Architecture Reversing the density conditions

In the course of time, there were several plans to alter these formidable living conditions and reverse the gloomy collective housings into more humane spaces for the less advantaged population. These alterations that were about to happen included various architectural and planning decisions that would massively change the image of today’s cities. Specifically, this was the historical point that architects got an active role and tried to resolve the densification issue by redefining the needs depending on the existing high density conditions and propose new standards of living for the urban population. One of the most critical points in the recent history of architecture is the Charter of Athens which was used as a guideline by architects for many decades.

Specifically, in 1933, after four meetings in total, the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) and Le Corbusier produced the Athens Charter that set the minimum demands for habitation, leisure, work and traffic spaces according to the observations of the congresses. Undoubtedly, the conditions of the social housing units changed and the spaces were provided with more than the basic for the less advantaged people. Therefore, throughout this chapter, the idea of shared facilities and communal spaces works as a catalyst for many positive aftereffects which will be explored further as affected from the Athens charter that defined the guidelines for the city’s transformation.

Particularly, in architectural terms, the transformation of the trend of collective housing mainly reflects the notion of avoiding duplication of communal spaces, providing bigger bedrooms to the residents, allowing and enhancing social interactions between the tenants and improved lighting, ventilation and sanitation conditions which do not remind those of the past at all.(*)

A few of the the architectural precedents of higher quality collective residences are depicted in the construction of the collective housing in England during the late 19th century. An example of such a construction is the Brunswick Center by Patrick Hodgkinson which started in 1966 and finished in 1971 and is considered as one of the first hybrids that achieved to control this congestion and manipulate the facilities so as to avoid urban pressure and to simultaneously bring people together.

Despite the advanced facilities in terms of vital needs, in most cases the buildings appear to be monotonous high rise elements that do not fit in the cityscape and are still far from the human scale and the spiritual needs for a stimulating and dynamic community. These monotonous architectural outcomes were mainly results of two parameters related to the era: Firstly, there was lack of time since the housing capacity was very small compared to the population growth in the cities and secondly, the total governmental control obstructed the architectural freedom. Therefore, instead of achieving to relieve this urban pressure that had been created due to the previously mentioned reasons, this new architectural notion made this phenomenon even worse.

Nevertheless, there are a few architectural examples that have managed to overcome such difficulties and have combined everything a small community may need and take it a step further in terms of human based design. An interesting example of such a case that envisaged a whole new chapter in architecture for social housing is the Unité d’habitation by Le Corbusier in France.

* CIAM demanded that housing districts should occupy the best sites, and a minimum amount of solar exposure should be required in all dwellings. For hygienic reasons, buildings should not be built along transportation routes, and modern techniques should be used to construct high apartment building spaces widely apart, to free the soil for large green parks. (Mumford, E. (2000).The CIAM discourse on urbanism, 1928-1960. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.)

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