By Kevin Loftus
Ireland is in the middle of a housing crisis with Dublin as the epicenter. With the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008 there was effective an stop to all building in the county, as the property market, which was the main driver of the economy, collapsed. This was followed by a long period of austerity which saw decreases in social investment and increases in the countries wealth divide. Now, with the economy in recovery there has been a dramatic rise in the value of and demand for property. Because of this many people and families have been priced out of the market while the construction industry, which is still suffering the effects of the crash, is unable to respond to the demand. Between December 2014 and December 2015 there was a net increase in the number recorded as homeless of 1,700 people, up 43%.
At this moment it is pertinent to ask what type of built and social fabric we want for a re-emerging Ireland? We need a rapid response to the immediate problem of demand but continuation of the previous practices of urban sprawl and developer driven design will see a further increase in the social divide while prolonging an environmentally unsustainable form of building. We have an opportunity to re-imagine the future of our cities through densification and integration rather that the previous course of sprawl and isolation.
This project proposes a prefabricated timber structural system based on a 4.5x4.5m post and beam frame grid which allows for the rapid building of variety and complexity. An important lesson from the last century is that housing projects that express only the collective are social unsustainable. This system is scaleable and can be deployed on the top of various buildings thus offering different opportunities for habitation and expression while also integrating different social groups. The modular nature of the proposal means that different typological forms can emerge from the same system. High-rise extrusions, residential slabs, terraced units and hybrid configurations are all possible. The system allows for different external cladding and a selection internal finishes, giving each project a different characteristic and allowing residents to have a say in the final outcome of their own unit.
This project offers a re-imagining of future residential building for Dublin. Housing which offers all the environmental benefits of building density into the city through sustainable building methods, the ability to build rapidly in different configurations, the opportunity to allow residents input into their finished unit and the social integration that comes from having different housing types in the same complex.
While the system itself is footloose, this proposal tests it on a large scale on top of Arnotts in the city centre, Irelands largest and oldest department store.