Never work!

Housing for an uncertain future

People are going to lose their jobs due to automation and robotization. Since work is a fundamental element of modern lifestyle, it sounds frightening to lose it. Worshipping work over other activities in life (leisure, sleep) is a recent development in history. We are part of a technological and societal upheaval. Housing will not be left intact either.

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Rent prices are getting ridiculous. This process is the forerunner of changes that we are on the verge of. Inequality rises, the following generation cannot rely on the promise of living better than the previous one. As everyday life seems to get harder, employment is no longer the measure of success and the meaning of one’s life. Basic income is not a reward, it is a compensation for not having jobs for everyone. But a world without jobs is not a world without work. So, how does this translate into architecture? As society favours acceleration, architecture should slow down. The lifetime of a building once again should house different activities. Designing for future means designing for change.

My chosen area is in the middle of Lisbon. A neglected, former agricultural field and the convent of Penha da Franca - roughly 10,000sqm, enclosed and inaccessible. The former comprises a hillside on which the latter sits. It is the highest points of the city that possibly could give an 360° view. In my proposal I try to provide as much access and connection as possible to the public. To tackle the issues of inaccessibility, in my proposal I open the area, creating a versatile park with playgrounds, kiosks and community gardens, while reconnecting the secondary roads. My main site is the Acropolis-like area of Convento de Penha da Franca, 10 metres above the street level, which is currently used by police, and is restricted only to officers. My proposal on this upper level comprises a mixed-use project that provides community spaces and services with flexible housing units. The volumes complement the convent, and together they define a classic piazza above the city with one of the best views of Lisbon. Its access from the Penha de França is highlighted with a wide, long ramp, while the volume narrows, to eliminate the current, wall-like feeling across the street due to altitude. The relative closeness of the old Jewish and Moorish quarters and other historical areas, the urban mixed use was always more present in this area. Even though the main program of the project is housing, it is only part of it. My proposal is not concentrating on the housing units themselves but is open to interpretations. Since the future is uncertain, I cannot design for a narrative of future, I can design only for flexibility. The family models change, people change, life expectancy grows etc. What is interesting here is once again not the finished project itself, but the opportunity for continuity. Taken these points into consideration, I decided to provide housing units only a roof and basic engineering, a space with double height, strengthened on the perimeters with an I200 beam to support a second level of any shape. There is access to almost all units from two sides, making it possible to subdivide, or open walls, according to the given needs.