GIMME SHELTER: HOW ARE ARCHITECTS TACKLING HOMELESSNESS?

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Originally published in Blueprint issue 363 and online at designcurial.com

Designs for high-end housing and bespoke home extensions are ten a penny in the architecture world, but what are today’s practices doing to address the homelessness crisis? From temporary housing and modular pods to a digital platform tackling bureaucratic boundaries, we look at the innovative designs developed by architects for those without homes

The publication of two high-profile reports on the dire state of housing in the UK within the first three weeks of 2019 felt fittingly urgent. The reports, published by housing charity Shelter and London Labour assembly member Tom Copley, call for a massive social housing building drive and an end to the right-to-buy scheme respectively. For anyone who has stepped through the centre of any UK town or city over the last couple of years, the critical necessity of these reports will come as no surprise. That said, the latest homelessness statistics for the UK still bear repeating: in autumn 2018, there was an average of 4,677 people sleeping rough every night, a 165% increase from the total in 2010 when the coalition government came to power.

The role that architects can, could or even should take in the context of this crisis is fertile ground for debate. Subject, as ever, to the fluctuations of politics, the economy and the priorities of a client, architects are often powerless to take an active position in a crisis despite its inherent intersection with the built environment. In frustrated response, there is a tendency among architects to produce proposed ‘solutions to homelessness’ which are rarely more than CGIs designed to create self-serving clickbait buzz; an imagined affordable housing extension to Buckingham Palace being one recent and particularly unhelpful example…

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Originally published in Blueprint issue 363 and online at designcurial.com

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