Klosterstranda - Social Housing in Skien
MetadataShow full item record
In the coming decade, Skien municipality and developers are bringing new housing, cultural institutions, offices and infrastructure into its urban fabric, with the city slowly pushing its center along the riverfront and towards the neighbouring city of Porsgrunn. Simultaneously, the city continues to experience a low population growth with no clear future prospects in terms of jobs or industry that determine a need for the large-scale high-density housing that is currently being developed. The city also has an unemployment rate above the national average, and combined with a rising number of low income families, it begs the question who this new development should be for and if it is sustainable. Our diploma argues for both an alternative to the governing architectural ideals along the riverfront, and the regulation conducted by the municipality, by using one of the presently unregulated municipal plots within Skiens new development plan. We propose a collection of low density social housing, forming a row-house garden city that embeds the landscape ecology of the site into each unit and common areas. Based on local typologies, three types of units are developed to respond to three different conditions on the site. Our three interpretations all aim to challenge the legislative bare necessities of a social housing project, while advocating for the importance of room sizes, gestures and details. By studying the urban wooden houses of the historical parts of Skien that survived the fire of 1886, the units all borrow particularities, dimensions and qualities found in researching these types. The interest for studying and abstracting the wooden courtyard house came from its historical resilience and importance as local iconography, as well as their clear urban qualities in terms of scale and density. Our three types of dwellings act both singular and as parts of a whole, sewn together by the same signifying elements and rules of construction. By borrowing typological traits of neighbouring workers’ housing, our project similarly forms a perimeter of buildings along the edge of the site, creating smaller private gardens adapted to the figure ground of the plot, with a large communal space in the center. This more modest scale reacts to Skiens decades of stagnating growth but goes beyond the regulated density, while still arguing for comprehensive planning and certain pre-modern ideals absent in the new development. While architecture itself will not solve the social problems of Skien or other similar Norwegian cities, we believe that an alternative to how the built environment is being developed is necessary. A non-commercial social housing development is an approach that inherently holds both possibilities in challenging type, density and different kinds of sustainability.