Parasitic urban housing

Paul Raven @ 29-09-2009

Here’s a nice little slice of near-future urbanist architecture-fiction; Australian architectural outfit Lara Calder have come up with a speculative scheme for “parasitic” urban housing, designed to recolonise otherwise unused vertical surfaces in the urban landscape. Architects tend to have a grasp of bombastic language far superior to my own (no, really!), so I’ll let the words speak for themselves:

To achieve sustainable densification the dwelling attaches itself to blank building fabric found in the city. It grows on empty facades, rock faces and bridges. It finds value by turning dead public space into lively private space.

prefab parasite housing - Lara Calder Architect

The Prefab Parasite is a parametric dwelling which incorporates many considerations into its flexible design. The facade reacts to orientation. The footprint can be wide or narrow depending on the site and always maintains its 36 square meters. The structural ribs are tuned to the exact building form using an algorithmic modeling system.

The fabrication and construction of the prefab parasite rely heavily on digital methods. The facade paneling system is designed and sent to fabrication to be machine cut out of an eco solid surface material consisting of compressed bamboo and recycled paper. The structural facade members are all controlled parametrically, as are the main structural ribs. The integration of the structure with the design system increases efficiency and accuracy of the construction process.

While it’s not completely implausible to imagine cities ordering the construction of buildings like this, it’s much easier to imagine them being a “favela chic” development, thrown up by guerrilla architects in the parts of big cities where the authorities no longer dare go… or just can’t be bothered to control any longer. [via Inhabitat; image ganked from Lara Calder Architect, please contact for immediate take-down if required]

Imagine for a moment a rogue city-state cordoned off from the country surrounding it; with no way of expanding horizontally, and insufficienct engineering power to expand vertically, all that’s left are the interstitial spaces. Slowly the city becomes a hive, the line between public space and private dwelling blurring to a point where the two terms become meaningless synonyms… and J G Ballard is worshipped as a visionary prophet in the hollow concrete temples of bridge piles and skyscraper foundations.

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3 Responses to “Parasitic urban housing”

  1. [Redacted] says:

    The last thought of this article recalls this little piece of history, sadly/fortunately (depending on your viewpoint) no longer standing:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kowloon_Walled_City

  2. Paul Raven says:

    I know it well, [Redacted], though regrettably not first-hand; discovered it through William Gibson’s Idoru, in fact, as I expect many readers here may have done. :)

  3. Matt Tackett says:

    This reminds me of the slum jail in Tijuana where the authorities do not regulate the inside of the jail (which is more like a shanty town) but rather secure the perimeter leaving the prisoners to operate their own weird economy and housing distribution system.

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