Opening today, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London is hosting a new exhibition At Home in Britain: Designing the House of Tomorrow. Focusing on three typologies: cottages, terraced housing and flats, the exhibition will critique vernacular housing trends of the past while addressing contemporary issues such as affordability, housing density and shared living.
Making use of RIBA’s extensive architectural archives, a diverse selection of six practices, divided into groups of two for each typology were commissioned with each producing projects and case studies specific to the task. The exhibition also ties in with the British pavilion at this years Venice Biennale titled Home Economics led by Shumi Rose, Jack Self and Finn Williams.
Tackling the cottage typology, London studio Jamie Fobert Architects, who also designed the exhibition, looks at how plot sizes needn’t be an issue in the 21st Century when considering low-cost countryside dwelling. “The ability to have your own piece of land hasn’t really changed,” said Fobert at a press preview. His exhibit which features an extensive site model of the Ailesbury East development, also criticizes the disparity between suburban housing that has been “dropped” into village contexts citing how 58 percent of space is tarmac.
Also focusing on cottages is French firm, Maison Edouard François. François best known for his Flower Tower project focuses his study on a site by the Orly Airport just outside of Paris. Despite being destined for demolition, François advocated the site’s reuse calling for individuality in his low-rise housing scheme.
Taking on terraces are London firms vPPR and Mæ. Led by Alexy Ely, the firm has put together an interactive exhibit that encourages people to design their own terrace choosing from a selection of floor plans and facades factoring in lifestyle and budget.
vPPR on the other hand take a look at how party walls, instead of separating, can unify residents in terraced housing. Tatiana von Preussen, one of the founding trio of female architects at the firm explained how recreational space doesn’t always have to be secluded and private, using a 1:50 axonometric drawing and mirrored styrofoam 3D model to highlight the possibility of shared spaces.
Here, von Preussen argues that as more people are working from home, a collective office space could be a future possibility while stressing that vPPR’s proposal did not “impose” communal living, saying that the process would be “organic”.
On to the final typology of the flat and Dutch firm Mecanoo has put together a large wooden cuboid scale model aimed to demonstrate how different lifestyles can coexist in the same structure. Of all the practices, their work relies most heavily on RIBA’s collections.
Their exhaustive study showcases sections from Denys Lasdun’s “ziggurat” halls of residence at the University of East Anglia and Peter Cook’s competition submission for a block of flats on Roosevelt Island in New York. However, their primary inspiration derives from the floor plans of Britain’s country estates, as can seen with Ragley Hall, where a central atrium serves as the buildings focal point and communal hub.
Finally, Studio Weave from London take the most abstract approach. Their quirky exhibit chronologically looks at how housing was sold to public. Using this, they have put together a series of hypothetical adverts for the housing of the future – or of 2025 to be precise. The posters, baring a resemblance to Match.com’s recent exposure in London, feature phrases such as “Meet your emergency dog walker” and “Meet your supermarket sidekick” envisioning a future where communal living is an in demand asset.