THE URBAN CODE BUILDING
Urban housing typology rewired
On a dense urban site with meandering alleys, this 6 unit residential project turns 2 major tenets of local urban housing typology on its head.
Deeply influenced by the culture of fengshui, Taiwanese home owners are unequivocally biased towards rectilinear plan layouts without any columns protruding into the interior, or beams overhead over main spaces. With concrete framing system typically the construction of choice for small to mid size housing projects due to their lower costs, this has given rise to the prevalent practice of exposing the concrete structural frames on the outside envelopes of residential buildings, giving Taiwanese residential buildings their characteristic gridded frame exteriors. Furthermore, the building code allows a percentage area of canopies, balconies and planters to be exempted from the maximum gross floor area calculations, thereby making them freebie extra areas that developers can sell. As incentives of great benefits to developers, these free add-ons are essentially must-do for architects. As a result, gridded concrete frame exterior with various barnacle-like add-on articulations on the tower form become the de facto residential typology here.
First, to upend the above ubiquitous convention for housing, and to achieve a building envelope without any protruding concrete structural frames, a hybrid structural system is developed. Three 30cm thick load bearing walls, reinforced by cross walls at the elevator core, form the part organization. Spanning 12m in between is a 30cm thick concrete floor slab, a portion of which is sunken and reinforced at the edges with edge beams and a single steel column. Constrained within a floor to floor height of 330cm, the hybrid structural system creates a large column free residential unit interior of 12m x 11m. The units’ service areas are furthermore integrated into the core, giving the units a squarish column-free open plan and a north south transparency best for lighting and natural ventilation.
Secondly, the design strategy for the freebie area add-ons is to unify them into a single architectural element despite their drastically different size and depth. The 60cm deep flower bed, 200cm deep balcony and 350cm deep terrace are merged into a stepped form in plan that stretches over the entire 17m wide street front of the building. The reconfiguration made possible a 3.5m x 5m outdoor living space, creating a new housing layout previously unseen for dense urban living. In addition, stringent site set backs further dictated these reconfigured add-ons into a staggered section from top to bottom of the building envelope, resulting in a one of a kind, two-way wedding cake housing form in the X and Y-axis.
The creative solution of this urban housing project came from direct design responses to existing urban phenomenon and rethinking legal constraints. Through the use of an ad hoc structural hybrid paired with concise geometric strategies, the unique stepped architecture form of the housing project achieves a striking purity, and created unparalleled benefits to both developer and housing occupants.