Although our lifestyles have changed tremendously in the past century, our homes still look the same. In his new book Living Complex: From Zombie City to the New Communal, journalist Niklas Maak rethinks the concept of housing in the 21st century.
Current trends in housing developments result in “a lifestyle imposed by architectural form, rather than the other way around”. The way in which we create housing must be drastically re-thought in the frame of how humans actually live, rather than letting the ‘traditional’ expectations of home, the commercial market and financial bottom line dictate future developments. We must disregard outdated ideas and align what we build with how we live our lives in the present, while also allowing for what we envisage to happen in the future.
With this in mind, a reconceptualisation of housing is occurring across the world. Increasing pressure from reducing resources and complex demands of modern life means that each element of a home is being questioned. Bedrooms are disappearing from small apartments and there is an increasing expectation that each room must provide a multitude of services. Concepts of ‘new communal living’ are arising throughout the world. How far can our expectation of what a ‘home’ looks like be pushed and what might housing in the future actually look like?
In his book, Nicklas Maak analyses the role of the architect and law makers alongside the the key influences on how a home is shaped- stepping back to question what a ‘home’ is in the most naive and objective manner. He is not alone in questioning this concept, also capturing the interest of others in the architectural world. As he explores international examples of housing experiments which represent possible architectural outcomes in the future, others are on their own parallel path of exploration.
Anna Puigjaner, co-founder of Barcelona-based MAIO Studio won the 2016 Harvard University Wheelwright Prize for her research on re-imagining housing models of the future based on those of the past. Her interest lies in the idea of a Kitchenless City where apartments share amenities such as kitchens, lounge rooms and bathrooms. This concept specifically resembles one of the ‘Kommunalkas‘ or communal apartments that became associated with the dystopian reality of the early 1900s Russian communist regime. The concept was actually first embraced in New York City during the plentiful late 1800s in response to increasingly social lifestyles.
By proposing shared, or outsourcing the cooking/kitchen facilities, she seeks to endow architecture with the power to alleviate the burdens of our domestic life. By minimising the restrictions that plumbing locations place on possible layouts, the floor plan of apartment buildings can become more flexible and easily gain or relinquish rooms depending on the requirements of the occupants. This radical approach is one concept that seeks to re-align the architectural form with the human lifestyle and in Anna’s words, lead to “renewed domestic proposals for the present”.
A home is geared at seclusion, comfort and rest, though Maak reminds us that it is easy for the owner to forget that “the stress and the cost it incurs are themselves one of the primary reasons for his or her exhaustion”. A housing concept that directly responds to the lives of the occupants rather than the other way around would potentially relieve some of the burden we place on ourselves in the modern world. Perhaps the new vision of housing will really focus on becoming efficient with what we require so we can balance the need for home as a sanctuary with our ever busy lives.
Living Complex: From Zombie City to the New Communal
Author: Niklas Maak
Hirmer Publishers (November 15, 2015)
Format: 11.5 × 20 cm
Full cover, hardcover, 240 pages