Proposal for 44 social housing units in Westerlo (Berlgium), 2011
In the 19th century with the beginning of industrialization the Belgian government promoted the inhabitation of the countryside by the working class in order to prevent un- manageable concentrations within cities. This policy was strengthened by the government promotion of private ownership and individual detached house in the countryside first for the working class and later for all residents. What since the middle age was an already dense region made of cities with an average distance from each other of 25km, became an endless carpet of single family houses served by a dense pattern of motorways and railways. Such scenario was further developed during the Post-war period up to the 1980’s when the whole territory appeared as completely saturated. In the meantime the ideology of ownership and single-family house has become the absolute principle of housing in this region. Confronted with such scenario our proposal for 32 social houses in the small town of Westerloo consists into a unitary form that counter the suburban landscape of its surrounding. The existing site is a beautiful meadow miraculously left untouched and completely enclosed by suburban villas. Our first reaction to this condition was to leave the site free as much as possible and open by pushing all the new development to the edge of the site. The 44 houses are put together into two linear buildings two storeys high. Such development gave rise of the main idea of the project: the possibility for a shared garden. Such gesture both give a more generous space to the inhabitants and reinforce the sense of collectiveness against the suburban fragmentation of the surrounding landscape.
In terms of typologies our proposal opted for a simple interior organization made of one single tunnel space framed by a service wall that contain all the most important infrastructure: bathroom, kitchen and storage. Eventually the tunnel space can be divided into smaller rooms, especially for the two-storey houses. In this way the extended depth of the interior (which minimizes exterior façade and thus costs) is compensated by the generous opening towards the garden.
Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara, with Tijn van de Wijdeven, Julia Tournaire, Georgios Eftaxiopoulos