today is to try to engage non-architectural issues - meaning poverty, less segregation in cities, less violence - with our specific knowledge, which is to design and do projects," Aravena told design website Icon.

Here are three social housing projects that are making the world take notice:

Ruca Dwellings, Undurraga Devés Arquitectos, Huechuraba, Chile, 2011

The Ruca Dwellings were built for a native Mapuche community in Huechuraba, just outside Santiago.

Architectural firm Undurraga Devés Arquitectos built the 25 homes within a larger development of 415 traditional social housing dwellings.

The design of Ruca Dwellings was inspired by traditional Mapuche housing, which comprises temporary structures of tree trunks and branches.

The striking facade of the dwellings features a double skin of timber rods.

Villa Verde, ELEMENTAL, Constitución, Maule Region, Chile

Forestry company Arauco commissioned ELEMENTAL to create a housing plan for its workers.

ELEMENTAL created a plan for 9,000 units for 30 different towns.

The plan allows for residents to purchase a simple home that comprises a combined kitchen, dining and living room, as well as a bathroom and laundry space  on the ground floor. The first floor features two bedrooms and another bathroom.  The structure of the homes allows residents to expand in the future, so they can have a separate dining and living room and another two bedrooms on the second floor.

10x10 Housing Initiative, MMA Architects, Cape Town, South Africa, 2008

Cape Town's MMA Architects developed a pilot project for 10 affordable houses using sand bag construction in South Africa.

The project was part of the Design Indaba 10x10 Low-Cost Housing Project.

The colourful homes were built by the community using a sand bag construction method developed by Eco-Beam International and no electric tools. They were built for former shack dwellers at Freedom Park on the outskirts of Cape Town.

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