New Growth on Old Growth

A Design Scenario for Affordable Housing in Vancouver, BC.
Masters of Architecture
Studio II - Foundation Year

Winter 2022

New Growth on Old Growth is a design scenario for affordable housing in Vancouver, British Columbia. It explores the notion of parasitism in an architectural context and investigates the development of new urban communities that simultaneously support the growth of affordable housing and greening of the city. It is a scenario that when applied at scale acts as a form of stealth urbanism that could enhance the city as a whole.

The roofscape is ground for new growth. In Vancouver, land cost is the primary factor affecting housing affordability leaving the city one of the most expensive places in the world to live. There is an opportunity to leverage existing buildings to support the growth of new urban communities that simultaneously offer space to build new housing and green the city. Buildings with large, empty rooftops, such as storage facilities, are ideal sites to place small footprint homes and utilize existing utility infrastructure to reduce costs. Prefabricated, modular dwellings allow for this type of housing to be constructed and delivered to any appropriate building rooftop across the Greater Vancouver area and beyond.

The dwellings are inspired by a precedent study conducted on Tado Ando's Azuma House in Osaka, Japan: a small footprint rowhouse composed of four identically sized living spaces separated by an open-air courtyard that contains the vertical circulation. This feature offers an interesting move towards affordability and showcases how to bring private access to Nature inside a home. Combining these insights with an analysis of the architectural history of the site, inspired the use of a pitched roof to reflect the early 1900's gabled vernacular houses found across Mount Pleasant (Vancouver's oldest suburban neighbourhood) and to introduce a lofted space on the second floor, providing the units with more adaptability in terms of use.

The scenario proposes a parametrically designed substructure that can be adjusted to fit any roof shape and offer a slightly curved, moss-like topography to assist with drainage and provide varying building heights. The substructure also supports the weight distribution of housing, hardscaping, and green roof elements. It provides an organizing matrix to locate housing docks, landscaping units, and utility extensions for the dwellings. Vegetation units are cultivated off-site and ready to keep growing when placed on the roof; providing residents the opportunity to grow their own produce and contribute to the greening of city air and beautifying these light industrial areas.