In the UK, as in many other countries with high-population densities, it is becoming increasingly necessary for people to live in apartments or flats rather than houses. The pressure on space in major cities, particularly London, means that it isn’t feasible for housing solutions to incorporate traditional two-storey homes. Apartment buildings can house hundreds and can incorporate a variety of modern features that make them a worthwhile avenue in the battle against the housing crisis. Architects are showing off the incredible potential of new apartment buildings with innovative, forward-thinking designs.
One of the best and most recent examples of new apartment buildings are the two towers built on Colville estate in Hackney, London. These new buildings were able to replace 435 or so residences with over 900 residences, and offered a mix of long-term flats with affordable housing. As well as increasing the number of homes available on the same area of land, this project also offers the kind of permanence and potential for social cohesion that is so hard to come by in the age of renting.
In addition, in designing the towers, it’s clear that the architects in question have dreamed up new conceptions, rather than opting to offer up the same kind of standard apartment block commonly seen around the city or even the world. Rowan Moore writes for the Observer:
“On the Colville estate, the towers will attract most architectural attention: hewn, moody structures designed by a partnership of David Chipperfield Architects and (again) Karakusevic Carson, a reddish one contrasting with a blackish one, their robust substance offset by the way light catches their faceted surfaces. Their uningratiating brutalist look won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s a relief to have something with character, compared with the stuck-together, flat-packed feel of most new towers. There’s also a rare degree of thought in their planning and detail.”
Alongside these types of plans, architects can also design apartment buildings with new types of living situations in mind. One in particular stands out – the concept of co-living has grown dramatically in recent years as a potential solution to the housing crisis. Described in similar terms to a kind of hotel, many co-living residences offer communal areas, gyms, even shared kitchens, with all utilities included in the monthly rent. In these types of situations, architects can think up useful ways of having people, otherwise strangers, share the same space in a fruitful and relaxed way.
However, this type of architecture does bring up a couple of problems, namely whether co-living is a fad or here to stay. Some critics worry that budget-friendly versions of co-living will essentially feel like transient hostels – where the shared spaces are generally avoided, leaving lots of unused space inside a building where tenants have limited personal space.
What’s clear is that the housing crisis will not be solved through the building of larger estates on the outskirts of existing villages and towns. People need housing where they work, and for many of us that is in larger cities. If apartment buildings are the future, then they need to offer us what we need. The question is, what will our needs be in the decades to come?