We are a population where the majority of us are urbanized. That is to say, more than half of the world’s population are city-dwellers. Some people are scared to death of this fact: how are we going to feed them, house them and find them jobs? Others see population increase as a burden, I see them as more people to come up with solutions. As an architect, I am chiefly concerned with the “how do we house them” question. With ever shrinking spaces to play with more people are coming up with ever more ingenious solutions that not only provide the very basics of shelter and warmth, but also lift the spirits and provide graceful, elegant spatial solutions to our 21st century needs.
Thoughtful consideration of seemingly impossible-to-utilise gaps and slots now provide some of the most delightful and desirable architectural gems. The gap house by Pitman Tozer Architects squeezes a 4-bedroom house into a west London plot, which, at its narrowest, is only 2.3m wide.
Mizuishi Architect Atelier, a Japanese based architect firm, have designed a beautiful slot house where strangely there is no slot, (this is driven by Tokyo’s planning restrictions, rather than actual site limitations, but it is no less wonderful), of only 29.7m2.
The High Line Park in New York is space that was previously considered a problem but is now an asset. Architects Diller Scofidio & Renfro took an old disused high level railway line and transformed it into a park, injecting a strip of wild meadow greenery through the heart of Manhattan, giving much needed relief to one of the most urbanised islands on earth. No one thought it could be anything more than an inconvenient relic until they were shown otherwise.
The ability to see space as a blank canvas, any space as a blank canvas, and not just the easy, big, wide open spaces, upon which to build whatever we need, requires imagination and determination. We can easily find uses for the many spaces left over in our cities: we just need to open our eyes and think differently.
Words: Jonathan Fisher Architect
BA(Hons) Dip Arch RIBA
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