Cities all around the world are facing rapid urbanisation, ageing populations, climate change and a lack of natural resources. At the same time, we are in the middle of a global housing crisis. We simply aren’t building enough affordable homes to keep up with the demand.
Our cities are becoming increasingly unaffordable, unsustainable and socially unequal. And the situation is going to become even more challenging. Over 1.5 million people are moving to a city every week, meaning that in just a little over a decade, 1.6 billion people are projected to lack access to affordable, adequate and secure housing.
So, we have a problem. On top of this, we face another challenge – people are living closer and are more connected than ever before, but we still feel increasingly lonely, anxious and stressed in our cities.
It’s in the intersection of these pressing challenges that SPACE10 and EFFEKTArchitects believe The Urban Village Project might offer a solution.
We know that around 40% of the areas that will need to be urbanised in 2030 do not yet exist—meaning that as daunting as the task is, we have a blank canvas to explore how we want the future of our cities to look like and function.
SPACE10, IKEA’s global research and design lab, researched and explored the idea of shared living for two years. Together with EFFEKT Architects and IKEA, SPACE10 have condensed those insights into a concrete concept and vision that they now ask the world to give feedback on.
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“By introducing a new model of ownership, residents are enabled to buy ‘shares’ in the property, if they’d want to and when they could.”
More Liveable The Urban Village Project is a vision for creating shared living communities for people of all ages, backgrounds, and living situations. The objective is to enable a better everyday life through the multiple benefits of living in a tight-knit community which can be cross generational, with shared facilities and services —like daycare, urban farming, communal dining, fitness, and shared transportation. These benefits not only offer a sense of belonging, they’re proven to boost health and happiness too.
More Affordable The standardised modular building system of The Urban Village Project can be pre-fabricated, mass-produced and flat-packed— all of which would help drive construction costs down. But just as importantly, The Urban Village Project challenges existing models of development, and seeks to finance the construction through partners who look for long term investments. Combining this with democratic setups inspired by community land trusts and co-operatives, The Urban Village Project could secure the interests of the community and allow cheaper homes to enter the market. By introducing a new model of ownership, residents are enabled to buy ‘shares’ in the property, if they’d want to and when they could. This means that people could access ownership progressively, and cash in later as the property value increases.
More Sustainable The Urban Village Project would make sustainable living a seamless part of daily life through integrated solutions like water harvesting, clean energy production, recycling, local food production and localised composting. Even the whole architectural framework is rooted in sustainable materials and a circular approach to our built environment.
New modular building system The architecture of the Urban Village Project would be based on a standardised modular building system and made out of cross-laminated timber – a wood that comes with huge environmental advantages and outperforms steel and concrete on multiple levels. It’s also been proven that living in buildings made of wood creates better health and well being for people. The modular system can be used to build everything from town houses to high rises, from single person homes to spaces that house several loved ones under the same roof. The system can be pre-fabricated, flat-packed and even disassembled. This ensures a more sustainable and CO2- reducing construction method and a circular approach to the management and life cycle of our buildings.
Designed for disassembly The modular building system would allow for almost all components and materials in the building to be disassembled and easily replaced, reused and recycled over the lifespan of the building. Even the building itself could be retrofitted or disassembled and repurposed. Not only is this better for the planet, it also gives people a lot more flexibility and the freedom to add to, adapt and edit their home whenever they wish.
“It is clear that unless we rethink our built environment, our cities will become increasingly unsustainable, unaffordable and socially unequal.”
Asian Property Review talks to Jamiee Williams, Architectural lead, SPACE10
1. When will this vision of a new living concept become reality?
JW: We started The Urban Village Project with the hopes of completely rethinking the way in which we design, build, finance and share our homes— but we knew we couldn’t successfully do this if we worked in a vacuum and didn’t engage with people in how they hope to live. Because of this, the project has a long phase of both exploration and validation, and we are still in the midst of testing the desirability of the solutions we are proposing. The next step in the project is to analyse the feedback we receive from people before deciding how to take this further.
2. Have any financial institutions or institutional funders agreed to fund the project?
JW: After we released the project to the public back in June 2019 through IKEA’s Democratic Design Days and our own Urban Village Project microsite, we have received a huge amount of interest in our vision for a more liveable, sustainable and affordable future of housing. We have had people reach out to us because they want to move in, we have had professionals in construction, architecture and design reach out with feedback on the designs themselves, and we have had a number of investors reach out in the hopes of making this vision a reality. We are still exploring the technical aspects of this project, but we have been so thrilled to see the wide range of people that have engaged with the project thus far.
3. Which cities do you plan to roll out this concept?
JW: Our cities are facing some of the biggest challenges to date. From the lack of affordable housing, rising loneliness, our aging populations, climate change, so we want to address those challenges while searching for new ways of creating better and more sustainable ways of living as people’s needs, aspirations and lifestyles change. We hope to roll out this concept in the cities that face these issues.
4. Would the ‘Pay whenever you can’ concept work or do you foresee some issues with it?
JW: The Urban Village Project explores more affordable ways of living through new ownership models, subscription-based service provision and standardised building systems that produce high quality housing with less. Community ownership doesn’t necessarily mean ‘pay whenever you can’, it means avoiding costly down payments by opting for residents to buy shares in their property, opening up the possibility for first time home buyers to enter the housing market in a more affordable and democratic way.
5. Can this system be adapted anywhere in the world?
JW: We designed The Urban Village Project to prioritise modularity and flexibility, ensuring that the spaces we frequent grow with us so we don’t necessarily have to grow out of them. The modular building system of The Urban Village Project is designed for disassembly, unlocking a truly circular material loop where building components and materials can be easily replaced, reused and recycled rather than wasted. Even the building itself can be retrofitted or disassembled and repurposed. This gives people a lot more flexibility and the freedom to add, adapt and edit their home whenever they wish. This flexibility means that it can adapt to people as they themselves change, and we are currently in the process of understanding the intricacies of what this means for people all over the world.