25 Aug 2021 • Living
How can inclusive building codes address the housing crisis?
With a concept for a temporary add-on that’s suitable for gable roofs, Benedikt Hartl shows how changes in building laws are necessary to fight the housing crisis.
In the lead up to each issue, we challenge emerging designers to respond to the Frame Lab theme with a forward-looking concept. Space-poor cities worldwide are dealing with insufficient affordable and social housing: a problem that calls for alternative and innovative solutions to the way that our living spaces are designed, constructed, managed and regulated. For Frame 141, we asked three creative practices to share their ideas.
Based in Munich, Benedikt Hartl founded his socially and politically motivated architecture firm Opposite Office, known for its speculative refurbishment project of Buckingham Palace into social housing, in 2017. Costing €50,000 in its standard version, the Affordable Loft is a lightweight structure that can be placed on gable roofs.
Benedikt Hartl. Photo: Matthias Knoll
Can you explain a little bit about your approach to architecture?
BENEDIKT HARTL: At Opposite Office, the activist architecture office I founded in 2017, we deal with architectural issues at the interface of sociology and politics. We work between reality and fiction and try to question architecture in its spatial and social role and rethink it. Our work is both socially and politically motivated.
How do you envision the future of housing and living will evolve?
Into an architecture of unprecedented uncertainty! In the future we will have to get used to the fact that distribution conficts will arise. Our current Western lifestyle of extravagance can’t be maintained in the long term. Instead of fancy architectural statements we will have to focus on the essentials and reduce our standards. Above all, we have to reduce our internal space consumption.
So what were your first thoughts when you were asked to think about a design, spatial concept, tool or service that could help solve the housing crisis?
That if I were to seriously contribute something meaningful, it would be to change the building laws. We don’t want our cities to become walking real estate funds. My proposal for those changes will enable architects to create affordable housing and to distribute living space in a fair way. My new building code includes ten laws. There are some laws that limit ownership and rent, and others that allow more to be built. I have submitted the laws to the German parliament and it will probably take a few years before these will be legally adopted.
Can you give one example?
Building Law number eight allows temporary add-ons without having to apply for a building permit. I’ve developed an inexpensive product for this law, a ‘loft’ of which the standard version costs only €50,000 – about as much as a new car. Affordable Loft is a lightweight structure, made of aluminium and twin-wall sheets, that can be placed on gable roofs.
Which demographic would it serve?
The demographic groups neglected by the housing industry. Those groups that don’t fit in the classic father-mother-children family picture. Affordable Loft is a declaration of love to all single households, single parents, young couples, patchwork families, gays, lesbians, people on a tight budget, etcetera. It’s a good opportunity for young people to buy their own house for little money and at the same time to have the opportunity to stay mobile. Since there are gable roofs in almost all cities and cultures, it is very easy to move.