the competition / 2019 Theme

Giving Social Housing a Human Touch

And what if…. modular construction allowed us to engage with the most underprivileged sectors of society in a dynamic and proactive way, to effect real change in social housing areas?

Social housing developments have been undergoing renovation for 30 years now. Not only are we far from reaching all the sites, but these renovations barely address one of the main historical reasons for the malaise affecting social housing projects: the significant lack of amenities in the public spaces in areas with high density of social housing.

Other than “shopping malls,” often located in a cluster alongside or on the ground floor of high-rise developments , it was and still is, difficult to make good use of these urban spaces, and to install useful amenities in these locations.

What really brings a city to life are these small details that can be hard to pinpoint, which have no specific function and yet are so important. Without them, the “green spaces” of social housing developments would be virtually devoid of any social or cultural significance.

It is almost impossible to obtain local authority approval to build these elements on large urban areas because the social housing developments are being renovated (just as they were built in the first place) as part of large public sector projects. These are more focused on the big functional needs than on those small services that turn cities into enjoyable places to live.

THE purpose of the competition

“Places are smart if people are smart”

However, modular construction, in itself a means of providing of “temporary accommodation,” could provide us with a certain “license to take action” in these large urban settings, that in the past, before the growth of urbanization and social housing, lay within the power of residents and elected officials who wanted to improve services and amenities.

And what if… small facilities were created and not just used as temporary solutions, but rather as the first step towards a dynamic and proactive transformation of vacant urban spaces, a kind of grassroots movement demonstrating that a temporary solution can uncover a permanent need?

On a site that they will select for themselves, students should be alive to the views expressed by the people actually living there, and then draw on the adaptable nature of this modular form of construction to … create new amenities in the empty spaces of these social housing sites.

Starting today without any foundations, students should think of these projects not in terms of the project itself, but as an anchor being cast to secure a lasting solution through a temporary structure, to address the need to regenerate these urban spaces.


Once the initial project has been created, the students will then propose forward-looking scenarios for 2025 and 2030. These scenarios will demonstrate how, over time, based on the social and cultural benefits resulting from the introduction of temporary facilities, the residents, officials and developers were gradually empowered to take action and to transform these barren spaces into living, breathing urban spaces they can call their own.