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Social Housing in Mulhouse
Îlot Schoettlé, Mulhouse, France 2005


Even smaller and more compact is the traditional formula for efficient mass housing. The experimental row house development Cité Manifeste aims to reverse this trend: maximal instead of minimal apartments for all. Of the five architecture teams hired, Lacaton & Vassal have done the most radical job of meeting demands for higher capacity and increased leeway for individual appropriation. Using inexpensive industrial products and doing without high-end details, they were able to produce nearly twice the space for the regular price. On the upper level, a greenhouse construction made of polycarbonate on an exposed-concrete floor provides for ample light at an apartment depth of 18 meters, with only two-thirds being thermally insulated. The remaining area is to be climatically regulated through sliding elements and awnings by the residents themselves, similar to their active participation having been required in conquering the open lofts that were not initially divided into rooms. The raw character of the building eases the furnishing process, and the flexible shiftability of the semitransparent winter gardens allows for visual, though not necessarily acoustic, privacy in the tight housing grid.


Angelika Fitz


Private front yards alternate with garage driveways

Lacaton & Vassal Architectes





© Eric Firley, 2008

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The Challenge of Inhabitation Mulhouse, September 2008


An experimental development in the city of Mulhouse, entitled Cité Manifeste, sent sizable waves through the media when it was completed in 2005. The daily press and trade journals published titles such as “Inexpensive and Good,”1 “Manifesto for New Social Housing,”2 and “Lofts in Social Housing,”3 calling attention to the unusual character of the residential buildings designed by five teams of architects. The project aimed to make available considerably larger and more open spaces through cost-effective materials uncommonly used in housing, at a rental price comparable to that of standard- sized apartments. The media approached the question of whether a new model for social housing had been created with enormous curiosity. Many of the articles ended by projecting that time would tell whether the experimental project is capable of fulfilling these high aspirations. The exhibition Housing Models presents an opportunity to visit the residential buildings three years after their completion and to more closely examine the dwelling units designed by the architects Lacaton & Vassal. Of the five projects, this one most consequently meets the demand of the entire project for including the residents as players in the configuration of their living space. The historical background for the project can be found in the Cité Ouvrière, a workers’ housing estate which forms the context for the new row houses. With the view of addressing the intolerable living situation of the workers, the Société mulhousienne des cités ouvrières (SOMCO) was founded, which is involved in social housing still today. In 1853, it started building the development, where the houses changed hands through the hire-purchase system to ownership by the residents. The house type designed for this development, the so-called “carré mulhousien” with four houses consolidated into one building, had proved itself highly extendable. Over the decades the privately owned housing development was altered according to changing requirements so that the original typology can barely be recognized in the present state of the old Cité. ...


(1) Judith Solt, archithese 4.2005
(2) Julien Brygo: „À Mulhouse, un manifeste pour de nouvelles HLM“, in: L’Humanité, 13. August 2005
(3) Axel Simon, „Lofts im sozialen Wohnbau“, in: Der Standard, 12. März 2005


Lisa Schmidt-Colinet

for entire text see catalogue

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