Permanent Supportive Housing Model

Abstract 

In this studio, I chose to work on a permanent supportive housing model. The site is nestled within the new Lebreton Flats development at Albert and Booth street.

The thesis was to explore how architecture and urban design can be supportive to all members of society and to determine if in the same way that architecture has worked to enforce class barriers, it could also work to break them down.  The development aspires to be a new community – a hub of the neighbourhood offering services and supports to people of all demographics.

The site is situated within a neighbourhood with a sharp clash between the new and old and low and high economic positions. Gentrified housing is being built within an established neighbourhood that has one of Ottawa’s largest co-op housing networks. To bridge this gap, benefits to both groups were developed to offer various reasons to cross the physical and cultural barriers.  A grocery store, clinic, light rail transit station, daycare, and a variety of small businesses, have been worked into the site and have become integral to the architecture. Fundamentally the development is rooted in community building between divergent groups and the physical space they inhabit.

Conventionally apartments are designed to maximize the amount of space you can sell. I have chosen to do the opposite of this and give priority to shared space in order to catalyze the interactions that build community.  This approach is rooted in the belief that square footage of an apartment has very little to do with the quality of life it offers.  I hypothesize that quality of life comes from your support network, relationships, security, and psychological wellbeing.  My units take inspiration from the tiny house movement. Efficient, highly ergonomic spaces designed to be nested in and provide personal comfort.  Life is to be lived in community.

In Ottawa there is 5 year waiting list to receive social housing paired with the crumbling of existing infrastructure. A glaring gap in the market exists for social housing and I believe our architecture needs to catch up with how a modern inclusive society is capable of functioning. The initial upfront cost will continue to be a significant barrier, but   by reducing operating costs, encouraging real community development, and changing the way we think about spatial arrangements, the value to the community will be a driving force to its viability. I believe this new paradigm offers a compelling alternative to the way we approach housing and homelessness.

 

Building Planning

Units are arranged in two different typologies with three different styles.  

Accessible one story units for seniors and disabled are intermixed with a one and half story units for couples and singles. These are all represented in blue.

In yellow are the stacked townhouses; a concept for vertical family living with a communal balcony for each cluster of six.

The cones provide a screening for the single loaded corridor units while also providing a light well into the main atriums of each of the building’s wings.

This building occupies the same footprint as a standard mid-rise apartment and contains the same number of units.

By departing from the viewpoint that private square footage relates to quality of life, communal spaces, that would otherwise be considered “excessive,” are made possible by cutting into the private. I believe with this change in understanding about what actually improves quality of life in our architecture, we can use less materials, expend less energy, and provide inspiring and wonderful spaces that work to improve psychological well being of the tenants.

 

Sky Yard

“Sky Yard” is a concept communal balcony which is ideal for family living in a dense urban context. It was inspired by a Douglas Cardinal design for a first nation community where the street was arranged in a ring around houses and a large backyard was shared between the units. What this did, by a simple rearrangement of neighbourhood components, was allow parents to let their kids run around outside without worrying about them being hit by cars. Thus freeing time for them to do more than just supervise. It also fostered community growth, making it easier to take turns cooking, and establishing a communal child rearing atmosphere.

Lobby/Community Kitchen

By being built on top of a grocery store, the apartment complex takes advantage of surplus food, bulk purchasing options, rent from the grocery tenant, and heat recovery from heat expelled from cooking and cooling units.  It is also designed for the feeling of “arriving at home” to occur at the front door itself, rather than at the individual apartment unit.

 

Pedestrian Market and Grocery Store

The complex overlooks a gorge cut into the landscape to provide commercial opportunity. It allows access to the grocery store, light rail transit station, and other commercial tenants in a pedestrian oriented street front.

In Ottawa it is rare to see a pedestrian oriented street due to the high percentage of the population that drives throughout the city.  In this case however, I believe there is a strong argument for a commercially successful pedestrian street due to the major events stadium, central library, light rail transit station, and the influx of permanent residents living in the new Lebreton Flats condo development.

 

PentaPods

The small, ultra efficient pentagonal pods are timber framed and are designed to take advantage of prefabricated construction techniques. If the permanent supportive housing model proves successful in Ottawa, the building method can be applied throughout the country by arranging these pods in various methods specific to their context.  An established prefabricator would further reduce upfront construction costs of projects by economy of scale. This could further help to address the low income housing crisis across Canada.  

The nature of prefabrication also allows for ease of repairability to sustain these projects for hundreds of years.  When parts wear out or are seriously damaged, the modular design allows for cheap efficient replacement and access to all building components with minimal labour. This is vital to the project to make sure it does not see the same fate of existing social housing infrastructure, in need of extremely expensive and complex renovations.