housing crisis, homelessness, affordability, London

RESEARCH // SPACE GAP

We are looking for funding to construct a pavilion that sets out to educate, stimulate and challenge people’s perceptions on London’s housing crisis. It will be a meeting place, a stage and a platform for people to meet, speak and investigate the issues that are so pertinent and sharp today.

 

The pavilion is a facilitator and agitator for the true work which must be undertaken in order to foster change. We are creating a programme of events that will run over the course of the London Design Festival, this will include panel discussions, lectures, debates, film screenings and performances that straddle such issues as; the inequality of space provision in the city, homelessness, overcrowding, empty homes, social housing, architectural design, environments and space standards for housing. We want to help bring the issues of the space gap to the fore. We’re asking for £8,000 to build and run the events and exhibitions. Please help us make this happen!

The design of the pavilion explored was an open forum space is set beneath a three dimensional ‘volume diagram’ that made visible the shocking split in size and scale between the largest homes available and the smallest spaces that people are forced to live in. As both an overlay and conflation of the various housing spaces, it highlighted the unequal distribution of space across the country.

 

The internal spaces of the pavilion describe existing conditions found in the city - spaces taken from true stories of inhabitation found throughout London seen against existing space standards. These include cases of overcrowded homes, illegal studios, social housing and Housing in Multiple Occupation (HMOs) and empty homes, set alongside the national space standards. Each of the stories of inhabitation explored are represented by a physical space and are arranged together according to density.

 

At the entrance of the pavilion is a spatial diagram of one of thousands of overcrowded spaces found in the city - a story from Newham where 26 people were forced to live in a three bedroom house, giving 4.6 SQM of total living space per person. In our investigations we had found situations far worse, cases of 40 people living in a three bedroom house, but the actualities of scaling the pavilion and constraints for fabrication dictated this choice. This is one of many extreme cases of overcrowding found all over the city in which there are multiple families living under one roof. Levels of overcrowding in London are more than twice as high as the rest of England for every tenure. 250,000 households in London were overcrowded in 2014/15, 13% of social renting, 11% of private renting households and 3% of owner-occupier households were overcrowded, and the number has risen. Official statistics do not capture ‘hidden households’ such as those who live in illegal structures ‘beds in sheds’. *www.trustforlondon.org.uk/data/overcrowding

 

The Pavilion sets the above situation beside the national space standards, illegal studios and a case where, due to circumstance and the lack of available and adequate family housing, a family of six are trapped living in a small two bedroom flat. The scarcity of council homes - especially those fit for families - often means that a catch 22 situation arises. Desperate to stay within the system, many families end up being stuck or ‘trapped’ in squalid and cramped environments while they await adequate accommodation.

 

The pavilion is capped at its front with an empty space. This void presents a real case of a house found in Kensington, sitting dormant for over 2 years, thousands of square meters of living space completely unoccupied. There are an estimated 20,000 empty homes in London. An empty home is classified as a dwelling that is vacant because it is either between occupants, empty undergoing modernisation or in disrepair or awaiting demolition. A property is classified as a long-term empty home if it has been vacant for more than six months. The highest number of empty homes is in Kensington and Chelsea, with over 2% of homes in the borough being recorded as long-term empty. The number of long-term vacant homes in Kensington and Chelsea has risen by nearly 25% in a decade. * www.emptyhomes.com. This final space is a reminder of the fact that there is enough space available in London, but it is money and policy that dictates who gets it.

The project connected those who shape housing and policy with those who live with their effects, allowing both to learn from each other and better imagine how to move forward towards an inclusive built environment. 

The project was featured as one of Blueprint's highlights of the London Design Festival (link here)

You can find further information on the pavilion at the LDF 2018 project page here.