With boundaries

With boundries

How does housing reach its urban context? The use of the ground level has been constrained to a restricted palette of programs: gardens, playgrounds, services, amenities, and commercial fronts. In some cases, plinths unify several buildings, creating a programmed interface with the street. In some others, communal programs appear on upper levels. At ground level, the differentiation of pedestrian-only versus car routes creates points of connection towards the urban context.

The level of privacy heightened by increasing levels of security splits housing from its context. Gates, electric fences, security cameras, guards, etc. have become ubiquitous. In certain contexts, they are also a sign of status. Is it possible to rethink the boundaries of housing towards the city? Dystopian models of even more advanced security features may well be avoided. Filtering the borders of housing through spatial and programmatic scalar operations so as to enhance a gradience of public/private interactions remains a challenge.

Design Operations


Re-envisioning the ways in which we live together, these projects explore two ends of the spectrum of activities that may become a communal program in a housing compound: the most public and the most private. One project reconfigures the access at ground floor, through pedestrian landscaping. The other externalises the bathroom of the housing unit, using hygiene routines to reimagine communal thresholds.

Project Descriptions

16-Function/ “Toilet Towers” – Santiago

The externalised bathrooms are organised as towers, becoming communal hubs while also accommodating vertical circulation.

By clashing communal vertical circulation with private bathrooms, the project reimagines the most standardised functional unit of an apartment and the utilitarian stair core.

Original Project: Juan Antonio Ríos by EMPART, Santiago 

17-Groundfloor/ “Breaking Ground” – Suzhou

The communal groundscape is reactivated by connecting the in-between spaces of the residential compound and proposing level changes in the terrain. 

The level changes introduce new thresholds and zones for activities. The selective demolition of the buildings at ground level opens up new links (spatial and programmatic) between each block.

Original Project: Lianhua New Village, Suzhou