The Big Building: Housing and Complex Design Strategies

Large hybrid objects integrating multiple functions and whose scale, over 100'000 m2, is halfway between the fragment of a city and that of a large-scale building: these are the key features of the complex projects that are triggering new debates on the subject of Design Complexity, usually referred to as Big Buildings. Recurrently bearing the predominance of housing, the paradigms of these mixed architectural forms - « cities within cities » developed either horizontally or vertically - may recall Le Corbusier's Unités d'Habitation, or even the American Hybrids, due to the multiple simultaneous conditions they succeed to accommodate within their generic envelopes. In Europe, either as a consequence of the urban densification and the resulting need for restraining the urban sprawl, or driven by political and economical dynamics of speculation and globalization, we are assisting to the echoed emergence of projects of this kind, often located nearby mobility interfaces or in old industrial areas in process of regeneration, normally with privileged connections to the city centres. The development of such projects is hypothetically becoming a trigger for the creation of new ways of producing collective housing, integrated within a more complex system of activities, bearing new strategies of articulation between housing and other programs, new models of public space, new typological experiments on the dwellings or new ways of invigorating social mix. Our intention is to investigate how effective is, then, the planning of collective housing within the massiveness of the Big Building and how can the design of housing inside this specific milieu generate new potentials and new knowledge in the architectural domain of Housing.


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