A CITY WITHIN A CITY
The hybrid student city
Our proposal for the Student’s City Campus consists on the hybridization strategy, which is a redefinition of all the functions of the campus. The hybridization strategy will contribute on the addition of new necessary programs and the creation of mix typologies that will enrich the quality of life and spatial conditions. Having a hybrid building means to offer a typology that can host students and the locals that occupy all the surroundings of the city of students. In such a way we create a city within a city, where locals and students create the community and where students characterize the new society. The principal challenge of the master plan is to redefine undeveloped areas, to structure the existing spatial conditions, to propose new dormitory areas and such a way augmenting the number of students during one academic year. Reactivating bypassed areas and contributing with a complex of functions, are two important challenges we tackle. We aimed on creating a campus where students will find every necessity they need and in relation to their financial conditions. We believe in the potential that mixed used buildings have on the better development of social life. In terms of restoration and re qualification, the challenge was to deal with a very old degraded construction, and with the partial change of some typologies.
The Student’s City campus is located on the southern part closer of Tirana, marking 25 min
walk from the city center. The location is very accessible but still after the recent informal
developments the whole area was bypassed and blocked from it’s visual connection with
the main axes of connection. Informality grew that much that in the actual situation a lot of
spaces that are property of the Student’s City are occupied by informal settlements. On
the other hand the whole campus has recently decayed and the quality of dormitories and
public space is very low. The composition of the dormitories is spread on the whole area,
and there it lacks integration within the typology of the buildings and the morphology of the
terrain. The student’s city campus has a very cold and fascist architecture, symmetric and
repetitive facades, small interior spaces, small corridors and tiny rooms, where comfort is
on its limits. The quality of life is very low, and basic functions are lacking. One important
element is the Democracy Square. The importance of this square is huge for the history and
for the democratic youth. We want to bring back into the attention the same square but now
to be used for social events, parties and huge organizations.
Formal vs. Informal
The informal fabric has usurped some huge portions of the student’s city complex and it
pressures as well the surroundings of the complex. Informality has as well got a lot of the
energy to itself; as long as the quality of living and the functions thereby offered fulfill a
better scenario than inside the student’s city. In a general overview we read a high pressure
applied on the surroundings as well. Inside the student’s campus the public functions are
concentrated in one narrow road, going transversal to the whole city.
Our approach consists on some specific points:
a. Experimental approach that lies in the fact that this project will bring different and maybe new solutions to what is being proposed nowadays in our reality. Questions concerning about what is experimental, how can we transform it into a paradigm, and what will this approach bring to
b. The “bottom-up” approach, where modernist-planning mechanisms will not make changes and decision. Understanding cities complexity was suggested by authors such as Jane Jacobs1 (1961) and Christopher Alexander, through their arguments against the mechanistic of ‘top-down’ scope of Modernist planning propositions, which suggest that the design is able to set, control and limit potential functions.
In contrast, Jacobs suggested that the problem that cities constitute should be addressed through inductive thinking and ‘thinking of’ processes. This implies a consideration of city organization as a complex field where multiple variables are “interrelated into an organic whole”.
c. Secondly, the idea of space syntax treatment2 , where the space is not just a backdrop for human activities. Space also takes form social context, but also gives form to this context. In this way, space and context are reflected into each other.
The general idea is that spaces can be divided into components, introduced as networks of choices and then represented as maps as graphs that describe the relative connectivity of those spaces
d. Change as a matrix.
Sometimes change may seem unpredictable, sometimes even chaotic, but if you can try to predict some changes that people usually do inside their living environments, later on you can use these types of changes as matrices that will condition every design process.
e. Flexibility in housing.
“Nowadays, average nuclear family continues to decline, but spaces still designed according to its needs. So, we need flexible types that make it possible to react to changing life circumstances by simple means.”
Flexibility seems as something positive, but without forgetting opposite thoughts about this issue, we have to balance both negative and positive characteristics. The most important thing is to study the needs for flexibility in the Albanian context and to adapt the apartment scheme according to this reality.
On achieving all the necessary requirements to reach our aim on realizing a hybridization of the Student’s City, we applied an acupunctural intervention. We collected all the necessary functions and programs that were missing inside the city and in the surroundings, and spread them as small interventions in the existing buildings. The strategy of having a city for the students, but not only, was a dare idea to introduce a new type of dormitory, where flexibility is the key concept. We implement various possibilities in terms of spatial utilization of the space and maximum usability. We experiment by creating a new hybrid neighborhood, where portions of the buildings create a whole, complement one another and function together. The inclusion of the outdoor in the indoor is as well an important element, from which we get more relaxing and recreating spaces.
FLEXIBILITY AS A TOOL FOR REVITALIZATION
The word flexible is derived from the Latin word “flectere” which means bend, curve or bow. The Webster Dictionary describes it as: “capability to adapt to new, different or changing requirements.”
Flexible housing is defined in two ways: as housing that is designed for choice at the design stage, both in terms of social use and construction, or designed for change over its lifetime.
The tendency to design buildings that only correspond to a specific type of household at a specific point in time reflects a way of thinking that is predicated on short-term economics.
Families have indeed changed behavior and size and the services that they require are in rapid evolution. Every day we face new family typologies that constantly have different needs. It is no longer necessary to build series of standard houses but flexible homes genetically engineered where everything is different as so are its inhabitants. This means thinking about a residential space easily adaptable to changes over time and to different lifestyles and that allows changeable uses thanks to a higher flexibility.
It is very interested to see that flexibility is not a nowadays concept, but architects thought about this issue a long time ago. It was one of the topics discussed during CIAM meting in 1929, where the CIAM Congress was given the theme “the Minimum Subsistence Dwelling” the focus being on design solutions to the problem of high rents for low wage earners.
Also Mies van der Rohe has his own statement: “The constantly growing diversity of our housing needs, on the other hand, demands great flexibility in the use of the accommodation. (…) If the architect limits himself to treating the kitchen and the bathroom as constants, because of their plumbing, while partitioning the remaining living area with movable walls, I believe that by these means it is possible to satisfy every reasonable dwelling need.”
According to different authors and researchers, we have different classifications of flexibility:
1. Schneider and Till in Flexible Housing divide flexibility in 2 main types:
-SOFT Flexibility: “Refers to tactics which allow certain in determinacy. It allows the user to adapt the plan according to their needs, the designer effectively working in the background.”
FLEXIBILITY as REVITALIZER
-HARD Flexibility: “Refers to elements that more specifically determine the way that the design may be used. The designer works in the foreground, determining how spaces can be used over time”
“The design of the dormitory must be “an open process. “Open in the sense of offering continuous interaction with the different spheres of reality, also open in the sense to offer themselves a dialogue and debate that continues between the different participants in the process.
Floor plans must respond to shift in household configurations, changes in family (changing social conditions) Flexible apartments required where most rooms are usage neutral in-neutral space at entrance (guest room, study, additional bedroom). This means thinking beyond the classical way, or in other terms as to imagine the buildings as Platonic solids, Newtonian physics and Aristotelian categories. Flexibility lies also in having a room that can be furnished into different types of spaces.
The end product should be a model, which is relatively easy to use to test a wide range of scenarios.
“Whether flexibility is more expensive is difficult to measure.” But it eliminates old house’s maintenance for selling and new house’s buying.
“Treating housing as a static commodity with fixed design parameters, face problems because it arrives into a world of changing demographics.”
“Housing has to be flexible enough to deal with two conditions: the changing needs of individuals as they grow old or less physically able; and the changing constitution of a family as it grows and then contracts.”
If housing is not able to respond to change, it becomes at best unsatisfactory, at worst, obsolescent.
“The user acquires the ability to customize, the designs become adaptable, the flexible design enables users to make adjustments on their own terms..”
ALN | ARCHITEKTURBÜROLEINHÄUPL + NEUBER GMBH
Markus Neuber architect & civil engineering
Paul Rapp civil engineering & cost estimator
Katharina Riedl landscape architect
Valentina Damian architect & urban designer
Klaus Köstler architect & urban designer
Peter Naumburg architect & Fire protection planner
Petrit Pasha architect & urban designer
Stefano Baldon architect & urban designer
Olga Rivera architect & urban designer
Stefania Di Pisa architect & energy consultant
Gjergji Dushniku architect & urban designer
Klaudjo Cari architect & urban designer
Rezart Struga architect & urban designer
Lorin Cekrezi architect & urban designer
Olesja Lami architect & urban designer
Felisia Veliu architect & urban designer
Gerti Struga architect & urban designer
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