Following Moshe Safdie's essay "Pedagogy of Urban Housing", Safdie Architects was invited to join Plane-Site's TIME SPACE EXISTENCE exhibition at the Venice Biennale this year. The exhibit explored the Quest for Habitation, reviewing how housing typologies and their response to site have evolved over the past 50 years of our practice. Located in Palazzo Bembo and hosted by the European Cultural Centre, the fourth edition of the biennial architecture exhibition included a wide selection of works from architects, photographers, sculptors and universities from all over the world. The exhibition includes a range of theoretical and built projects across the globe, exploring how housing can be designed with both efficiency and beauty. The projects respond with new approaches to increasing density, deploying strategies that insure equitable access to light, green spaces, and opportunities for community engagement.
Today, the density in our cities has far surpassed the ideas of Habitat. Middle class housing in the cities is almost impossible to build now due to development pressures and the desire to maximize footprint above all else. How can architects today create housing that celebrates the communal and also respects the individual without completely privatizing the public realm? A new way of looking at mixed use development, with a communal public realm, is re-invigorating the quest for habitation. While the act of experiencing more of the city from above, as a complement to the activities that occur at the street level is exciting, it also challenges the definition of the public realm as we know it, as we begin to network spaces between privately owned towers and shared communal spaces at multiple levels.These discussions are expanding beyond the design and construction industry and into the realm of city policy makers and other stakeholders.
Residential typology, whether suburban or urban, consistently failed to serve as an effective building block for the urban place. Indeed it can be stated that as we enter the twenty-first century the high-rise tower, be it residential or office, has not successfully been deployed in its place as an effective urban building block. A mixed typology of low, mid, and high-rise residential structures must be deployed together to most effectively create a new type of public domain, both ground related and as a network of streets in the air. The future is in mixed typology and a wide diversity of urban spaces.