Multi-Generational Housing Typology
Location / Vancouver
Project Type / New Construction
Completion / 2019
Renderings / Plus Visual
The project started with a simple question: How do we design a house that will last a hundred years or more, and accommodate multiple generations of family members to grow up and grow old together?
Full House is a multi-generational housing typology developed in the city of Vancouver. While this particular project is a contextual response to the economic, social, and urban conditions of this specific place, urban centers across Canada are bearing witness to skyrocketing real estate prices across, and a general increase in the numbers of adult children living with their parents. In a city where the average selling price for a detached house is now over $1,800,000 (over $650,000 for condos, and over $850,000 for townhomes), multi-generational living is the only viable home ownership option for many families.
Regardless of whether the situation is a result of choice or financial necessity, the benefits of multi-generational living are becoming widely recognized: financial support, mutual benefits for young and old through childcare, decreased physical and emotional isolation for aging grandparents, as well as emotional bonding and closeness across generations. The benefits of multi-generational living– emotional, physical, and financial – are experienced by all family members. Adult children living at home can save money while going to school or working; spending time with young children can bring purpose and meaning to the lives of older generations, while the demands of keeping up with kids – both physically and intellectually – helps grandparents stay active and feel younger; the benefits to grandchildren include empathy, learning care and respect for elders, as well as important social role-modelling.
The project is conceived as a 5 bedroom home with a detached 1 bedroom laneway dwelling. The home is reconfigurable to operate across a variety of traditional program scenarios through the orientation of a pivot door - inspired by the Duchamp Door: 11, rue Larrey (1927). The device is a pivoting steel plate partition that can occupy three possible positions, and adjusting the position of the door alters the architectural programming of the suites in the house.
The life of the house is understood as existing at any point in time through 3 scenarios that are intended to provide flexibility, facilitated by the operation of the Duchamp Door:
• Scenario A / Two discrete dwelling units: 3 bedroom dwelling unit + 2 bedroom dwelling unit
• Scenario B / Two discrete dwelling units: 4 bedroom dwelling unit + 1 bedroom dwelling unit
• Scenario C / One large multi-generational home: 5 bedroom dwelling unit
The urban experience of Vancouver – and in many ways the collective psychology - is embodied by the notion of Vancouverism. Although this urban planning phenomenon has come to presently be defined through a dominant typology of urban development – i.e. the tower-podium model, it’s roots extend back to both environmental and counter-cultural movements 1960’s. While most other North American cities were embracing the golden era of the automobile and urban sprawl, urban activists in Vancouver prioritized creative solutions that balanced increased density with a strong connection to the surrounding natural environment.
Vancouverism needs to now evolve from these roots to address the current problems associated with exorbitant real estate prices and the psychological challenges of high density condo living. While it was initially successful in combating urban sprawl amidst a huge population influx within a limited area, the next chapter of Vancouverism must deal with increased environmental and sustainability considerations as well as the physical and mental health of an aging population. We must move beyond the ubiquitous tower-podium model that prioritizes the commodification of housing and developer profits at the expense of community ideals, and develop new living typologies that prioritize the social, psychological, and economic well-being of urban inhabitants.
2017 Canadian Architect Award of Excellence