How can the New European Bauhaus foster architecture for Urban Inclusion?

On Thursday the 24th of March from 10.00 - 12.30am CET, the Housing Solutions Platform will organize an online debate on The New European Bauhaus, focusing on the specific role of architecture to bring in disruptive practices and foster cross sectoral cooperation for urban inclusion.


Please make sure to register here.


Objective and context of the debate: The New European Bauhaus (NEB) initiative was launched in the autumn 2020 by European Commission to make the European Green Deal go hand in hand with a new cultural project for Europe based on aesthetics, sustainability and inclusiveness. The Housing Solutions Platform organized a first event on the New European Bauhaus from a homelessness perspective in November 2021 focusing on what would an inclusive NEB be, what impact could it bring. This second HSP debate on the NEB will focus particularly on the role of architecture to bring in disruptive practices for inclusion, bringing in researchers and practitioners to discuss both conceptual approaches and concrete delivery.


Programme for the debate:


Chair: Juha Kaakinen (Y-Foundation)

10. 00 Introduction:

  • Freek Spinnewijn, Director of FEANTSA

  • Ciarán Cuffe, Member of the European Parliament

10.15 How to shape cross sectoral cooperation from traditional spatial practices to interdisciplinary daring delivery?

  • Dr. PhD Daniel Talesnik, Curator, Architekturmuseum, München

  • Aurelie De Smet, Researcher at KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture

11.00 Q&A with audience

11.15 Project presentations of innovative Architectural solutions

  • Pablo García Astrain, Director of Housing and Architecture at the Department of Housing, Basque Country. Will present Alojamientos Dotacionales: Repurposing Unused Non-Residential Land in the Basque and Country as well as Loft Study House.

  • Joakim Breitenstein, Co-funder of Collaplan, will present Village Co-living and a refugee housing solutions.

  • Alexander Hagner, Architect, will present VinziRast mittendrin and Lokal mittendrin, a project that brings together students and formerly homeless people in community living.

12.00 Q&A with audience

12.15 Conclusions

  • Housing Solutions Platform

Recording of the event 2022-03-24

Summary of the event:

How can the New European Bauhaus foster architecture for Urban Inclusion? - Delivering solution to homelessness through out of the box architecture ambition.

Housing Solutions Platform webinar report

24/03/2022


On March 24, Housing Solution Platform (HSP) organized an online debate on New European Bauhaus (NEB) and the specific role of architecture to bring in disruptive practices and foster cross sectoral cooperation for urban inclusion, as a follow-up to the previous HSP debate on the new European Bauhaus from a homeless and housing perspective.


Introduction

The online debate was Chaired by Juha Kaakinen, senior adviser at the Y-foundation and opened by Ruth Owens, Deputy Director of FEANTSA and Ciarán Cuffe, Member of European Parliament (the Greens).

Ruth Owens started of with referencing to the previous HSP debate, an event asking a rather critical questions on whether an esthetical and green movement like NEB really can deliver anything from a socially inclusive perspective: “We came out of that discussion feeling like it actually could, and it should. That is what we are doing here today, brining inspiring thinkers, practitioners, and politicians together to follow up on that”.

Member of parliament Ciarán Cuffe is the rapporteur for the Energy Performance and Building Directive and has a professional background in architecture and urban planning. In answering the debate's main question: How can the New European Bauhaus foster architecture for Urban Inclusion?, Ciarán put his emphasis on the inclusive and sustainable aspects of the NEB. He expressed his concerns regarding that people think that there is a quick fix to the housing crisis, like making housing out of shipping containers. This is not the case he argued, instead he stressed the need for focus to be on sustainable and inclusive housing. He concluded by stating that even though the NEB is not a magical solution to all housing challenges, “it is an opportunity to put end users in centre, making better use of what we already have, and it can help up improve the quality of housing and make us think again about tackling the root causes of homelessness”.


How to shape cross sectoral cooperation from traditional spatial practices to interdisciplinary daring delivery?

Daniel Talesnik, is an architect specializing in modern and contemporary architecture and urbanism, and a curator at the at Architekturmuseum, München. He started of by underlining that homelessness is not necessarily an architectural problem, and that architecture cannot solve homelessness alone. But through collaboration with other societal actors and disciplines, there is a lot to be done. He talked about Who’s next? homelessness, architecture, and cities, an exhibition he has curated which in many ways embodies the values of NEB; inclusivity, beauty, and sustainability. The exhibition wants to challenge the official political discourse that he means is developing in many countries around the world, a discourse that implies that poverty is a personal fault, and that if people experience homelessness, it is because they have not tried hard enough to secure shelter and livelihood. Through research on the historical and current situation in cities around the world, analyses of architectural case studies, originally commissioned and existing documentary films, and a library, this exhibition aims to unfold different entry points toward understanding homelessness and some of the many related problems. Daniel received a question from the audience: “How can architects and homelessness organizations work together to use the NEB to deliver concrete impact for people in poor housing or experiencing homelessness?, to which he replied: “It’s a A naïve answer, but if there are incentives, subsidies, and money then the architects will go.

Aurelie De Smet, Researcher at KU Leuven Faculty of Architecture, approached the issue from a conceptual perspective. She talked about three notions for altering current practices for urban inclusion: Daring, Cooperative and Altering. She presented Solidary Mobile Housing, which is a project aimed at developing a model for the co-creation of solidary living in mobile homes, with and for people experiencing homelessness. She stated that she is convinced that architects can deliver innovative solutions to homelessness through out of the box architectural ambition, and that NEB can offer a lot of opportunities for this by initiating experiments, fostering cooperation over the boundaries of disciplines and sectors, supporting participatory and inclusive policy making.

Project presentation of best practices in innovative architectural solutions

The BLOCK Project was presented through a video due to the time difference between Seattle and Brussels. The BLOCK Project concept was created by BLOCK Architects in 2016, with the goal of setting a new precedent in housing solutions for people experiencing homelessness. The BLOCK Project builds communities of compassion throughout Seattle, engaging individuals, and their neighborhoods to welcome someone experiencing homelessness into their lives. The video presented was on the project's progress since its beginning.

Pablo García Astrain, Director of Housing and Architecture at the Department of Housing, Basque Country, presented the project Alojamientos Dotacionales: Repurposing Unused Non-Residential Land in the Basque Country as well as Loft Study House. Alojamientos Dotacionales is a project where the Department of Housing in the Basque Country is repurposing unbuilt plots originally intended for municipal facilities according to urban planning by-laws by reconverting them into accommodation with leases of up to five years. Through this innovation they hope to help young or socially disadvantaged people get onto the housing market. The Loft Study House is a similar project that also focuses on turning empty buildings into homes, but without the temporary contract. He concluded by stating that architecture has a lot to contribute with when it comes to housing solutions and believes there is more to be done on housing in their own public buildings: “even if is not a big change and only in small numbers, there is no reason not to do it, and that we must try to do it right and with the best architecture we can provide.”

Joakim Breitenstein, architect, and funding member of Tafkao, Collaplan and Village Co-living. He presented three projects on solutions to urban inclusion and homelessness. Two of the projects focus on anonymous apartment allocation for people in vulnerable positions, such as homelessness, one with the help of public funding and one where higher rent units partially finances lower rent units. One of the initiatives he works on at the moment is focuses on refugee housing, through co-living and community as a solution, where locals would live together with refugees. All these projects are based on the Vienna 4-column model of housing development including social, ecological, economical, and architectural criteria with the goal of reaching holistic sustainability.

Alexander Hagner, Architect at Gaupenraub, presented VinziRast mittendrin and Lokal mittendrin, is a collaboration between students from the University of Vienna, the architectural studio Gaupenraub+/- and the charity VinziRast. It is a pilot project in the area of community living and brings together students and formerly homeless people who live together in ten three-bedroom apartments. The centrally located building also has common rooms, a restaurant, roof top garden and event venues, and offers some work. To avoid the “Not in my backyard” mentality, the project initiators started the project by opening a vintage store, where they could inform the neighbors of the area know about the planned project. He argued that this had a positive effect and that the project was well received in the neighborhood when it started. Regarding the NEB, he asked for it to provide more funding towards inclusive housing solutions, recalling the goal of ending homelessness by 2030, stated in the Lisbon declaration on the European Platform on Combatting Homelessness. He stressed that “the solutions cannot be about shelter, it needs to be about hope and future, but in order to achieve this more money is needed”.


What do you think about the proposal of developing an EU-technical standard for NEB housing projects in the form of EU standards taking precedence over national construction standards?

Aurelie: It is a difficult discussion when it comes to high standards on housing. It is good to have standards on the one hand. But standards somehow can limit our possibilities and make the situation for vulnerable worse since the standards are so high that it takes so much money and time to realize these solutions, that it forces people to live in bad solutions for a longer time than necessary. For the end-users we meet, now staying in shelters or sleeping rough, any solution is better than their current situation. Even temporary solutions since it can be empowering and become a tool for taking their life back. And it is only for a transitional period.

Juha: Regarding temporary solutions and solutions that are only for the homeless I always have some suspicion. For me, all kinds of temporary solutions are a bit problematic in some ethical sense. This is a long and ongoing discussion, but also important for architects to think about. I have only one criterion that it could be for everyone, good enough for anyone to live there. There should not be a specific type of homeless housing.

Daniel: That is why we showed so many case studies on housing solutions in our exhibition. We do not think that there is one solution that works for all. There are many to learn from. It is very difficult to tackle the problem from a generic solution. Even if homelessness is a growing global problem, the solutions required need to be local.

Alexander: I also do not believe in a standardization of housing policies, since the causes, situations and experiences of homelessness are so diverse, the solutions also need to be as diverse. Everyone has a different story. The conclusion to be drawn from this experience is that there is a spectrum of housing needs and that solutions must be developed to fit these needs.

Conclusion

In conclusion, architecture does have an important role to play in bringing disruptive practices for urban inclusion. Although architecture is not the solution on its own, cross sectoral and disciplinary cooperation is needed. As Ciaran stated, the NEB is not a magical solution to the housing crisis in itself, but it can offer opportunities. Opportunities for thinking again about housing an opportunity to foster cooperation across sectors and disciplines. However, in order for the NEB to come through on its inclusivity goal, more funding needs to be directed towards adequate and innovative housing solutions for people in poor housing and people experiencing homelessness.

Clotilde Clark-Foulquier, project manager of the Housing Solutions Platform, concluded by reminding the participants that HSP is a platform aimed at connecting different actors, tools, ideas, and practices to help facilitate innovative solutions for affordable housing. She invited anyone who has ideas on how to this network can work together with architecture and make the most out of the NEB to reach out to HSP. If you have any further questions about the event, projects or speakers then please do not hesitate to contact us.