Design is never independent of its surroundings. The tracings of a good design have always remained inclusive of its context, its subsequent requirement, and most importantly, its connection and comprehension with its user.

Social design, by its core definition, aims to practice creative forms of design implementation in a way that supports and encourages positive social change. It does not define or provide solutions to problems existing in our society. Rather it creates opportunities via the medium of design where people can connect with other people and institutions to bring about positive and radical social change. 

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Social Housing @ Azure Magazine

Imagine a world where design has the power to call out for changes? Well, with power, it also corresponds to the responsibility of understanding the needs of its users so public architecture can bind communities together.

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Social Housing @ Archdaily

Social Design has been implemented by architects working towards a common goal in the arenas of public spaces, residential and community design, and even at the scale of planning interventions for cities and towns. In this article, we will focus on social design in the realm of housing and how rethinking the architecture of social housing can transform public architecture at an unimaginable scale.

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Social Housing @Arch20

Social housing has been a concept of great significance since the different modules of public housing have ranged from Le Corbusier’s inspired superblocks to less dense low-rises. At the first stage of its evolution, housing consisted of separate entries, limited communal spaces, and walled segregations that excluded the factor of a community living concept. 

To achieve a dynamic community, housing needed to become an integral part of the urban and neighbourhood fabric. Keeping this in mind, social housing in architecture has now come at the forefront with a design that integrates social interaction and user-responsive interventions.

As social housing has evolved, we see a range of diverse methodologies and theories integrated into the core design of public housing, providing opportunities for social integration. 

1. Vivazz, Mieres Social Housing – Asturias, Spain

Designed by the French-Belgian design studio Zigzag Arquitectura, the Vivazz, Mieres housing project develops in a way that still maintains a connection to nature. The project is a prime example of social housing constructed to cater to the needs of its users by keeping in mind attributes that specifically cater to the betterment of integration within the realm of public housing. 

The aim of the project dictates improving the quality of life, making the project urban and rural at the same time. The planning of this project with open voids for communal gatherings and interaction involves its users finding a space with the privacy of a home yet a centre of social meeting. 

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Vivazz Mieres, Zigzag Arquitectura @ Archdaily

The interior lobbies and opening spaces were designed to transform unused voids into unforgettable spaces connecting back to the origins of the site. The access routes to the housing project broke the block in two of its corners creating diagonal tension. Every apartment in this public housing project had its entrance passing through the intermediate spaces, activating and generating necessary neighbourhood relationships. 

This social housing project was designed to have a double orientation enabling cross ventilation and view with dwellings organized around a central core that divides them into day and night spaces.

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Roland Halbe, Vivazz Mieres, Zigzag Arquitectura @ Archdaily

2. Pearcedale Parade – Melbourne, Australia

The project, at its first glance, is extremely inviting with its colourful facade created with the symphony of differently shaped terraces. This social housing project by CH Architects is a development of 88 residential apartments for people in need of affordable housing. 

The multi-level apartment complex houses a variety of resident types with communal indoor and outdoor spaces and a facade that is enlivened with a mix of bright colours. 

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Pearcedale Parade, CH Architects @ Indesign Live

It also features solar-powered hot water and heating to make public housing as attractive and inviting as any other contemporary housing project integrated into the urban fabric. An open space concept, with windows for the interior and the exterior of the building, the project aims at maintaining the dignity of its occupants, the most important factor in the design process. 

The social housing project was thought out with the hope that the finished project would change the way people think about community housing.

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Pearcedale Parade, CH Architects @ Indesign Live

3. Savonnerie Heymans – Brussels, Belgium

The Savonnerie Heymans, a social housing project, consists of a design typology that creates a real village of 42 sustainable accommodations of different types. It is an attempt to create an entire environment-friendly neighbourhood consisting of public housing. The elevation poses glass-enclosed bioclimatic loggias that give a character to the entire complex, providing an effective acoustical and thermal barrier but also providing a sense of privacy.

Filip Dujardin, Savonnerie Heymans @ Archdaily

This social housing scheme features high-density accommodations equipped with amenities such as a room for social meetings and events, a public library, and an array of extensive public spaces such as the “Mini-forest” garden, the 3D landscaped park, and playground, and the main promenade. The high-density social housing complex provides a series of private outdoor spaces allowing its occupants to interact easily with each other creating a convivial, village-like atmosphere that supports community living. 

Another feature of this development is the inclusion of surrounding street elements retained and integrated into the design of the space.

The issue of social housing and its correspondence to the needs of its users is apparent and significant in accommodating various group populations as time goes on. Rethinking the architecture of social housing will collaborate the change in effective design with its users, creating a responsive design for a better way of living. 



Ishani is an architect and a published author. She is passionate about writing and has been a part of the social sector for two years, helping underprivileged children through the power of design via interactive playgrounds. Reading books and hosting workshops are among a few of her hobbies.

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