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OMA: ‘We want to build social housing’

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In an interview with the AJ at the Venice Biennale, OMA partner Reinier de Graaf, spoke of the practice’s desire to build social housing in London

Graaf, whose practice has just completed a high-end housing development in the grounds of the Design Museum’s new home at the Commonwealth Institute in South Kensington, said he wanted to design a big affordable housing project in South London.

‘I want to build affordable housing in an area where it would be conceived as unaffordable and unfeasible’, he said.

‘It would see a re-entry of the real modern ideology and would explore the aesthetics of repetition and limitation.’

He said the practice had been in discussions about a scheme but wouldn’t be pressed on further details, although Graaf did add that it would be looking to partner with a housing developer or social housing provider.

Graaf added that he hoped it would happen in the next couple of years.

‘You need stamina as an architect. Sooner or later your wishes materialise but you have to be persistent’, he commented.

He also spoke about the UK’s planning system which he said was about negotiation and forced architects to ‘campaign for their buildings’.

‘In England [planning] is a matter of negotiation. In principle nothing is possible. It is down to negotiation this turns it into a discourse. It creates both the best and the worst. In Europe, such as Germany and the Netherlands, the system is different. There it prevents the awful or the exceptional’, he said.

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