by Zakee Kuduro, Creative Director, Energy Action Coalition
Just in case you haven’t noticed lately there’s been a mass amount of building in low-income communities across the world. Long time residents are being displaced; Housing Projects are being traded with Condo’s while our Mom & Pop stores are forced to close down due to property snatchers and Monopolization.
Folks always get so touchy when you start to talk about Social housing and the politics behind it, but I never been one to hold back from the real words of truth. There’s truly a great stigma associated with social housing or “P.J’s” as many of us know them by. Many of us have reasons that are very valid, which there is no questioning that the power of aesthetics is contributing to, or decreasing, the stigma associated with social housing. We all know how our inner City Housing Projects are poorly maintained and neglected, however these same walls often produce some of our greatest leaders and citizens of today.
Too often these negative aesthetics and views are carried into our surrounding communities and often causes friction. These projections carry less of a sense of pride and more of a sense of institualization that cater more to stunt rather than growth of the community. If these old buildings can give birth to such greatness imagine if they were offered a facelift to promote our ever changing society.
It starts out with the architecture and design behind it – is a sensitive and important topic for those both inside and out of this industry.The limited resources mean that architects are faced with hefty monetary and logistical constraints and challenges when it comes to designing social housing for low-income residents that is cost effective, easily maintainable and perhaps most importantly, free of the components that create the social housing aesthetic stigma.
By creating housing for low-income residents that allows them to live within their means, it allows them to lead a social aspect of a holistic sustainability models and nurtures a lifestyle that is maintainable. A few firms are looking to break the stigmas of how we view and live in housing developments however the Spanish architectural firm ACXT is clearly in the lead with its social housing development in Salburua. This building design does not share the same traits and visual elements that are dated with social housing developments that we are familiar with. In short, it doesn’t look like a development for low-income residents, and more of a haven for progressive thinking, learning and living.
With a move that is as brilliant as it is logical, the apartment complex produces energy in excess of what it needs to run. These bright red buildings are visual masterpieces with modern symmetrical lines and fine textures that stands out from any of its neighboring buildings. One may say that it’s very reminiscent of boutique designer apartment lofts or upscale commercial spaces. All of this is made possible through a mix of new green technologies and implementations of passive industrial design.
There’s a term called co-generation, which means that a building has the ability to run extensively off grid, and even has the option to sell back excess power when it is over produced. This complex is uniquely U-shape allowing for optimum sunlight exposure so that natural lighting takes precedence over electric lighting during the day. I’m smiling already…I hope you are.
Building in sustainable fashion, takes energy cost pressure off of residents and encourages a lifestyle that is maintainable. By continuing to design, develop and run these buildings in the old traditional manners we will only reap negative results and views…of course this must stop. These elements do not mean that social housing issues will simply evaporate with one out of the box building, but it does give us the template with more to come in the future. Hopefully ideas like these could spark or even eradicate the social housing stigmas not just in Salburua but around the globe.