4. City as Territory

Nov 2021

Digital Collage 

            A competition entry for the Berlin Affordable Housing challenge which asked entrants to design a novel housing typology to help solve the housing crisin Berlin. 

This entry rejects the issue of affordable housing as an architectural problem, as suggested by the competition, instead choosing to question the need for yet more (unaffordable) housing in Berlin. We did not create a ‘magic floorplan’ that will solve the housing crisis instead choosing to examine the city as is. The city as somewhere that already has the solution, that already has enough housing. One need not reinvent the city or reinvent housing but merely observe the city. 

The map above shows the density of Airbnb flats for rent in the centre of Berlin. This issue of gentrification or Airbnb-ification is one now present in most major European cities. This is radically transforming the population of the city from a permanant community to tourists, so called digital nomads and stag do-ers.

These three housing 1920s modernist housing estates (designed by Bruno Taut) were chosen as the centres of our urban intervention. They are also three of five housing estates owned by the property conglomerate Duetsche Wohnen which (not-so) coincidentally is the central target of the campaign Duetsche Wohnen Enteignen (or Expropriate Duestche Wohnen).

In a Berlin where rents have doubled over the last 10 years, a handful of companies own 15% percent of the apartments in Berlin (250,000). The campaign’s namesake Duetsche Wohnen is the largest of these landlords. In October 2021, the campaign’s referendum won a vote of 59.1% to return these properties to the public realm. Whether this will ever be enacted is one question, however it does highlight the desperation the situation and the willingness for Berliners to fight for their city. 

Our proposal images that these properties are returned to the city, creating 250,000 flats that are affordable. However, what of other questions, of gentrification, how will these people live together? Once new immigrants are not displacing existing communities, how will they co-exist? This is the main question of our proposal, we say that there already is enough housing in Berlin and that if Berliners fight for it, it will be affordable but what then? How will 3rd generation Turkish migrants live amongst English speaking tech workers? 

Our proposal deals with what we called Intergenerational Migration. When rental speculation is eliminated, how will different successive generations of migrants live together? We believe they do this through community spaces, spaces where places can be built. Our proposal intends to give Berlin this space. By laying 3x3 metre modules end to end and stretching them the length of the city. Our proposal focuses on Bruno Tauts Siedlung in particular, in order to revive their original dreams of a Berlin clean, affordable and will spaces for all. We choose not to revere the Siedlung’s forms and material but rekindle their ideals for Berlin.

This video combines both the work of this competition and the Lignum Vitae competition into a single narrative sequence, exploring an architecture that is temporary and created to activate a process.