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November 06, 2006

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Thomas Wensing

When you are in love with (uncompromising) housing estates, some required reading is: Roger Sherwood - Modern Housing Prototypes Harvard University Press; website: www.housingprototypes.org It is intriguing to note how the emphasis in recent decades has shifted away from housing projects which look rough on the outside, but feature great spaces and qualities on the inside to housing estates with fancier -or should I say; reactionary- exteriors and crappy floorplans. Yet another proof of the power of imagery in late capitalist society. In addition, no one ever talks about the way in which housing estates should foster the opportunities for social interaction and community life these days. Even though some of the claims of the modernists have been overstated or downright false, I am surely missing architects stressing social motives rather than pecuniary interests underlying their housing designs. Sherwood's book advocates a method of design in which - since not all data may initially be clear - earlier examples of housing are categorized and qualitatively assessed in order for them to be applied as prototypes in the early stages of the design process. This may not be scientific in the true sense of the word, but I guess an empirical approach is the closest you can get in architecture. Let's hope a renewed debate over sustainable habitats, without resorting to kitsch will soon ensue.

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