This website is one of the outcomes of a research project conducted at the University of Sheffield School of Architecture in 2004-6. The researchers were Professors Jeremy Till & Sarah Wigglesworth, and Dr Tatjana Schneider. The research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The website presents the raw evidence gathered during the project, in the form of a series of case studies of flexible housing. A much more detailed argument about the whys and hows of flexible housing is presented in our book Flexible Housing (Architectural Press, 2007) and in two articles for Architectural Research Quarterly. Further examples of housing in general can be found on the generous and comprehensive Housing Prototypes website.
What is Flexible Housing?
Our definition determines flexible housing as housing that can adapt to the changing needs of users. This definition is deliberately broad. It includes the possibility of choosing different housing layouts prior to occupation as well as the ability to adjust one’s housing over time. It also includes the potential to incorporate new technologies over time, to adjust to changing demographics, or even to completely change the use of the building from housing to something else.
Why Flexible Housing?
The arguments for flexible housing are compelling. Socially, it empowers the user to take control of their own dwelling, either by making choices prior to final construction or else over the lifetime of the home. Demographically, it enables housing providers to adjust to new living patterns and configurations of users. Economically, it avoids obsolescence and costs involved in reconfiguration or refurbishment. Technically, it should allow for the incorporation of new technologies and the upgrading of old ones, in particular servicing. These arguments are not new; the case studies show an ongoing fascination with flexible housing through the course of C20, supported by theorists such as John Habraken, Avi Friedman and the Open Building movement.
The 150 case studies are presented in a standard, even dry, manner. To get the most out of them requires an interpretation of the plan, through which most of the flexible principles are revealed. Some of the projects are intentionally flexible, the most extreme of which employ flexibility as a visual rhetoric. We have included other projects because they appeared to us to embody some flexible principles. Just so you know, and in order to cut to the quick, these are our favourite projects - in no particular order:Weißenhofsiedlung
Hard and Soft