Architecture for the Housing Crisis: Five Projects Taking an Innovative Approach to Housebuilding

The shortage of housing is a problem not only in the UK but in many of the world’s major cities. However, while for many the focus is on simply increasing the rate of construction, some architects are developing novel designs that are intended to combat the issue. We look at some of the more notable proposals

Beyond the Shell

London, UK

Architect: Lianjie Wu

The winner of the Bee Breeders London Affordable Housing Challenge, Beyond the Shell sees mass housing reinvented with the use of 3D printing. At is core is a grid-like frame that forms the foundational infrastructure, around which individual units can be constructed in-situ using on-site digital fabrication tools transported in mobile trucks. This allows each unit to be shaped to match the needs of the resident, while supporting organic shapes and designs that offer a significant departure from traditional mass housing. 

Image courtesy of Lianjie Wu / Bee Breeders

Tårnby Watertower

Copenhagen, Denmark

Architects: SquareOne

Designed as an approach to revitalising the 183 disused water towers in Denmark, SquareOne’s design re-envisions Tårnby Watertower in the country’s capital as a combined student housing block and spa. The design retains the core structure of the water tower, while suspending more than 40 housing units around its core. This would see the original structure function as a stairway to provide access to each room, with the top level repurposed as a spa. 

Image courtesy of SquareOne


Cairo, Egypt

Architects: Mouaz Abouzaid, Bassel Omara and Ahmed Hammad

Shipping containers have been an increasingly popular choice for low-cost structural solutions, but this housing project design for Cairo takes their use to new levels. Designed to provide housing for refugees, asylum seekers, students and those on low incomes, it makes compelling use of shipping containers by grouping them in innovative ways that sees the creation of homes, communal spaces and open areas. Homes are grouped into clusters of 8 around green courtyards, forming neighbourhoods within the scheme.  

Image courtesy of Mouaz Abouzaid

The Farmhouse

Architects: Precht

Designed by Penda co-founder Christ Precht, The Farmhouse is designed to provide a solution not only to the housing crisis but the issue of urban food production. A timber skyscraper, it is made up of a series of A-frame modular housing units embedded with vertical farming technologies on each floor. The housing modules, which are made from cross-laminated timber, are designed to be manufactured offsite with integrated electricity and insulation prior to installation. 

Image courtesy of Precht


Los Angeles, USA

Architects: KTGY Architecture + Planning

Designed to find a use for the growing number of defunct big box stores in the US as a result of the overhaul of the retail industry, Re-Habit takes large-scale empty stores and reworks them into housing for the homeless. The design sees the installation of a host of facilities into these existing structures, including bathrooms, dining spaces, sleeping areas, and job training facilities, with gardening spaces planned for the buildings’ exteriors. 

Image courtesy of KTGY