move 2, mobile real estate: Research Work on Housing Densification
The hallmark of our affluent society is the more. XL means more for the money, one could be left out: to be on the safe side, think generously, but don’t think that in the end you will have too little after all.
The car industry lives predominantly from this luxury principle - SUVs are the growth guarantors and success models of the car industry. However, users’ desire for larger cars does not mean more use or better cars.
Incomprehensibly, however, the size of the interior is only seen as a monumental background for the representative form and not as a possibility to use the volume advantage for different spatial scenes. These do not exist at all or are completely underdeveloped. If you go to the Porsche website, the choice consists primarily of equipment variants of various high-quality surfaces. The space is defined by the materials, not by the chance to see size as the starting point for an innovative room. The only choice is to fold down the rear seats. An indictment of industrial design! Because the Porsche Cayenne’s size would actually make it predestined to allow for different seating arrangements and living situations. Instead, we experience a space situation that has been classic since the early days of the car: 2 rows of seats facing forward, that’s it. Innovative can be done differently.
Since all car manufacturers now offer models in the SUV segment, a large number of customers apparently do not expect more use or a differentiated use. They simply don’t care if 6.75 times their investment disappears in the representation instead of in a room of possibilities. It is clear to everyone that this is not the point - no demands are made and the possibilities of industrial design are completely abandoned. If the comparison between the Porsche Cayenne and the Twingo is at first absurd and certainly polemical, it shows a design principle of spatial waste. Obviously the wishes of a solvent clientele are depicted here, who no longer want for their money, but are fobbed off with a simply knitted status object. Luxury in this form rarely leads to innovation. The entry into intelligent design is more likely to take place through questions whose starting point is a problem or the lack of one.
The Twingo offers different room situations in a small space, aimed at different uses and life situations. In a minimal volume, 5 people should be transported, and a Billy-Reagl should also be taken along after a visit to Ikea. In 1993, the Twingo 1 was promoted in the Paris metro by allowing people to stay overnight in it even on weekend trips. The Twingo is a hybrid between different types of vehicles. As a small car and minivan, it offered completely new spatial concepts in a small space when it was introduced, and its price was also popular.
Car manufacturers are obviously experimenting more and with greater pleasure with small cars. This is where new spatial concepts and possibilities are implemented. The type of minivan stands for the principle of a resource-saving approach to design and for a sense of authentic forms of life. It offers ambiguity and variety instead of reduction, partly because it softens common types of car through hybridisation. The current challenge is the more in the less. Anyone can do the opposite.
S instead of XXL
S seems little at first. XXL is more, and with it comes more opportunities. For the architect, small is rather a flaw. For the designer, large projects are usually not only a reward but also a gain in prestige and mean new technical and design dimensions. For this reason, growing or large offices seem unwilling to work on projects of smaller dimensions from a certain point on. However, as the size of the project increases, the innovative opportunities diminish as the constraints increase and the clients are more conservative. Microarchitecture means designing in a controlled dimension, where the premises are manageable and therefore experimental handling is easier. The corresponding budget also means less financial commitment and risk. In terms of planning, the designer is closer to the project. The dimension calls for the development of prototypes of new possibilities in space. The relationship to the user is on a human scale and the probable use is more likely to be estimated, as the planning process automatically takes place on a par with the human scale. S offers the chance to create zero-distance spaces in which the user is in communication with the architecture and can change it according to his requirements.
Instead of monumental thinking in design, S means, in addition to form, above all to shape use over time and in this respect form is constantly questioned - which of course excludes any monumentalisation or the Cayenne principle. The focus is not on an object that is larger than a human being or a medium that the user expects to monumentalise himself personally, but solely on the interaction of use.
The 2nd thought in relation to the dimensions is the idea of savings. Those who build smaller rather than larger save money. Here the decisive point of saving is not omission, but the premise of the efficiency thought. The possibilities remain the same and the use is not restricted in a smaller area. Where space is shrinking, neither comfort nor use and above all the feeling of well-being in the room is reduced.
The future model of design is developing against the background of intelligent resource management. This is countered by a social trend towards the expansion of space.
What is the background? Architecture, like all areas of design, is subject to extreme, closely timed innovation and evolutionary pressure. This is associated with a permanent tendency to subdivide and multiply, as a result of which connections are suspended and redefined or more precisely defined. This means more and more possibilities for the room. Usually, a programme expansion can only be achieved by more space - I call this outward expansion.
There are various strategies to counteract this. The classic one is the optimisation model of planning. In order to save space, apparently superfluous programme items are deleted and the planning focuses on the essential requirements. Due to the reduction process, however, this planning model ultimately creates a shortage of supply. In the “either or” part of the possibilities fall by the wayside.
However, it is not a question of minimising the possibilities, but of expanding them. In addition, authenticity plays a role and the consideration of current innovations. If the expansion into space, which naturally also means more material, contradicts a resource-saving way of thinking, only densification remains as a model. A changeable or mobile space with its “both and” strategy provides a maximum of spatial use and quality and paradoxically means less space due to the densification of use.
In order to achieve a densification of use, a precise knowledge and analysis of functions and their processes in relation to the people in the future building is necessary. The second step is to identify spatial intersections of the uses and potential savings. Can functions that alternate in time not overlap in space? To what extent can I functionally compress the building and thus save space?
In this respect, mobility is not a formal approach, but a purely pragmatic way of dealing with space. Mobility allows the programme to expand in the opposite direction - inwards. Ultimately, mobile architecture struggles against the expansion of space inherent in the current planning process.
Architectural mobility enables a reconnection of functions that have been separated in the process of differentiation without dissolving their respective characteristics and advantages and without necessarily taking up more space. It is a bracket in which different and even contradictory functions can coexist. It is also a different strategy to meet the compulsion to permanently differentiate all areas and parts.
The idea of mobility or changeability in design, if taken seriously, always focuses on a space- and resource-saving handling of the existing space. The miniaturisation of space is an art if it does not lead to a minimisation of possibilities. Diversity and complex, authentic demands - be they ambiguous or even contradictory - should not be abandoned.
Situation and volume
Changeable architecture is always related to a usage picture and changing situations. This period can be short or long, repeated in cycles regularly or irregularly.
The architect does not only design the space but the spatial design results from the analysis of a possible use. The analysis of the situations and the resulting design is also speculative and one must speak of probable rather than safe situations.
Therefore, the situation design should not only fix prescribed spaces and situations in the smallest detail, but also maintain variables and free space for the user.
The Situationists of the 1960s saw the quality of a human design precisely in the chance and abuse of a planned situation. In the concept of the Situationists of “La dérive”, the counter-model to the complete plannability of modernity is cultivated - curiosity and discovery in the situation enriches life more than architecturally determined rules and a dictatorial spatial design without possibilities of appropriation.
On which planning model is changeable architecture based? First of all, planning analyses the relationship between spatial uses and attempts to organise the interaction between object and movement or access area in space as realistically and future-oriented as possible. Necessarily this can only be done from the perspective of the person who is in the room and moves through the possible and necessary uses in the daily routine. In this respect there is a relationship quadrangle between person, object, room and access area. An object can be a piece of furniture or a technical object, e.g. a kitchen, a bathroom etc. A room is neutral and provides the necessary surface.
The actors present in this quadrilateral have their own different space requirements. This is always based on the maximum area. The maximum space requirement exists during human use, because in addition to the necessary space and object area, there are also movement and access areas.
In the mobile model, initially only the object area and the neutral space have a concrete space requirement. The movement and access areas must be considered additionally and can be omitted if the object is not used. Movement and access areas are only necessary when the object is in use.
The aim of mobile architecture is to use this difference to provide the necessary space for use as required and to take it away from the rest of the room.
It is crucial that the rooms used are only adjusted in volume on the basis of situations that are called up, as all components of the relationship quadrangle are involved. The movement and access areas are no longer required when not in use.
The method of volume adjustment is exemplified in the mobile shelving system: movement and access areas are temporarily created only where they are needed.
Usage density and structure
The question is, what is the total area required for use, and how does densification of use work structurally in a changeable or mobile model?
Use in a densely populated area is organised in a dual relationship of two areas: zone and neutral space.
In most cases, specific uses are stored in a zone. These are combined in a kind of service area and structurally linked to a neutral room. The bundling of uses in the zone takes place on a minimised area, as the necessary development areas for the individual uses are saved. These are located outside in the neutral space. The more functions are combined, the more access space is saved. Louis Kahn called this the relationship between “serving and served space”.
When in use, the movement and access areas are in most cases removed from the neutral space and added to the object or zone of use. As far as mobility is concerned, movement and access surfaces can be mobile and face the room, or the room and the object surface can be in motion and the movement and access surfaces are stationary.
The desired use can be released from the compressed storage mass by the user at a precise time and in a use-oriented manner and assigned to the general space. During the use of a specific use, the previously neutral general space is redefined as a specific space. By shifting the specific uses back to the service space after use and replacing it with another, the neutral space alternates between different uses. It is a relationship of foreground and background, whereby the neutral space, with its continuous spatial presence, is the primarily perceived one.
Mobility of the system controls the alternate uses in a small space and leads to space saving. It compresses the variety of functions in a limited space and leads to the retention of the programme in a small area or even to the expansion of a differentiated offer in the same area.
Space saving through compression can benefit the expansion of the neutral space or lead to a fundamental saving of the total area. In both cases there is an inward expansion.
Organisational density of use
In addition to the densification of use through intelligent spatial planning, densification of use through organisation is a further variant of resource conservation.
It is not about reducing the size of the space. It is a matter of densifying time use by means of building or room management software which organises use in the building and allocates it to the respective users.
In architecture, these offers serve to avoid vacancies. In this case, the timing of the use of rooms is reduced by means of management software. The maximum goal is permanent uninterrupted use. This may result in space savings, since the densification of use within a room makes another room of the same use superfluous.
In the Non Territorial Office this idea first appeared in the 1980s. The premise is that space requirements are not based on staff numbers. A workplace does not necessarily have to be provided for everyone, as some of the staff always do not need a workplace due to illness, holidays or external appointments. As this situation permanently results in a constant percentage ratio of present and absent staff, it is possible to dispense with some structural workstations. The idea is to provide only as much space as is effectively used.
Thus, space savings of up to 60% are possible for office space. However, these are again reduced by an increased need for communication space, since no employee has a personal workplace and communication requires fixed locations. However, the communication areas used by all employees involved, which are also equipped with different room atmospheres, make a significant contribution to improving the quality of the entire architecture.
Airbnb is another example of how the use of the room can be condensed using software. Here flats are rented out to tourists during the absence of the users. Even a temporary absence of individual users within a flat (e.g. the children) can be organised by partial lettings, if the floor plan allows it. In this way, flats or parts of flats can be used permanently. The monthly costs to be borne by the owner are reduced to their actual use. The rest is earned.
Uber is also an efficiency structure for all legal problems and contributes to a densification of use when the car mutates from a private car to a taxi, depending on the situation. Even if the number of cars cannot be reduced significantly in this way, the trend towards using intelligent resources is visible and leads to cost savings. Condensation of use is an authentic phenomenon.
A project by Eichinger Offices in Vienna is an example of the possibilities of increasing density of use in a reduced area. The mini-apartment under the roof of a Viennese apartment building combines in a small space what is necessary.
Multiple occupancy of the space by different uses enables a differentiated use through mobile interplay. Initially, the flat has an open floor plan, which can, however, be divided into several areas by changeable objects, doors and textiles.
This principle is also used to increase the density of use and save space. In the sophisticated access situation of the bathroom and toilet, it becomes clear how the functional multiple occupancy saves space.
From the corridor and entrance to the flat, one branches off to the left into the bathroom. Initially, the relationship between corridor and bathroom is open. However, it is only possible to use the WC in a cupboard if you open both doors to the bathroom and use the space in the bathroom. Otherwise the WC does not offer any possibility to stay due to the compressed situation. The interplay between the passageway and cabinet door of the WC is usage-oriented and perfectly optimises space management in a limited space.
The subtle design also extends the range of possible uses. The double door of the WC is just as ambiguously oriented towards use. The unpolished wing blocks the room from the corridor, while the polished wing of the two stainless steel doors serves as a mirror for the bathroom when open or closed.
“all that is missing …”
In a listed 50s house, whose floors are used to their limits, the unfinished roof represents a kind of possibility room and projection surface for accommodating deficits. The demands and functions are manifold and different. What is desired is a heterogeneous mix of master bedroom, storage, storage and dressing area, a toilet and a bathtub that has not been available in the house until now. In order to counteract the threat of design chaos, a design with clear spatial differentiations and consequently with several small rooms is to be expected. In contrast to the two small differentiated living levels, however, the low attic is the only large-area level. The quality of the connected area should not be abandoned and yet the goal of accommodating all functional deficits in the attic floor should be achieved. The large area is ambiguous and thus deliberately kept out of focus. In its form it should nevertheless provide a significant space
concept. The room is divided into a large area and a zone on one side of the wall, which accommodates the majority of the desired functions. An interactive relationship is established between the two space-defining areas by 2 mobile partitions. The essential aspect of this organisation is the densification of the space through a variety of uses, while at the same time saving the development area for these uses.
The zoned functions are stored for the entire space. It is only in the process of relocating the respective partition walls into the overall space that the functions behind them are given the necessary development area for their use. The development areas saved for each use benefit the general area when not in use. This can be reduced in size or, through spatial reversibility, become a large space again.
The disposition of the large area is initially kept open and changes according to the demands of the user, who moves the partition walls and thus functionally specifies the entire space. The neutral space initially used as a bedroom is redefined according to the position of the partitions and becomes the space of a desired function.
The partitions are also negotiable boundaries that can expand and contract to the disadvantage or in favour of one side or the other. If necessary, the space beyond the partitions can be defined as storage space and thus relieve the rooms in the house. In addition, the entire functional area is open for future adaptations, as the partitions are designed as containers and existing functions can be exchanged in favour of other more up-to-date ones.
The movement of the partitions also changes the perception and shape of the room. The light is modelled by the respective position of the partitions, as they are related to the skylights through an opening on the top. The partitions are coloured on the inside and have their own usage-related materials. The differentiation of the functional rooms according to colour, light and materiality creates, depending on function and use in the neutral room, its own room atmospheres and thus prevents a purely technical organisational effect of the room.
Starting point. The conversion of a 1950s house removes the small-scale order and creates a large connected area of kitchen, dining and living. The new space forms the background for authentic living.
Concept A 6 m long dining table that can be extended from the volume of the kitchen reacts to the constantly changing space requirements caused by different numbers of people. It is the central indicator of social activity in the room. Depending on the occasion, it can seat up to 23 people. By extending it to the terrace, its maximum size dissolves the division between inside and outside.
The dining table visualises the interaction and interplay between the uses of cooking, eating and living. While the cooking area remains constant due to the density of the technical equipment, the areas of dining and living are constantly renegotiated depending on the intensity of use.
Starting point. Moving Icon is a mobile information pavilion that is used at various historical locations in the Westphalia region. The image of the popular icon of building 4 walls and a roof is the starting point for a changeable space, which informs about historical cities and their architecture by means of various analogue and digital media.
concept. When the trailer is set up and its shell is raised, its usable volume doubles and its shell becomes a vertical sign in the set of the other pavilions. The two situations trailer on the move and information pavilion in use are provided with the necessary space. While driving, the mobile space is compressed to the legally binding volume. When the pavilion is in use, the volume is automatically expanded by the movement or access area.
Media installation. At night, the shell becomes a light source and screen with the help of beamers. The media installation is font based and dynamic. It informs about facts and developments in the region. Inside the barrier-free pavilion, visitors have the opportunity to obtain in-depth information on screens. The back wall is designed as an interactive pin board, on which visitors can write down their thoughts or receive and take information with them. In contrast to the digital surface of the media skin, the informative exchange here takes place in an application-friendly manner with the aid of classic printed products. These can be produced with printers or photocopiers and can be adapted accordingly.
Move from 2008 was the first volume to deal with mobile and changeable spaces in my teaching field. There are more than 7 years between Move 1 and Move 2. Since then many student designs have been created in my field of study, which have dealt with the topic of changeable or mobile spaces and installations. I have also written numerous theoretical texts and planned mobile projects.
The confrontation with the student works has stimulated and continuously motivated my artistic work. Likewise, the many experiences from my experimental work have flowed back into the university and lectures and have inspired the student designs.
The present book is the result of a research project on housing densification carried out at the Department of Architectural Theory of the HS Mainz in SS 15 and sheds light on a further aspect of mobile design. A lecture given in SS 15 at the Stuttgart Academy on the topic of densification of use served as an introduction to the work.
Move 2 organises, supplements and expands the thoughts, lectures and presentations on the topic of usage densification that have been developed in recent years.