HAWSE by Levitt Bernstein

Pop Up Housing for Hackney's Homeless

Londoners have pop-up shops aplenty, but when times are tough, would they turn to a pop-up house? 

That's the idea for HAWSE (Homes through Apprenticeships With Skills for Employment), a proposal by Levitt Bernstein architects to convert under-used garages into temporary living spaces.

The project was developed for the London borough of Hackney and is currently being developed into a pilot scheme, after winning a competition to design low-cost housing for vulnerable communities.  

For the HOME CompetitionBuilding Trust International, an NGO for social housing design, asked architects to design homes for use in developed countries with a maximum budget of about €23,600 ($30,000 US.)

Levitt Bernstein architects won with their pitch to convert under-used garages on housing estates into small living spaces. Each house would cost about €16,000 to construct – the parts would be made off-site and fitted by homeless construction apprentices – and the rent would be around €62 per month, plus utilities.

‘The proposal targets under-used spaces in high density areas where land value is high and rising,’ says architect Georgie Revell from Levitt Bernstein. ‘We believe it offers a creative and practical interim solution between other development opportunities.’

Lest anyone get squeamish about the idea of putting homeless people in garages at the base of housing estates, Building Trust International takes pains to mention that the solution is meant to be temporary and transitional.

‘The important thing is that the solution is a temporary one both for the sites, which are often on varying leases and hard to sell on to developers in one go, and for the inhabitants, who it is intended will use the project as a stepping stone on to more permanent housing,’ says David Cole, the organization's founding partner.

There’s something to be said for the trend factor, as well:  trade the word ‘garage’ for ‘shipping container’ and ‘homeless’ for ‘coffee lovers’ and you no longer have a social housing project, but a slew of popular restaurants, shops and cafes: from a mobile eatery in New York, to an App shop, and even a Starbucks.

You can take a more detailed look at Levitt Bernstein's HAWSE proposal here.

Renderings courtesy Building Trust International.

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