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#Graphical - Case Studies on Spatial systems for Residential High-rise Buildings Urban Housing Lab-Oliver Heckmann

Authors:
  • Urban Housing Lab

Abstract

While the research as a whole included in-depth literature reviews on the relevant frameworks, and its findings have been published and presented at various platforms and applied in design studios and seminars, this compact publication focus on some of the graphical outputs, the analytical diagrammatic visualizations of the conducted case-studies. The respective studies were in the end not so much about the case studied projects themselves, and sometimes not the entire project has been covered. Instead, they intended to decontextualize and to generalize the spatial principles applied in the respective precedents. In particular in regard to the circulation system a series of diagrams has been iteratively developed and calibrated. They decipher the spatial logic and the social potential of boundaries, thresholds, interfaces, connections and nodes of encounter, with the intention to abstract the underlying principles crucial for potential communality. Aiming to visualize the qualitative parameters is not only an act of concentration and focus onto the research framework in the process of analysis, but also hints at the more abstract relational and organizational aspects of the spatial hierarchies within the three systems. As part of an overarching design matrix, such spatial strategies have the potential to be applied as generic design tools. The aim is to contribute to a new understanding of residential high-rise typology, with socially sensitive types for high-density housing that are able to foster social cohesion and to adapt to shifting demographics. (uploaded May 2019)
#GRAPHICAL
Case Studies
on Spatial Systems
in Residential
High-Rise Buildings
Urban Housing Lab
Architecture and
Sustainable Design
Singapore University of
Technology and Design
ASDRAW
#GRAPHICAL
Case Studies
on Spatial Systems
for Residential
High-Rise Buildings
The graphics in this publication are results
of the research project ‘Housing Complex/
Complex Housing. Urban Residential High-Rise
Typology for Social Cohesion and Demographic
Responsiveness’. The research has been
conducted by the Urban Housing Lab at the
Architecture and Sustainable Design Pillar of
Singapore University of Technology and Design.
It has been sponsored by an SRG grant from the
Singapore Ministry of Education.
Urban Housing Lab
Principal Investigator
Prof. Oliver Heckmann
Assistant Professor
Research Assistants
Aarthi Janakiraman, MArch
Chong Zhuo Wen Alexandria, MArch
Architecture & Sustainable Design (ASD)
Singapore University of
Technology & Design (SUTD)
CIRCULATION SYSTEM
Private
Private/Visible through interface
Interface Private
Threshold Private
Semi-private
Semi-private/Programmed
Corridors
Stairs
Elevator
URBAN EMBEDDER
Threshold Semi-Private
Interface Public
Public/Transversable
Public/Programmed
Public/Restricted
Public, beyond
UNIT
Individual spaces
Shared Spaces
Corridor Zone
Wet-cells
Kitchen cabinet
Unit boundary
Unit; potential division
Legend for all diagrams
ASDRAW
©2018 by ASD RAW Press
All rights reserved
Editor: Prof. Oliver Heckmann
Editorial Assistance: Aarthi Janakiraman,
Chong Zhuo Wen Alexandria
Urban Housing Lab
Architecture and Sustainable Design
Singapore University of
Technology and Design
8 Somapah Road, Singapore 487372
http://asd.sutd.edu.sg
This work is licenced under Creative Com-
mons Attribution - non-commercial - Shar-
eAlike 4.0 International License.
ISBN: 978-981-11-8646-2
Introduction 6
Circulation System 10
Bedok Court Condominium 12
Boon Lay Gardens 22
De Schicht 28
Entrance Niche along Corridor 34
KNSM and Java-Eiland 36
Kvistgård 42
Living Factory Solinsieme 47
Residential Home for the Elderly 48
Romeo and Juliet 50
Sui Wo Court 56
Torre Júlia 62
Walden 7 68
Urban Embedder Typology 79
Residential Condominium type 80
Void Deck Slab Block type 81
Cluster Block type 82
Podium Block type 83
Terraced Block type 84
Topographical Block type 85
Hong Kong Downtown Block type 86
Urban Plaza Block type 87
Unit Ribbon 91
Strategies 92
Exemplary design study 96
(The legend for all diagrams
is inside the left flap)
Introduction
> 8 < > 9 <
Introduction
According to a prognosis by the United
Nations, in 2050 two-thirds of humanity will
be living in cities worldwide. With this
urban growth, high-rise housing on a large
scale will again be a ubiquitous response
to give shelter to the ever-growing urban
populations. This process will necessarily
impact high-rise typology, and against the
backdrop of an increasing population density
it will be ever more essential to investigate
how design strategies for high-rise buildings
can be rethought to better facilitate social
cohesion, connectivity with the urban context
and adaptiveness to the demographic dynamics
of changing societies.
The essential approach and focus of this
research is to study residential high-rise
typology as a convergence of three abstract
systems of spatial relations. These domains,
serving as social catalysts within and in
between their boundaries, comprise the
circulation system and - as domains of
extremely different scales it connects to
at its both “ends” - the individual dwelling
units and the building’s embedding into its
urban context.
These are considered to be the essential
spatial systems that could potentially
determine a building’s responsiveness to
changing societies and its performance as a
social system - with its spatial hierarchies
and sequences and its essential interfaces
between the domains of the city, the
neighbourhood, the individual home and the
single individual within. The performance
of their layouts determines to which extent
spaces and their interfaces, connections
and thresholds succeed to foster a socially
cohesive environment and to be - at the
scale of the unit - adaptable to a complex,
demographic dynamic.
For all three systems, literature studies
and case studies on relevant precedents have
been used to establish an understanding of
the relevant entities and to identify and
specify the respective qualitative issues and
parameters relevant for their performance.
Also low- and mid-rise projects have been
included if the respective spatial structures
were considered to be relevant and applicable
for high-rise contexts.
Circulation systems
Housing projects on a large scale have often
been associated with anonymity, a lack of
social cohesion and consequently of mutual
responsibilities - a critical issue that has
typically plagued high-rise mass housing in
the past. In high-rise blocks, that with
such densification will eventually require
larger footprints and ever more levels, the
circulation spaces as social contact zone
should probably not simply be extended as they
were, by simply stacking ever more of the same
standard level plans.
Case studies on the circulation system cover
how their organizational configuration and
spatial hierarchies impact connectivity, how
they facilitate physical and visual encounter
across its thresholds and interfaces, and
how it manages to formulate sub-clusters of
apartment units that are manageable and small
enough to be conducive for the emergence of a
neighbourhood.
Urban Embedder Typology
The building types in large-scale public
housing estates or Newtowns are often part of
master plans with spatially and functionally
segregated volumes. While the research and the
case studies in this project focused entirely
on a building, not an urban scale, a smaller
section of the investigations focused on the
abstract hierarchies for a building’s lower
levels, that establish a potential contact
zone with the city. Aiming to rather reduce
the sheer complexity of this scope the studies
within this project concluded with a compact
typology of eight ‘Urban Embedders’.
Unit strategies
The developments of unit layouts in public
housing are often driven by a focus on the
nuclear family as occupancy, and by an urge
for a standardization that predominantly takes
the apartment unit as a hermetic entity -
often with highly deterministic, inflexible
layouts as a result. At the same time, urban
societies of the future will have to cope with
significant demographic shifts; with processes
such as diversifying forms of habitation,
substantially less consistent and stationary
lifecycles and increasing demands by ageing
populations, that challenge the adequacy of
housing stocks.
A series of studies on the residential unit
have investigated alternative approaches to
unit layouts that facilitate flexibility.
They evaluated spatial organizations not
based on their functional determination, but
with an eye on the morphological patterns
of room sequences, and their adjacency and
connectivity
This publication
While the research as a whole included in-
depth literature reviews on the relevant
frameworks, and its findings have been
published and presented at various platforms
and applied in design studios and seminars,
this compact publication wants to almost
entirely focus on some of the graphical
outputs, the analytical diagrammatic
visualizations of the conducted case-studies.
We believe that these diagrammatic illustra-
tions could be read as an autonomous form of
knowledge and that these are able to inform
designers about the embedded abstract logic of
the three spatial systems and to inspire them
for their own designs. The respective studies
were in the end not so much about the case
studied projects themselves, and sometimes not
the entire project has been covered. Instead,
they intended to decontextualize and to
generalize the spatial principles applied in
the respective precedents.
In particular in regard to the circulation
system a series of diagrams has been
iteratively developed and calibrated.
They decipher the spatial logic and the
social potential of boundaries, thresholds,
interfaces, connections and nodes of
encounter, with the intention to abstract
the underlying principles crucial for
potential communality. Aiming to visualize
the qualitative parameters is not only an act
of concentration and focus onto the research
framework in the process of analysis, but
also hints at the more abstract relational
and organizational aspects of the spatial
hierarchies within the three systems.
As part of an overarching design matrix, such
spatial strategies have the potential to be
applied as generic design tools. The aim
is to contribute to a new understanding of
residential high-rise typology, with socially
sensitive types for high-density housing that
are able to foster social cohesion and to
adapt to shifting demographics.
> Introduction
Circulation system
> 12 < > 13 <
> Circulation system
Unit cluster
“An open corridor accession facilitates
social encounter: (….) they are a pleasant
place to slow down and meet. Divided into
segments of six to eight units per they
generate manageable neighborly groups and
avoid anonymity. Individual appropriation and
territorialization of the immediate foreground
of one’s apartment is supported - like by
tiling the floor and setting plants.”
Chua, B-H., 1997
“By grouping dwelling units in a particular
way, by delimiting paths of movement,by
defining areas of activity and their juxta-
position with other areas, and by providing
for visual surveillance, one can create - in
inhabitants and strangers - a clear under-
standing as to the function of space and who
are its intended users. This will be found
to have led to the adoption by residents,
regardless of income level, of extremely
potent territorial attitudes and self-policing
measures.”
Newman, Oscar. Creating defensible space.
Diane Publishing, 1996.
At stake here is how the geometry of the
clustering manages to clearly demarcate a
spatial entity, giving a smaller number of
units as a manageable group of neighbours a
particular identity. Its geometric layout
impacts physical and visual encounter,
supporting the emergence of familiarity
and routines. Further parameters are the
transition from semi-private to private, the
proximity of units, the privacy gradient and
the positioning of shared programs, stairs and
elevators within a unit cluster
Unit interface
“The interface is where we both welcome and
exclude strangers; where we negotiate both
“publicity” and “privacy”, exposure to the
public gaze and retreat from it.”
Dovey, K. & Wood, S. (2015) Public/
private urban interfaces: type, adaptation,
assemblage. Journal of Urbanism: International
Research on Placemaking and Urban
Sustainability, 8:1, 1-16
The respective axonometric drawings, supported
by abstract pictograms and in some case by a
perspectival representation of the spatial
experience, are meant to again illustrate how
the geometrical shape and orientation of the
boundary facilitate encounter. The interface’s
porosity for visual and permeabilty for
physical encounter determines how the semi-
private and private domains are mediated. The
programmatic layering in front of or behind
the unit’s enclosure might impact the sense
of ownership over the space and how much time
both neighbours and tenants might spend here.
Circulation system
The circulation network in a high-rise housing
represents a space of transition between
public and private realms. It is a ‘neutral
ground’, a collective sphere with the poten-
tial to facilitate social interaction through
physical and visual encounters, shared paths
and spaces. The circulation network in a high-
rise building is seen as an essential spatial
entity hierarchizing the entire building,
that consists of multi-layered hierarchies,
horizontal and vertical connections, bounda-
ries, thresholds and interfaces. It encom-
passes interfaces to both the urban and
the private realm and has the potential to
spatially define sub-clusters of units,
which is seen as essential prerequisite for
manageable micro-neighbourhoods.
By analysing and evaluating the circulation
spaces as semi-private realm across multiple
typological case studies, the studies aimed
to establish an appropriate conceptual
terminology and framework of analysis, and an
illustrative understanding of the underlying
qualitative parameters for the circulation
system as an impactful social connector.
Eleven relevant projects are thus illustrated
in the following. They have been analysed
with a series of diagrams, that have been
standardized to put emphasis on the relevant
aspects but also for comparison.
Taxonomy
Diagram on Spatial hierarchy
The intention is to take spatial hierarchy
as a design topic in itself and to determine
abstract ways not only for their study as in
this research but essentially also for their
conception. In most residential high-rises
the spatial hierarchies are rather simple:
standard level plans are often numerously
replicated without any variation, and most
often only connected with each other across a
single vertical trajectory with the shortest
possible connection to the building’s entrance
on the ground. Mapping a building as an
abstract network of vertical and horizontal
connections, with branchings into manageable
sub-clusters of units and multiple nodes as
thresholds and interfaces between different
grades of privacy illustrates its potential as
a social space for encounter.
Diagram on Visibility
“The particular paths along which different
residents’ routines are carried out can be
conceptualized as ‘corridors of activities’.
Each corridor contains its own community of
resident users. Along each corridor, a high
degree of social and physical familiarities
can be achieved and maintained, as the
resident-users continuously reaffirm and
revitalize their acquaintances in their
incidental face-to-face encounters.”
Chua, B-H. “Community in a high-rise
environment”, in: Political Legitimacy and
Housing: Stake holding in Singapore, Routledge
1997
The set of axonometric diagrams on potential
visibility illustrate different design
strategies to facilitate visibility and
familiarity along the circulation network.
The degree in which resident-users can see
the rest of the circulatory path determines
the frequency potential visual encounters may
occur between them. This subsequently helps
to establish visual familiarity between them.
Additionally, the view of the other parts of
the circulatory path determines the clarity
of the resident user’s ‘mental map’ of the
spatial hierarchy of the building.
The visibility diagrams are generated using
Grasshopper script, with consideration to
the visual range of the human eye. One can
see 50 degrees above and 70 degrees below
the horizon within our social field of vision
of 100m, with the 25m threshold enabling us
to effectively watch and register facial
expressions.
> 14 < > 15 <
> Circulation system Bedok Court Condominium
The verandas along the streets of tropical South-East Asian Kampong villages and the sense of
security and community generated by their visual connectivity inspired the spatial hierarchies
of the circulation system for this private condominium. Applying the concept of a veranda with-
in a high-density urban building type created a three-dimensional, multi-layered neighbourly do-
main with multiple individual threshold spaces between the semi-private and private, between the
galleries and the units. This layout principle was applied two-sided in a mid-rise, one-sided in
the high-rise blocks. Offering this rather large private outdoor space invites appropriation for
several activities and thus has the potential to activate the shared space and to facilitate en-
counter. At the same time, its significant depth also determines a spatial distance that protects
one’s privacy. PROJECT: Bedok Court Condominium, 1985 LOCATION: Bedok, Singapore, SG DESIGNER:
Cheng Jian Fenn, Design Link Architects, Singapore SOURCE: BAY, J-H., ‘Socio-Climatic Design for
High-Rise Dwellings’, The 21th Conference on Passive and Low Energy Architecture. Plea 2004, p.18-
22, Eindhoven, September 2004
> Circulation system
1:2500
Privacy gradient /
Unit Cluster, plan
> 16 < > 17 <
> Circulation system Bedok Court Condominium
Unit
cluster
1:400
1:750
> 18 < > 19 <
> Circulation system Bedok Court Condominium
1:750 Unit
cluster
1:400
> 20 < > 21 <
> Circulation system Bedok Court Condominium
Visibility
1:600
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 22 < > 23 <
> Circulation system Bedok Court Condominium
59% porosity
3 punc/ 10 meters
9m
1 x x 1
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 24 < > 25 <
> Circulation system Boon Lay Gardens
The circulation system of the H-shaped blocks in this public housing estate forces its
residents to take a complex detour: Bridges at the single elevator core in the centre
connects only at every third level to the galleries along the two mirrored building
wings. Only the five stairwells lined up along these corridors then lead to the respec-
tive apartments, each serving six units in total with two on each landing. This detour
creates a journey along ever smaller groups of neighbours – all along the courtyard,
less facing one of the corridors, only a few in the units along one stairwell segment
and then two neighbours at one’s own landing. The kitchen windows open up to this com-
plex network of physical and visual encounters. PROJECT: Boon Lay Gardens, 1977 LOCA-
TION: Taman Jurong, Singapore, SG DESIGNER: Jurong Town Corporation, Singapore SOURCE:
RemSG, ‘Taman Jurong “H-Shaped” JTC Flats’, https: //remembersingapore.org/taman-ju-
rong-jtc-flats, accessed 10.08.2018
90 units
90 units
1:750
1:2000
Unit cluster, plan / Privacy gradient
> 26 < > 27 <
> Circulation system Boon Lay Gardens
Visibility
1:500
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 28 < > 29 <
> Circulation system Boon Lay Gardens
2.8M
~8M
1.4M
34% porosity
12 punc/ 10 meters
1.1m
1 x
3 2
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 30 < > 31 <
> Circulation system De Schicht
Each of the two-storey high galleries, one on the third and one on the sixth level of
this 200-meter-long linear block access a row of 18 unit entrance areas. Always three
apartment doors are combined at these zones - with one unit being on the access level
itself, one above being entered by an open stairway and one below with an internal
one. While a neighbourhood with 48 units along one corridor might be rather anony-
mous the concentration of entrances based on three different levels at one point is
an approach that supports encounter. The corner-windows of the kitchens and the open
stairwells overview the entire gallery, thus increasing visual connectivity. Ground
level units directly accessed from the street level activate the building’s urban
interface. PROJECT: De Schicht, 1984 LOCATION: De Esch, Rotterdam, NL DESIGNER: P.
de Bruijn SOURCE: Hooykaas, F., ‘Project 4.1984.1: De Schicht’, https:// rotterdam-
woont.nl/items/view/108/De Schicht, accessed 10.08.2018
1:750 Unit cluster, plan /
Privacy gradient
> 32 < > 33 <
> Circulation system De Schicht
Visibility
1:600
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 34 < > 35 <
> Circulation system De Schicht
30% porosity
1 2 X X X X
3 X X
10 punc/ 10 meters
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 36 < > 37 <
> Circulation system Entrance Niche Gutkind
In this conceptual slab block type, the individual outdoor spaces of the units are deliberately
lined up along the circulation galleries, rather than placing them at the outer façade. A recessed
space similar to a loggia establishes a threshold and interface in front of the private domains of
the units. The respective tenants staying here to relax gives opportunities for neighbourly en-
counter and for activation of the semi-private domain. A balustrade and a meshed frame offer some
kind of protection. The kitchen windows open up both towards the private loggia and the semi-pri-
vate gallery. PROJECT: Entrance Niche along Corridor, 1927 LOCATION: (Conceptual project) DESIGN-
ER: Erwin Gutkind SOURCE: Faller, P., ‘Der Wohngrundriss, Entwicklungslinien 1920 – 1990’, DVA
Stuttgart, Stuttgart 1996
37% porosity
6 punc/ 10 meters
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
Unit cluster, plan /
Privacy gradient
> 38 < > 39 <
> Circulation system
The project uses a multi-storey courtyard as circulation space; similar to an atrium with open
galleries at all sides. The positioning of the two cores in opposite corners achieves that ten-
ants walk by two other units at most before getting to their own. While immediate exposure is
thus controlled, the courtyard with units all around also facilitates visual encounter. The
placement of the floor-to-ceiling glazed kitchens along the galleries merges the life inside the
apartment naturally with the communal life of the building as a whole. The act of cooking is not
considered to be an entirely private and intimate activity and is thus used to establish an in-
terface. PROJECT: KNSM and Java-Eiland,2001 LOCATION: Amsterdam, NL DESIGNER: Diener & Diener
SOURCE: Heckmann, O., Schneider, F., (in collaboration with Zapel, E.), ‘Floor Plan Manual Hou-
sing’, 5th revised and expanded edition, Birkhäuser, Basel Berlin, 2018
KNSM- and Java Eiland
commercial
residential
1:750
1:1000
Privacy gradient /
Unit cluster, plan
> 40 < > 41 <
> Circulation system KNSM- and Java Eiland
Visibility
1:500
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 42 < > 43 <
> Circulation system KNSM- and Java Eiland
37% porosity
3 punc/ 10 meters
1xx1
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 44 < > 45 <
> Circulation system
Even though this project is, in reality, a low-rise suburban development with two-storey units
only, its spatial hierarchy illustrates an appealing layout: Each unit is accessed via an open
appendix corridor that branches off from the semi-private courtyard and that at its other end
openly connects to a private outdoor space along the outer façade. The unit entrance is set along
one side of this threshold corridor. Right opposite a small space can be entered that could be
used either for storage or as a workshop - eventually contributing to activate the semi-private
domain. Also, all kitchens are orientated in a way that they survey the courtyard - in order to,
for example, observe children playing here. PROJECT: Kvistgård, 2008 LOCATION: Kvistgård, DK DE-
SIGNER: Vandkunsten Architects SOURCE: Heckmann, O., Schneider, F., (in collab. with Zapel, E.),
‘Floor Plan Manual Housing’, 5th rev. and expand. ed., Birkhäuser, Basel Berlin, 2018
Kvistgård
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit cluster, plan Privacy gradient
> 46 < > 47 <
> Circulation system Kvistgård
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
Visibility
1:500
> 48 < > 49 <
> Circulation system
Within the context of these studies, the unit interface is the most relevant spatial entity of
the participatory senior housing project ‘Solinsieme’ - a combination of the words “solo” (alone)
and “insieme” (together). A floor-to-ceiling glazed eat-in kitchen with a deliberately placed
curtain behind gives this space a potential ambiguity and flexibility. The layers of boundaries
at the transition between the public and private spheres can be opened and closed, depending on
the specific circumstances and situations occurring between the collective and the individual.
PROJECT: Living Factory Solinsieme, 2002 LOCATION: St.Gallen, CH DESIGNER: Archplan AG SOURCE:
Feddersen, E., Lüdtke, I.: ‘Living for the Elderly. A Design Manual’, Birkhäuser, Basel, 2009
Living Factory Solinsieme
55% porosity
x x1 2
2 punc/ 10 meters
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 50 < > 51 <
> Circulation system
This residential home for seniors organizes the transition from public to private across an ad-
ditional layer. Each unit cluster, always one entire level, has its own entrance door from the
glazed common stairwell that secludes it from the building’s entire circulation system in a sub-
tle manner. Thus, the horizontal circulation becomes more than just a corridor. It can be used
as a protected shared area, wide enough to be appropriated for activities and the placement of
shared furniture for gathering. Small recesses in front of the apartment doors and kitchens with
large windows that slightly protrude as bays add up to such subtle formulation of thresholds and
interfaces. PROJECT: Residential Home for the Elderly, 1993 LOCATION: Masans, Chur, CH DESIGNER:
Peter Zumthor SOURCE: Zumthor, P., ‘Peter Zumthor’, Architecture and Urbanism, Feb 1998, Extra
Edition, Nobuyuki Yoshida, 1998
Residential Home for the Elderly
x 1 2 1 xx1
31% porosity
3 punc/ 10 meters
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
Unit cluster, plan /
Privacy gradient
> 52 < > 53 <
> Circulation system
By means of their curved shape, which almost seems to form a circle and to enclose a courtyard,
the open galleries of ‘Juliet’ can be easily overlooked by all units and vertical access points.
The differentiated shaping of the gallery railings and the exterior walls of the apartments which
are chamfered at every unit entrance create small triangular areas; giving each unit an anteroom
and threshold space of its own. At the transition to the elevator core at the centre, the galler-
ies widen into a generous front-to-back space with a large shared balcony at the other side, in-
viting its appropriation for shared activities. PROJECT: Romeo and Juliet, 1959 LOCATION: Stutt-
gart, GE DESIGNER: Hans Scharoun SOURCE: Heckmann, O., Schneider, F., (in collaboration with
Zapel, E.), ‘Floor Plan Manual Housing’, 5th revised and expanded edition, Birkhäuser, Basel Ber-
lin, 2018
Romeo and Juliet
1:750
1:2000
Unit Cluster, plan /
Pricacy gradient
> 54 < > 55 <
> Circulation system Romeo and Juliet
Visibility
1:500
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 56 < > 57 <
> Circulation system Romeo and Juliet
28% porosity
3.5 punc/ 10 meters
1.5m
x1 2 3 4
Unit cluster 1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 58 < > 59 <
> Circulation system
The nine residential high-rise towers in this public housing estate have cross-shaped clus-
ter floor plans, with the elevator cores at their central junctions. Always three levels with 36
apartments each are combined and stacked on top of each other, with the intention to form manage-
able neighbourhood units. Giving more opportunities for encounter and a stronger spatial experi-
ence than in a conventional high-rise with elevators stopping at often dark and compact corridors
is enforced by a detour: The elevators stop only at the lowest of the three levels and enter into
a three-storey high, daylit open hall. Stairwells placed at the end of the four branches of this
access level lead to the units, with three apartment entrances on every level. PROJECT: Sui Wo
Court, 1970-81 LOCATION: Hong Kong DESIGNER: Palmer Turner SOURCE: Gigon, A., Guyer, M., Jerusa-
lem, F. (eds.), ‘Residential Towers’, gta, Zurich 2016
Sui Wo Court
1:750
1:2500
Pricacy gradient /
Unit Cluster, plan
> 60 < > 61 <
> Circulation system Sui Wo Court
Visibility
1:500
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 62 < > 63 <
> Circulation system Sui Wo Court
17% porosity
14% porosity
2 punc/ 10 meters
x1
4 3 2
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 64 < > 65 <
> Circulation system
The two emergency stairwells of this senior housing are used to connect the neighbours of differ-
ent levels. Connecting them with the corridors on each floor, opening them up generously and pro-
viding them with balcony-like landings with a view to the city invites the residents to take trips
through the entire building. A communal roof terrace and the building’s lobby with shared ameni-
ties on the ground level are also set between the two stairwells, as additional attractions along
this route. Deliberately placed at these stairwells on every eighth level are double-height com-
munity spaces, left open to the neighbours’ appropriation. The respective corridors of each unit
cluster have their own glazed entrance door. Chairs in front of the tiny apartment kitchen windows
can be used to sit down for a brief chat. PROJECT: Torre Júlia, 2011 LOCATION: Barcelona, ES DE-
SIGNER: Pau Vidal SOURCE: Heckmann, O., Schneider, F., (in collaboration with Zapel, E.), ‘Floor
Plan Manual Housing’, 5th revised and expanded edition, Birkhäuser, Basel Berlin, 2018
Torre Júlia
1:500
1:1000
Pricacy gradient /
Unit Cluster, plan
> 66 < > 67 <
> Circulation system Torre Júlia
Visibility
1:500
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 68 < > 69 <
> Circulation system Torre Júlia
4.5 punc/ 10 meters
26% porosity
1 2 x
3 4
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
> 70 < > 71 <
> Circulation system
Walden 7 is a vertical conglomerate of 16 aggregated towers, laid out in a grid around six court-
yards and connected with a complex 3-dimensional circulation system. The elevators are all concen-
trated in the central courtyard, meant to form a neighbourly junction for the residential communi-
ty. Only stopping at every second level they connect to a network of pathways - with the galleries
at the lower floors wrapping around the inner, and at the upper along the outer facades of the
unit clusters. This mesh spans across all courtyards and levels, forming a space of chance encoun-
ters and a high level of visibility as it leads to the individual apartment entrances. Addition-
ally, open stairwells access individual units either above or below the gallery levels. The four
more generously dimensioned courtyards with most of the unit entrance along them broaden in sec-
tion at their middle, with their bending allowing for a multitude of also vertical views. PROJECT:
Walden 7 LOCATION: Barcelona ES, 1975 DESIGNER: Ricardo Bofill, Taller de Arquitectura SOURCE:
Heckmann, O., Schneider, F., (in collaboration with Zapel, E.), ‘Floor Plan Manual Housing’, 5th
revised and expanded edition, Birkhäuser, Basel Berlin, 2018
Walden 7
commercial
residential
1:750
1:2000
Pricacy gradient /
Unit Cluster, plan
> 72 < > 73 <
> Circulation system Walden 7
Spatial
hierarchy
1:500
> 74 < > 75 <
> Circulation system Walden 7
100%!!
Visibility
1:500
> 76 < > 77 <
> Circulation system Walden 7
18% porosity
1 punc/ 10 meters
2 1 x x 1 2 44 33
5 6 7 7 6 5
Unit
cluster
1:400
Unit
inter-
face
1:125
Urban Embedder Typology
> 80 < > 81 <
> Urban Embedder Typology
Urban Embedder Typology
The studies on ‘Urban Embedders’ investigated
the interface of residential high-rise
buildings with their urban setting. A
residential building’s lower levels establish
a potential contact zone with the city,
and its configuration, its programming and
the permeability of its boundaries offer
essential opportunities to facilitate mutual
connectivity and exchange with the urban
context.
While this would in the end obviously also
depend on the very context of a specific pro-
ject, the studies in this section applied a
simple inside-out approach – by illustrating
across which layers the vertical cores to
the residential domains could merge with the
horizontal plane of the urban territory.
After having determined a set of criteria
through literature studies, case studies on
relevant precedents - specific urban contexts,
particular projects or generic building
types - have been conducted to again extract
a set of spatio-organizational strategies.
Adapting these to a consistent ‘block size’,
a series of generic types of Urban Embedders
has been identified, such as the Residential
Condominium type, the Singaporean Void Deck
Slab Block, Cluster Block, Podium Block or
Terraced Block type, the Topographical Block
type, and the more contextual Hong Kong
Downtown Block or Urban Plaza Block type.
The generated diagrams are calibrated to
investigate and illustrate the type-specific
layering and adjacency of distinct zones of
control, such as publicly traversable, open
or programmed spaces, restricted areas, and
shared semi-private spaces only accessible to
residents. In between these domains, the
allocation and densities of interfaces as
immediate contact zones between the resi-
dential complex and its urban context, and of
thresholds between the public and the semi-
public residential domain illustrate the
overall permeability of these configurations.
> 82 < > 83 <
> Urban Embedder Typology Void Deck Slab Block typeResidential Condominium type
Being, both spatially and
programmatically, a void in a
literal sense this open space
on the ground level has the
potential to be appropriated
for multiple uses, and often
also accommodates shared pro-
grams. While the passage net-
works passes by multiple in-
terfaces, the encounters are
rather limited to the resi-
dents of the estate themselves
(VOID DECK SLAB BLOCK TYPE,
based on HDB Housing Develop-
ment Board public housing type
in Singapore, Plot ratio: 4.2,
GFA: 42,000 sqm, Floors: 25)
Scale 1:750
A paradigm of a gated commu-
nity: while eventually having
multiple shared and semi-pri-
vate surfaces these are meant
exclusively for the residents.
The gate as the only entry
from the urban territory de-
lineates a distinctively con-
densed and controlled inter-
face, all other boundaries are
highly restricted (RESIDENTIAL
CONDOMINIUM TYPE, based on
comparative studies of typical
residential condominiums. Plot
ratio: 2.82, GFA: 28,200 sqm,
Floors: 1-15) Scale 1:750
> 84 < > 85 <
> Urban Embedder Typology Podium Block typeCluster Block type
Residential blocks on top of a
‘podium’ - most often a shop-
ping mall with multiple lev-
els, various points of ac-
cess, different programs, and
a complex network of passages
with a series of connections
to the residential circula-
tion. Next to having the podi-
um as a multi-faceted inter-
face with the urban territory
a communal deck on top serves
as a semi-private domain, with
shared programs in the ground
level of the blocks. (PODI-
UM BLOCK TYPE, Public hous-
ing type in Singapore of the
1980’s, with exemplary study
based on Bras Basah Complex
Singapore 1980, HDB. Plot
ratio: 4.2 GFA: 42,000 sqm,
Floors: 25) Scale 1:750
While the open ground level
spaces at the base of the res-
idential towers are comparable
to the Void Deck Slab Block
type, they serve significantly
more residents and would thus
be more anonymous. The unpro-
grammed areas are relatively
smaller due to an increased
need for service facilities
such as waste management.
Similar to the Void Deck Slab
Block type areas with greenery
are used as a restricted buff-
er space. Shared facilities
are to be found in adjacent
buildings, used for parking
on the upper levels. (CLUSTER
BLOCK TYPE, based on HDB Hous-
ing Development Board public
housing type in Singapore.
Plot ratio: 3.88, GFA: 38,880
sqm, Floors: 6-36) Scale 1:750
> 86 < > 87 <
> Urban Embedder Typology Topographical Block typeTerraced Block type
The vertical cores connect to
a multi-layered ground-zone
that combines in- and outdoor
spaces, commercial and so-
cial programs, and public and
semi-public areas. Out-door
spaces on its upper level and
patios on the level below cre-
ate a seamless connection be-
tween public, semi-public and
semi-private domains. (TOPO-
GRAPHICAL BLOCK TYPE, based on
Shinonome Canal Court Block1,
Tokyo 2003, Riken Yamamoto &
Field Shop. Plot ratio: 8.17,
GFA: 81,700 sqm, Floors: 1-20)
Scale 1:750
Typologically similar to the
‘Podium Block Type’ the podium
is terraced here. The terrac-
ing generates both a park-like
rooftop space with an in-
creased interface surface area
across all levels. It is also
used as a more fluent transi-
tion from public to private
levels, weaving shared pro-
grams for both visitors and
residents into these spaces.
(TERRACED BLOCK TYPE, based on
Kampung Admiralty Retirement
Community, Singapore 2018,
Woha Architects. Plot ratio:
4.33, GFA: 43,300 sqm, Floors:
4-16) Scale 1:750
> 88 < > 89 <
> Urban Embedder Typology Urban Plaza Block typeHong Kong Downtown Block type
Originally an urban block
type like the Hong Kong Down-
town Block Type, and to be
found in central areas like
New York Manhattan. The build-
ings within this urban block
ensemble formulate a court-
yard-like residential plaza
that opens up one of its sides
to its urban territory around.
Traversable for the public and
partly enclosed by commercial
programs the residential pla-
za offers an often green out-
door space for both residents
and visitors to recover and
mingle. Private units on the
ground would have buffer spac-
es such as plantations. (UR-
BAN PLAZA BLOCK TYPE, based on
comparative studies of blocks
within urban fabric. Plot ra-
tio: 8.47, GFA: 84,700 sqm,
Floors: 4-18) Scale 1:750
Having emerged in downtown lo-
cations such as in Hong Kong,
this is a diverse context with
a mixture of mid- and high-
rise blocks, and with private
and public, mostly commercial
programs. While having almost
no semi-private areas the net-
work of streets and alleys
with the many public programs
along their way create multi-
ple options for encounter at
nodes and interfaces. (HONG
KONG DOWNTOWN BLOCK TYPE,
based on comparative studies
of blocks within urban fabric.
Plot ratio: 7.48, GFA: 74,800
sqm, Floors: 4-35) Scale 1:750
Unit ribbon
> 92 < > 93 <
> Unit ribbon
Unit ribbon
As design strategies for unit layouts in
public housing are most often based on a few
templates that are replicated and applied
across multiple projects, the very design
logic of these generic dwelling units has to
be reconsidered. Forward-looking strategies
will have to accommodate shifting demographics
and essentially less predictable individual
lifecycles, with increasingly diversifying
forms of housing occupancies, ways of living
together and lifestyles.
As well in housing construction on a large
scale - most often focusing on determined,
generic layouts for predominantly the nuclear
family – the internal organization of units
and their alignment as unit bundles should
facilitate dwellings to be joinable and divi-
sible, and to be flexibly adaptable to the
changing needs of tenants.
Exemplary layout strategies and their under-
lying structural logic have been analysed
through case-studies on relevant apartment
plan precedents. The studies focused on the
morphological rather than the functional
organization, on the juxtaposition of spaces
and their level of connectivity. The layouts
have then been abstracted into generic spatial
patterns for subsequent design iterations.
Exemplary aspects on the scale of the unit
are systems of hard and soft spaces with
service cores as determined zones, the
relevance of unit tiers with parallel room
sequences and the potentiality of neutral
and polyvalent plans. Beyond taking the
unit type as a hermetic entity the studies
focused explicitly also on relevant unit
ribbon patterns, and how sequences of units
next to each other facilitate flexibility.
Exemplary aspects that have been investigated
here are the possibilities of joining and
dividing adjacent units, the variability of
their points of access and the switching of
rooms in between two units. By referring to
the most germane layout strategies identified
and derived, a series of research-through-
design iterations has been conducted to
specify generic layouts strategies, that are
applicable to the specific frameworks of high-
rise housing. The base structures have been
developed with the aim to enable flexible
adaptations to different form of occupancies
(nuclear, extended and multi-generational
family, professional flat-share, Work & live
units and others). One of these design studies
is shown in the following, illustrating how
the segments in the unit ribbon pattern can
be connected or separated to accommodate
demographic diversity.
> 94 < > 95 <
> Unit ribbon
Layout strategies, all
drawings in scale 1:400
Offset of room-tiers to in-
crease connectivity
Offset sequences of wide- and
narrow sized rooms bays (lat-
ter with corridor and ser-
vice cores), to allow multiple
cross- and length-wise con-
nectivity and integration of
services
Using circular (right) instead
of just branching (left) con-
nections, to increase overall
connectivity
Using rooms, not only corri-
dors for circulation (left
based on: Apartment Building
Via Assarotti, Genoa 1870s)
Expansion of areas into and
across corridor zone
Neutral / polyvalent layouts:
Have multiple access options
and similar room dimension
with also equal hierarchical
positions to allow flexible
usage of rooms (Left based on:
Shared Housing, KUU Archi-
tects, right based on:
Bahnhofstrasse, Riegler Riewe
Architects, 1994)
Facilitate swopping of rooms
between aligning units
Placement of entrance into
unit’s middle enables divis-
ibility. Two entrances also
allow Live/Work and others
> 96 < > 97 <
> Unit ribbon
Combine two small rooms to
form one larger one
‘Ribbon-ification’, with con-
nectivity / continuity length-
wise and with tailor-cut
sequences of room-, circula-
tion-, service- and gather-
ing areas - to allow various
unit sizes, and their flexi-
ble joining or division (Based
on: Apartment Block Zapresic,
Njiric Njiric Architects,
1997)
Ribbon-ification, as above but
applicable to one-sided lay-
outs (Based on: Residential
Complex Rosenstraße, Gnaiger
Moessler Architects, 1999)
Use patios to illuminate set-
back room as interface and
circulation center (Based on:
KNSM/Java Eiland, Diener Di-
ener Architects)
Positioning of determined
service cores allow strategic
flexibility for room-division
(Based on: Wagenaarstraat,
Duinker Van Der Torre Archi-
tects)
Positioning of determined
service cores allow strategic
flexibility for room- and/or
unit division (Based on: Bal-
ance Uster, Haerle Hubacher
Architects)
> 98 < > 99 <
> Unit ribbon
Nuclear
Family
Nuclear
Family
Professional
Flatshare
Nuclear
Family
Live/
Work
Couple w/o
Children
Single Single
Parent
Family
Single Single Live/
Work
Single Senior
Flatshare
Single
Nuclear
Family
Professional
Flatshare
Single
Parent
Family
Senior
Flatshare
Nuclear
Family
Live/
Work
Multi-Generational
Family
Multi-Generational
Family
Nuclear
Family
Nuclear
Family
Couple w/o
Children
Couple w/o
Children
Live/
Work
Couple w/o
Children
Multi-Generational
Family
Multi-Generational
Family
Nuclear
Family
Professional
Flatshare
Nuclear
Family
Couple w/o
Children
Single Single
Parent
Family
Single Single
Senior
Flatshare
The exemplary design study is
developed as a template for a
typical high-rise block. It
comprises 3 tiers:
1 - Along the corridor a tier
with alternating wet-cells
and interface rooms that with
their potentially two entranc-
es and positions allow unit
divisions. Number and position
of bathrooms and kitchens also
facilitate these adaptations.
2 - An uninterrupted (not
necessarily closed) corridor
zone, that can also add up to
or pass through rooms.
3- A sequence of neutral room
bays that could be used as
individual space or also as
shared areas. Every fourth
bay is left empty to illumi-
nate the interface room in the
first tier.
The unit ribbons illustrate
how its segments can be con-
nected or separated to ac-
commodate different forms of
occupancies. (The two lower
ribbons cover duplex units
within the same layout pat-
tern)
The study on the right illus-
trates how this ribbon could
be applied as a standard level
plan within a generic high-
rise cluster block. (All draw-
ings in scale 1:400)
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