Experimental Housing: Density and Incrementality

Generations of architects and urban designers have been searching for alternatives for standard apartment typologies. Many experiments have been designed and built to achieve a high housing density without opting for high-rise typologies, for example the post-war carpet housing projects of Atelier 5 and Roland Rainer, the 1960’s experiments for the American suburb (Alexander and Chermayeff’s study Privacy and Community) and in the European city (Piet Blom’s Kasbah concept), or contemporary projects such as West 8’s project for Borneo-Sporenburg in Amsterdam

Simultaneously, architects have been investigating another, seemingly lost aspect of housing; the possibility for the residents to adapt and enlarge their private space over time. This fascination for the idea of incremental housing has an equally long and fascinating history, from Le Corbusier’s Plan Obus via Friberger’s Kallebäck housing, Site’s 1970’s study for vertical incrementality and Frei Otto’s tree houses to Aravena’s Quinta Monroy.

The figures of low-rise high-density housing and incremental design are again very much in the centre of attention. In the seminar, examples from the past and today are studied, and tested how they can answer todays demands for sustainable, energy-neutral and circular housing design on the one hand, and a stronger participation and options for intervention for the residents on the other hand.  Can the analysis of these and other cases give answer to the question if low-rise high density housing is the right alternative for apartment building, and whether ‘designed’ incrementality is a fruitless obsession of architects or a valid approach to housing design?

An analysis of examples from the past and present will lead to a written and drawn manifesto for the housing of tomorrow.