In today’s service economy, the functional zoning typical of modern urbanism is no longer self-evident. People’s domestic and professional lives increasingly take place in one and the same domain. They need a different type of city, one that accommodates a wide variety of programmes, with tailormade facilities that allow combinations of living, working and care. This issue of DASH focuses on the building block as the spatial cornerstone of this development. It is where the individual dwelling, the collective domain and urban life meet.
Workhome blocks that combine new ways of living and working are more than commercial bases topped by a couple of dwellings. Historical projects abound, but contemporary workhome blocks are more difficult to find. Apparently, many of the parties concerned need time to get used to the idea of realizing such projects. What is required, in short, is a cultural transformation. This is why the essays and examples in this issue are a plea for a different way of building.
The advantages of workhome blocks are considerable. The projects in this issue show different living and working communities, from casual to closely-knit, that share meeting places, kitchens, cars, workshops, gardens and many other amenities. Due to their varied use of the spaces, at different times of the day, the people who live and work in them contribute to a vibrant street life. The addition of the work function calls the architectural representation into question. It gives rise to an outspoken architecture that sometimes reveals – and sometimes negates – the functions it contains. Questioning the dynamics between living and working furthermore leads to intelligent forms of flexibility and therefore often results in workhomes that are adaptable.
Researcher/architect Frances Holliss points out the urgency of the live-work challenge in an ‘opening manifesto’. The results of her extensive study into homeworkers provide tools for a better understanding of the issue. Next is a round-table discussion organized by the DASH editorial team, which gauged the Dutch situation by talking to a number of architects and urban designers. The discussion confirmed the absence of parties that recognize and dare to enter this particular market. The situation also calls for different approaches to urban design and regulations, because growth and change are an integral part of these projects.
The essays and project documentation have been arranged around three research themes. How do such building blocks enrich the collective domain, that is: the space between the street and the front door? And then: How does the block present itself to the city? And finally: How are living and working distributed over the project, and what are the consequences of this distribution? In a discussion of the first living and working blocks in seventeenth-century Holland, Eireen Schreurs observes that the addition of a working programme led to a number of interesting innovations on the level of the dwelling, the block and the city. Birgit Jürgenhake introduces a design study by Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto to show how living and working traditions continue to live on in Japan, and Dick van Gameren explores Amsterdam-Zuid to find out how working facilities have enriched the urban design. Birgit Hausleitner, finally, presents a number of locations in which the mix is promising at the urban design level. This issue of DASH concludes with ten exemplary projects that use specially developed drawing techniques to make the themes collectivity, representation and the distribution of working and living visible.