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Revealed: 100 ideas to solve the housing crisis


New London Architecture (NLA) has revealed the results of its international competition to find solutions to the capital’s housing crisis

Organised in collaboration with the Mayor of London, the competition attracted more than 200 entries from 16 different countries with ideas ranging from living on the Thames to the creation of a new mega-city.

The judges chose 100 of the most thought-provoking submissions for a forthcoming exhibition at the Building Centre. Among them were proposals by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Grimshaw, Farrells, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, HAL Architects, NBBJ, dRMM, SimpsonHaugh and Partners and Mae Architects.

Bob Kerslake, chair, London Housing Commission, said: ‘The scale of the challenge is so big that we genuinely need some fresh thinking. There are a lot of new ideas here particularly new approaches to tenure and off site construction.’

Next month the NLA will announce the contest’s ten winners. They will then be invited to join a Greater London Authority working group to look at how their ideas could be applied to real sites in the city.

All 100 schemes will be exhibited in the NLA Galleries at the Building Centre from 15 October to 17 December.

A selection of the shortlisted ideas

Solidspace Connect by Solidspace

Solidspace Connect by Solidspace

A building system  capable  of  producing  apartments  that  are  variable  in  size,  contain  double  volumes  and whose  assembly  can  be  endlessly  repeated  with  a  kit  of  parts.  Homes that  identify  themselves  in  their elevations, are constructed with inventive concrete pouring and shuttering, can meet the demand and remain affordable to the needy 80% of Londoners and not just the greedy 20 per cent. This new typology invites different forms of tenure, allowing investment by institutions and landowners alike. An architecture and place-making that reflects the site conditions and encourages distinctive facades whilst sticking to the productivity principles of manufacturing using prefabrication.

Terrace Upcycle by Adams + Collingwood Architects

Terrace Upcycle by Adams + Collingwood Architects

The proposal ‘up-cycles’ terraced houses for 21st century living and future adaptability: Renovating the terraced house with altered planning legislation and government-assisted funding. What? One new dwelling per typical terraced house. How? By simply adding a single storey, with roof terrace, and a full height extension to the back. Why? Cost effective solution to our current housing crisis whilst retaining and reviving a valued London housing typology. 

The Streets by NBBJ


A city such as London’s built area includes over 9,000miles of streets, over a third of the built surface area is given over to streets which is typical of most global cities. Emerging research is demonstrating that our street network must change to facilitate autonomous vehicles and future proof infrastructure. NBBJ believe this represents a fantastic untapped resource for development and future housing provision, one which can meet our housing needs for the next 40 years.

Living Arteries by Benjamin Marks


London’s rail transportation system is split between The London Underground, which shares land with other uses above it, and the railways, which generally do not. It would be possible to substantially increase the amount of land available for homes if we were to build over our overground rail network. One per cent of Greater London’s land area is taken up by railways, comprising some 1,522 hectares. If we built over even a quarter of this at 140 homes per hectare, it would be possible to deliver over 53,000 homes on land currently not considered available for use.

Gap Housing by Akira Yamanaka Architect


A new method of micro interventions to existing urban fabrics was sought to unlock London’s housing supply. Urban typologies of terraced and semi-detached houses can be densified by utilising the gaps between houses. A hundred-metre stretch of a street in Southeast London was chosen to investigate the potential. Five small houses could be added to the area of about thirty terraced/semi-detached houses. If we could add a half of this rate to London’s residential streets of these typologies, this would supply more than 100,000 new households, where no potential was previously assumed. This approach would unleash crowd-based and bottom-up initiatives.

Buoyant Starts by Baca Architects


From rivers and canals to docks and marinas these little used water spaces occupy vast empty sites across London. Underdeveloped and underused we, at Floating Homes Ltd. and Baca Architects and see London’s water network as potential “bluefield” sites for new homes and communities. Buoyant Starts proposes affordable floating starter homes as the solution to address the London housing crisis. Pre-fabricated and customisable some 7,500 new floating homes could be delivered to central London in the next 6-12 months, helping “generation rent” become “generation float”, with a buoyant future.

Custom Build by Igloo


Custom Build – creating the homes Londoners want. Most of us dream of designing our own home. In the UK 14 per cent of us want to in the next 12 months. That’s nearly 1 million Londoners. But only a small number achieve the dream because self-build is difficult, as the Grand Designs TV show demonstrates every week. The answer is Custom Build. We get to do the fun bit – design. Custom Build is normal throughout the developed world and new-build rates are much higher than in the UK. Faster building of new homes is what London needs. Custom Build is a vital part of the answer.

Canal Housing by Mae Architects


The capital’s waterways, and specifically it’s 85km of post industrial canals represent a significant opportunity for new housing.  We propose that the canals could be intensified through the development of purpose built floating housing. Under the stewardship of the Canal and Rivers Trust the canals would be managed with a long-term view where an affordable leasing arrangement for moorings would mean that construction alone becomes the primary cost. Land price is removed from the equation making this housing a genuinely affordable option.  Pre-fabrication and off-site construction would be used to deliver a high quality product quickly.

Floatopolis by dRMM


Floatopolis proposes new floating neighbourhoods in London: Waterhoods. Waterhoods are ecological neighbourhoods: instead of “paving over” open water as was done with London’s lost rivers, they encourage public access to and enjoyment of water and respond to a changing natural and social environment. They allow you to shape your own environment by reconfiguring and floating new facilities as desired: lidos, open-air cinemas, creative workspace, cafés and schools as well as housing. Waterhoods tackle the problem of access to and affordability of developable land, but also a future in which flooding and rising sea levels will change the cityscape.

Community Led Intensification by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios


Community led development could deliver homes for London while strengthening communities and creating a positive impact on the area. Our proposal is to enlist everyone to identify development opportunities in London via an app and website. The proposed sites would then be evaluated against data such as crime, housing need, density allowing ‘micro-development zones’ to be established. Led by the community the micro-development zones would have special planning policies and support of architects and other professionals to bring forward homes. Community led development could then be delivered by individuals, building cooperatives, or housing associations to ultimately deliver quality homes for London.

Y:Cube by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners


Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners are working with the YMCA London South West to develop an economical and innovative housing solution, providing self-contained and affordable starter accommodation for young people who have previously been living in hostels and other short stay housing schemes. The Y:Cube units are 26m² one-bed studios, for single occupancy, that arrive on site as self-contained units.  Each unit is constructed in the factory with all the services already incorporated. Therefore, water, heating and electricity can be easily connected to existing facilities or other Y:Cubes already on site.

Intimate Infrastructures by Natasha Reid Design

Intimate Infrastructures by Natasha Reid Design

In response to the drastic urban changes occurring in East London, Intimate Infrastructures proposes an alternative to more dominant forms of volume house-building and provides solutions for both private renters in the form of purpose-built shared homes, as well as considering the needs of local communities vulnerable to displacement. By drawing upon the existing collision of domestic spaces and industrial structures found in Poplar, the study explores a toolkit approach to bringing together humanly-scaled typological components within a large scale “infrastructure” framework for delivering higher densities of homes on available land. This generates an intimate, complex and vibrant urban realm of dense, overlapping spaces, uses and people.

Ministry of Densification of Suburbia (MODS) by Hal Architects

Ministry of Densification of Suburbia (MODS) by Hal Architects

MODS seeks to address the potential for London’s suburban edges to provide well designed housing to meet growing demand. Redevelopment of these fringe areas, allowing current homeowners to partner with a new development company MODEVCO to build on existing and underutilised land.  MODEVCO will also provide bridging finance and management expertise. Crucially the proposals allow the existing community to remain intact. The MODS task force will identify development zones in each of London’s outer boroughs.  Development zones will be set providing key parameters for bulk and massing with a loose design code. The MODS task force will also set rental guidelines to provide security for tenants and landlords alike.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Unsurprisingly, the ingenious ideas being proposed assume building is the answer to shortage. Another question is whether there is a shortage at all, especially if you take into account redundant buildings that could be converted to housing use. A good strategy would be to examine what we could do with the existing (downsizing, adaptation) while simultaneously working on design and construction programmes, and the fundamental question of land cost and supply. No mutual exclusivity required.

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  • Fab ideas. Welcome and timely competition. But it's the policies that are still wrong. As you deleted my comment on this subject last time, I'm sending it in again. Affordable housing policies may be right from an ideological point of view, but from a practical point of view they have restricted the supply of new housing. If you tax the provision of something you get less of it. No amount of good design will fix that fundamental flaw in planning policy. But doubtless when Jeremy Corbyn is elected we will see all land nationalised - and that of course will solve the problem.

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  • I think you may mean 'naturalised,' Lee, most decent central London housing already belonging to foreigners.

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  • Everyone talks about solving the housing crisis. The real crisis is too many inhabitants to be supported by the infrastructure!
    Every road is clogged increasing our carbon emissions, it is impossible to travel anywhere efficiently, rail travel is becoming more representative of Delhi than London, on the main line, companies like Thameslink are still running four coach trains in the rush hour and weekends! Staff are stressed tired and demoralised and efficiency is low as a result. The hospital building and staffing program has been a disaster under every government. The power generation now has a margin of around 1.5% during peak times and we have failed to incorporate thermal storage in our buildings to reduce peak loads and efficiently utilise renewable energy. In fact there is a total lack of co-ordination in our power strategy. The only solution therefore is to reduce the number of inhabitants!"
    Martyn Love - LTi

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  • Once again the same big names with already published solutions. Have you no faith in any other architects, seeing the big names appearing again was big disapointment. Many of the examples published, in my opinion, did not really acknowledge the scale of the problem or the chalenge implied in the brief.

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  • In relation to Paul Finch's comments, it seems completely logical to utilise under occupied parts of London's housing stock in addition to a new build programme. Over 2.25 million new bedspaces could be provided in London within existing homes presently under occupied by those aged 55+. Releasing these homes through the construction of more appropriate housing for individuals who no longer need a larger home would be a great start. Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn's newly proposed National Investment Bank could be the catalyst for a new social Inclusivity movement funding appropriate sustainable new housing?

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  • It is a shame the NLA initiative is only concentrating on housing. Cities are about homes, workplaces, shops, schools, leisure places. and travelling in the spaces between them. The property market movements of the last 12 months suggest there is a chronic shortage of sq.ft. of all kinds. Underutilisation of existing buildings is undoubtedly a factor but not the long-term answer. The government's temporary abolition of the need for Planning Permission to convert offices to residential has resulted in a 50%+ increase in 12 months in office rents in boroughs like Hammersmith, Wandsworth and Westminster. Soon the capital value of offices will overtake residential in some parts of London for the first time since the 1980's. All this points to the fact that our obsession with rigid Land Use Classes creates scarcity and inflates land values. The steady influx of 2000 new people into London every week coupled with the Nimby obsession restricting higher densities distorts the market.
    Ingenious solutions for cheap small residential units, whilst commendable, serve to perpetuate the rigid land use straightjacket devised in the 1945 Planning Act.
    It is a concept that is not shared by any of our European neighbours happy to have offices, nurseries, shops, showrooms and surgeries in the same building as apartments.

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