Supporting vibrant and sustainable communities through innovative models for social housing
The Shenzhen Affordable Housing Design Competition was part of the 2011 Shenzhen-Hong Kong Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism / Architecture. The brief called for innovative ideas across three scales of thinking – 1 unit, 100 families, 10,000 people – encompassing urban design, masterplanning, architecture and interior design.
Shenzhen has undergone remarkable growth in the last 40 years, expanding by 400 times, primarily through the mass migration of workers from all over China. This huge transient population - comprising many young people, in particular single women – requires housing in a city that is challenged by land shortage, insufficient infrastructure and rapidly increasing environmental impact. The award-winning HASSELL scheme adopts the traditional concept of ‘reciprocal living’, whereby people are able to interact, share experiences as well as spaces, and develop a stronger sense of community.
This idea is applied at each of the three scales of the project. At the master planning (10,000) scale, the scope of the brief was extended to include a hub of non-residential uses (including market halls, theatres, art studios and exhibition spaces) at the centre of the site. This aims to break down social barriers between existing and new residents, helping to change the city's perception of social housing and contributing positively to surrounding neighbourhoods.
Within the buildings (100 scale), shared facilities – including fitness and meeting rooms, homework spaces, small parks and greenhouses are stacked vertically – optimising access by residents, accommodating environmental functions and generating a unique architectural character. At the single unit (1) scale, people can modify and adapt their living environment on a daily or yearly basis, for example, combining single units to accommodate a growing family or by folding furniture to change the function of a room.
This flexible system (arranged within a regular cost-effective structural grid) gives residents a greater sense of responsibility and control over their living environment, something that is rarely considered in the design of social housing developments.