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© 2014 by Natasha Reid Design. All rights reserved. |


Winning Proposals for an International Competition to radically rethink Housing and provide solutions to the Crisis

Intimate Infrastructure is a concept that proposes an alternative to more dominant forms of volume house-building and provides solutions for both private renters in the form of purpose-built shared homes, as well as considering the needs of local communities vulnerable to displacement. It forms part of our Intimate Series research programme, see our publication here




We ask if there is a way of working at a big scale, whilst also paying attention to quality of life, urban vitality, character of place and civic relations. What are the tools for delivering high density at a human scale? The proposals challenge the pervasive model of towers: Is there a strategy for maximising land available without incurring the formidable build costs of high-rise, to provide an economic housing solution for different groups in need?


We ask, can we build at high density, but with an alternative form of development to towers? We propose to capitalise on the land available within the city, to allow for urban intensification rather than sprawl.The study focuses on two groups: local communities at risk from radical urban renewal, and private renters who cannot access home ownership in the current crisis, from young professionals on low incomes to other more vulnerable or mobile city dwellers.



The project proposes a ‘missing typology’ of new-build shared housing to meet the demand of renters in the immediate term, while also accommodating larger family homes within a framework that focuses on qualities of place.  The study explores mixing different types of people rather than creating mono-tenure ‘ghettos’.

Currently, the private rental market is unregulated in terms of space standards – epitomized by the extreme cases of makeshift “beds in sheds”. New mass-produced, modular ‘shared houses’ are proposed as standardised components, to regulate minimum levels of living standards, speed up delivery and reduce construction costs.



Permanent infrastructure is provided at ground level in the form courtyards and owner-occupied townhouses, based on the London pattern of squares and to embed the importance of street-life into areas undergoing change.  An adaptable frame structure above holds the shared homes, which can change, grow and recede according to future needs.

The ‘shared house’ modules are low-cost, robust shell spaces which can be finished by inhabitants according to their means. This new model could also provide a radical approach to giving access to property and security by allowing micro units of space to be owned, such as a single bedroom.

The collision of different tenures and groups reflects that city is homogenous and so the proposal provides a range of different conditions to suit people at different stages in life, incomes and lifestyle preferences. It seeks to interlock two types of community; not ‘pepper potting’ but allowing opportunities for interaction through mixing space for social activities. To create a closer, denser layout of households, shared space is emphasised and privacy provided by the careful treatment of boundaries.



Our study is based on an initial research commission undertaken in collaboration with UrbanWorks, a Johannesburg based practice for the British Council’s International Architecture Showcase in 2014. It investigated whether a high-density, more adaptable ownership model for overlapping uses and people can provide a resilient solution for places in transition and create neighbourhoods of character, distinctiveness and vitality.