As the world urbanizes and the density of cities scales up and up, there’s the pressing architectural and urban planning reality of where and how to create new housing. In a city like New York, there isn’t exactly a wealth of wide-open spaces and vast empty lots. Between buildings, however, there are thousands of unassuming infill, mid-block sites ripe for architectural intervention. (Just like this one.)
Live Between Buildings!, an award-winning design prompt, aims to fill in these blanks. Developed by architects Mateusz Mastalski and Ole Robin Storjohann, the project proposes a new way to make a home in the city—in the narrow pockets of space that riddle the urban fabric.
The pair claim that the system, a quasi-standardized method for erecting interstitial loft-like dwellings in between buildings, can be employed in almost any urban context. Project drawings imagine a diverse mix of infill structures plugged into the crevices of housing blocks in New York and other highly dense cities, like Tokyo, Amsterdam, Helsinki, and London. For the purposes of the exercise, each of the structures assumes a different fanciful shape—an X, an O, a speech bubble, even a Space Invader. Some are suspended in mid-air and others are rotated on their sides.
All of the sketches, released this week, are linked by their integrative use of Fakro windows. The brand specificity comes out of the fact that in May the scheme won the second annual "New Vision of the Loft" competition, sponsored by the Poland-based global skylight and roof manufacturer, which challenged designers to apply their products and technology.
Surprisingly for a window-led brief, it yielded a great number of interesting proposals, including one for a monolithic green wall of loft apartments, and another for roving undersea pods.
Mastalski and Robin’s winning project was, in some ways, the most modest of the finalists. But their bubble dwellings were also the sharpest and most critically attuned to urban conditions. They clad the exterior with the window panels, seamlessly linked together by imagination and "some technical adjustments."
In each example, the windows are rendered as modular components that can be aggregated to form a wide range of shapes. The architects don’t specify the widths (or even entrances) of these structures, but if they’re as narrow as this house, claustrophobics need not apply, no matter how many glassy outlooks are built in.