July 4, 2016 \ Places to Live
by Chris Simmonds
“There is a global housing crisis, centred around intensifying urbanisation, but what does that mean, where are the challenges and how can we directly affect change?”
There are so many ways of looking at these issues. We discussed as a dip in the ocean of issues, on our home turf, on the one hand the inability to build enough homes in the first place and on the other, the stirring up communities to defend their open space from being developed for housing such as at Kelvin Meadow in Glasgow. And then looking beyond these shores a sense of contrasting extreme solutions to the house building problem from gated communities to squatter occupation of unused buildings. And sometimes the two views coalescing together as they have done on the Scottish Island of Bute with the housing of 15 families from war torn Syria. How can we reconcile housing our own needs and the needs of others much less fortunate than ourselves, seems to have become an insurmountable problem and the territory of claim and counter claim.
What is interesting is that a younger generation is rediscovering the idea of state sponsored investment in the structures of housing delivery. As we did in the 1980’s they are looking back to the big collective models of Europe and in particular Vienna through the 20th century.
Two stand out and the first we all know well, the monumental achievement of Karl Marx Hof, a part of the pre war 1914 municipality housing programme, conceived and built it in 3 years around communal courtyards community facilities, doctors surgery and nursery with a built area of 20% of the site.
Less well known but just as heroic the 1960s Alt Erlaa settlement of 3200 units in the form of dramatic stepped slab blocks with hard to believe, swimming pools on the roofs and an interconnecting shopping street weaving through the abundant landscape below.
In contrast our achievements such as the Laurieston project for New Gorbals Housing Association, are much more modest. But faced with the global numbers which we need to address, the new generation is not content with turning a blind eye but finding solutions to these issues. One such venture is using the office trust to volunteer services to the Simon Community to convert a property for the homeless in Maryhill. Again a drop in the ocean but for the older amongst us, an inspiration to us all to find some way of helping.