The Urban Village Project: A Vision for Liveable, Sustainable and Affordable Homes
Photo — EFFEKT Architects for SPACE10
A new way of living together
The Urban Village Project aims to allow for cheaper homes to enter the market, make it easier to live sustainably and affordably, and ensure more fulfilling ways of living together. We envision that to happen by prioritising liveability, sustainability and affordability.
A liveable environment needs to suit our unique needs, adapt to the pulse of daily life and offer us the support systems and social life we seek. The Urban Village Project aims to do that by unlocking the multiple benefits of living in a tight-knit community, offering flexibility and cultivating a sense of belonging. Here’s how:
- Cross-generational shared living communities in the hearts of our cities. The Urban Village Project would combine private living with shared spaces that enable people to be part of a vibrant community and enjoy a social lifestyle where they live.
- Flexible homes for life. We propose offering multiple apartment types instead of standard, family homes—so whether you’re single, a family of four, a retired couple or a group of students, you have options. And if life happens and you need a different living space, you could simply stay in your community by swapping apartments with others also looking for a change.
- Shared facilities and services. The Urban Village Project would give access to what you need on a daily basis. Communal dinners, shared daycare, urban gardening, fitness, groceries, and shared transportation; these aren’t simply perks that would come with The Urban Village Project. They’re building blocks for creating a thriving community and a supportive everyday life for people of all ages, backgrounds, and living situations.
- A digital platform to help you keep your home at your fingertips. We envision a tool that would enable you to nurture your real-life communities and connect you to your subscriptions, services and facilities.
Living a sustainable life shouldn’t feel like a burden, but like a natural part of life. The Urban Village Project makes living sustainably a no-brainer by rethinking the design, management and life cycle of our built environment. This is how:
- Integrated solutions like water harvesting, renewable energy, local food production, and localised composting.
- Shared resources. Instead of every household having to buy and store the same items—like that drill for that once-a-year job—the Urban Village Project suggests we share one between many. This would help your living costs go down and your care for the planet go up.
- Homes made out of cross-laminated timber—a wood that comes with huge environmental advantages and outperforms steel and concrete on multiple levels.
- A modular building system, where almost all building components and materials can be disassembled and replaced, reused and recycled over the lifespan of the building. Not only would this benefit the planet by minimising waste: it would also give people a lot more freedom and flexibility. You would be able to add to and edit your home as you see fit—which would make integrating a floor-to-ceiling window, balcony or new kitchen that much more doable.
To make truly affordable homes a reality, we need to bypass the interests of short-term investors and challenge existing models of development—the two culprits behind rising housing prices in almost every major city. Here’s how we envision to change that:
- A standardised modular building system that would be pre-fabricated, mass-produced and flat-packed— all of which would help drive construction costs down.
- Partners looking for long-term investments—like pension funds, future-oriented companies and municipalities.
- Democratic setups inspired by community land trusts and co-operatives. These would allow for cheaper homes to enter the market and secure the interests of the community.
- A monthly rate for all your essentials, like rent, electricity, water, heating, maintenance and shared facilities.
- Flexible, add-on subscriptions that would unlock better deals on daily needs like food, media, insurance, transport and recreation.
- The option to buy ‘shares’ of real estate—to access ownership progressively and cash in later as the property value increases. This would get rid of expensive down payments upfront alongside interest rates which limit first time buyers from entering the housing market. Over time, the property would be owned by the community, and residents would be able to cash in on the profits.
Why do we need this?
Cities all around the world are facing complex issues like rapid urbanisation, ageing populations, climate change and a lack of natural resources. At the same time, we are in the middle of a global housing crisis. We simply aren’t building enough affordable homes to keep up with the demand. Our cities are becoming increasingly unaffordable, unsustainable and socially unequal. And the situation is only become more challenging: 1.5 million people are moving to a city every week—meaning that in just a little over a decade, 1.6 billion people are projected to lack access to affordable, adequate and secure housing.
So, we have a problem. On top of this, we face another challenge: people are living closer and are more connected than ever before, but we still feel increasingly lonely, anxious and stressed in our cities.
It’s in the intersection of these pressing challenges where we believe The Urban Village Project might offer a solution. We know that around 40 percent of the areas that will need to be urbanised in 2030 do not yet exist; as daunting as the task is, we have a blank canvas to explore how we want the future of our cities to look like and function.
At SPACE10, we’ve been researching and exploring the idea of shared living for two years. Together with EFFEKT Architects and IKEA, we’ve condensed those insights into a concrete concept and vision that just might address the challenges we’re facing today.
Our ultimate hope is that we can present this vision for the future to engage and inspire others. By engage, we mean we’re looking for feedback: before we move on to the next stage of this project, we want to make sure we’ve heard as many ideas and concerns as possible.
EFFEKT is a research-based, multidisciplinary architecture and planning studio. Their aim is to create a lasting social, economic and environmental effect ensuring societal value in a local, regional and global context.
Norgram Studio is the Design Director duo of internationally recognized and awarded designers Sebastian Gram and Mathias Høst Normark. Norgram is the design studio behind the digital layer.