High-rises, edifices, phalansteries: 12 high-density housing buildings: “macro-architectures” or “micro-cities”?
Le Corbusier, Unité d'Habitation, Marseille, France 1952
The project was designed to meet the post-war housing needs of the population of Marseille. The 18-storey complex houses 1,600 dwellings in 337 duplex flats and is characterised by the widespread use of rough concrete. Despite its monumental dimensions, which suggest the idea of de-personalisation and disorientation, the project pays scrupulous attention to social spaces and public services: the school, library, kindergarten, hotel, green roof, swimming pool, supermarket, laundry and shops animate an autonomous and organised micro-world on pilotis.
Choi Hung Estate, Ngau Chi Wan, Kowloon, Hong Kong 1962
In Chinese, "Choi Hung" means "rainbow", and perhaps it is from this suggestion that the decision to use a palette of eight different colours for the façades of this gigantic high-density social housing development (among the first in Hong Kong) originates, in order to soften its impact. The complex comprises eleven flat blocks, a car park, five schools, shops and restaurants on the ground floor of the buildings.
Oscar Neimeyer, Edificio Copan, São Paulo, Brazil 1966
The imposing building with its sinuous shape, 115 metres high and distributed over 35 floors above ground, was designed by Niemeyer to celebrate the economic growth of the city on its way to becoming an international metropolis. The building houses over a thousand flats for a total of about five thousand residents, a hundred offices, a church, a bookstore and four restaurants.
Luigi Carlo Daneri et al., Quartiere Forte Quezzi, Genoa, Italy 1967
The INA-Casa social housing complex consists of five blocks, each over 300 metres long, arranged according to the curves of the hillside. In total, the buildings were to house 865 flats, with a total capacity of 4500 inhabitants, and were to be set in a large park with shops and services, which were never fully realised apart from a primary and nursery school and a church. The sinuous shape of the buildings has earned the project the slang name of "Biscione" and suggests the pattern of the housing macrostructures prefigured by Le Corbusier for Algiers in the Plan Obus.
Yoji Watanabe, The New Sky Building, Tokyo, Japan 1972
Considered an example of metabolist architecture in the conception of a building in continual evolution to support the transformative processes of the contemporary metropolis, the complex is composed of modular capsules attached to a central distributive core, which can be aggregated and replaced over time. Unlike the Nagakin Capsule Tower by Kishō Kurokawa, similar in construction, functional and figurative characteristics, which was demolished, the complex survived degradation and, renovated in 2010, now offers housing, shops and work spaces.
Manfred Hermer et al, Ponte City Apartments, Johannesburg, South Africa 1975
The colossal 55-storey building is characterised by a cylindrical volume with a hollow inner core to allow more light into the flats. At the time of its construction, a flat in Ponte City was very appealing; after a long period of decay, due to the displacement of the middle class to other neighbourhoods, the building was redeveloped in 2011 and now houses thousands of residents.
Zvi Hecker, Ramot Polin housing, Jerusalem, Israel 1982
Commissioned by the Israeli Ministry of Housing in the immediate aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War to cope with the housing emergency in the territories bordering Jerusalem, the high-density Ramot Polin housing complex is an example of strong compositional experimentation. The general layout evokes an open hand resting on a hillside, whose five fingers are each composed of five "L" shaped buildings assembled to create a dynamic zig-zag pattern, with internal courtyards crossed by pedestrian paths, in reminiscence of the Old City of Jerusalem. Each building is made up of the assembly of prefabricated dodecahedral modules, to which more conventional cubic components have been added over time.
Mario Fiorentino, Corviale, Rome, Italy 1975 - 1984
Conceived as an ambitious project of the Istituto Case Popolari at the end of the 1970s, the complex represents the utopia of the Falansterio, or a city enclosed within a building, as also represented by the Karl Marx Hof and the Unité d'Habitation. The complex is made up of three buildings: the main body, almost a kilometre long and extending over nine floors, a lower one parallel to the first and a third oriented at 45° to the first two. Stigmatised as an emblem of suburban decay, it still evokes widespread reflection on issues of participation and community.
Manuel Nunez Yanowsky, Les Arènes de Picasso, Marne-la-Vallée, France 1984
This macroscopic residential intervention, located in the new town of Marne-la-Vallée to cope with the capital's housing emergency, has become an outstanding landmark in the area for its size and compositional characteristics. The postmodernist-inspired intervention is characterised by an octagonal courtyard around which precast reinforced concrete blocks are distributed, supported by arcades: at the ends, two imposing disc-shaped buildings 50 m in diameter represent the allegory of dawn and dusk. The complex, which houses 540 social housing units, shops and a playground, is today subject to physical and social degradation.
Manuel Nunez Yanowsky, Les Arènes de Picasso, Marne-la-Vallée, France 1984View article
Jean Renaudie, Renée Gailhoustet, Le Liégat, Ivry-Sur-Seine, Paris, France 1982
The intricate housing complex in the Parisian banlieu, with its multifaceted volumes, concrete steps and tree-lined terraces, explores the topics of spatial articulation, flexibility, and the relationship with greenery, in clear opposition to the rigid regulations governing social housing at the time. The recently deceased architect Renée Gailhoustet lived here for years in one of the flats she designed.
Jean Renaudie, Renée Gailhoustet, Le Liégat, Ivry-Sur-Seine, Paris, France 1982View article
Aldo Luigi Rizzo et al., Quartiere Pegli 3 in S. Pietro (Le Lavatrici), Genoa, Italy 1989
Known as ‘Le Lavatrici' (washing machines), the housing 'wall' in Genoa's San Pietro district draws inspiration from the Japanese metabolist movement and the lesson of Archigram. The complex was part of a larger urban project after law 167 of 1962, which required municipalities above 50,000 to build social housing. The project consists of four units owned differently (municipal, private or by cooperatives). Originally conceived as an autonomous and functioning system, equipped with services and infrastructures, the complex is the object of radical criticism, due to the state of degradation to which it is subjected because of the use of cheap materials, the absence of the foreseen services, and wrong viability choices that have isolated it from the neighbourhood.
Aldo Luigi Rizzo et al., Quartiere Pegli 3 in S. Pietro (Le Lavatrici), Genoa, Italy 1989View article
BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group, The Mountain, Copenhaghen, Denmark 2008
The complex located in Ørestad, a cool district of Copenhagen and "middle ground" between the city and the countryside, plays on the issue of the symbiotic relationship between man and machine, between living space and car park. The programme envisages 2/3 parking and 1/3 housing: the plate of the mammoth car park, for 480 spaces, is the base on which the 80 flats are placed, arranged on ten "cascading" levels, with tree-lined hanging gardens. The north-eastern fronts, in perforated aluminium sheets, evoke the profile of Mount Everest, the ambitious benchmark against which this cyclopean urban architecture is compared.