From snail living to tree living By Vardan Penesyan & Astghik Malumyan

From snail living to tree living

​​By Vardan Penesyan & Astghik Malumyan

Densely populated housing situations in big metropolitan cities exist everywhere. Especially in Shanghai in the recent 30 years, lots of young people choose to live in the city to seek opportunities and chase after their dreams. But in fact, the housing price and the price for land are becoming more expensive that most people cannot afford. It is very to hard a place to live. Nowadays, Shanghai’s real estate market is in the top 3 most expensive cities in the world. But the income for the young people is just about 30%-50% of the citizens in the developed countries, such as New York and Tokyo. 

 A lot of people are found in very crowded and polluted spaces. This phenomenon is called “Snails in shells.” Because each person gets a really small living space that is comparable to snails in their shells. For example, one room of 10 square feet often contains more than 10 people living inside of it. Our goal is to find an existing industrial building, and redesign it to make it feasible and more efficient for future uses. The lower parts of the building are used for commercial retails and offices, and the upper parts are for residential uses. In this case, we selected a complex building which was built 100 years ago by the British people.

This building still exists at the river bank of Shanghai. Interestingly, we put simplified but still complex residential units with the dimensions of 3-meter high, 3-meter wide, and 3-meter long in the building, which can house 1-2 people with complete facilities of toilets and vertical transportation. We use the company’s provided materials with the lightest structure. The combination of steel and wood structure can be developed very ecologically. It can be constructed piece by piece, growing up above the city. Although it is a small place, it can satisfy many people with relatively low cost, easy industrialized construction, and efficient use of space. In technical parts, we use pre-fabricated technology to integrate wood structure, lighting thin steel-sheet bars, and infrastructure pipes, such as toilets, electricity, and so on. We use this technology to make the design to become an organic entity that can be repetitively constructed. Due to the weather conditions in Shanghai, summertime is very hot, wintertime is relatively cold. Therefore, the temperature variation in a year is about 45 Celsius degrees. In this design, we prefer to use natural ventilation. The whole structure is like a beehive, the wind can flow vertically and horizontally out and into the units. Different types of courtyards arrangement show Chinese culture. People can also protect their privacy with smart arrangement of the windows that we come up with. If this design can be demonstrated, it can evolve into a plan to significantly improve the people’s housing situations and better the standards of lives in China.

City Above the City architecture competition

Plan B : City Above the City architecture competition 

Metsä Wood challenged architects and students around the world to push the boundaries of modern wood building design in the urban environment. Entrants from 40 countries created their Plan B to urbanisation using wood (Kerto® LVL – laminated veneer lumber) as the main material. The task was to design a wooden extension to an existing urban building. The entries were designed to 69 cities worldwide.

Explore the designs