Unit XIV: Dwelling Differently

Unit Leader

Dr Sam Clark

Dwelling differently focuses on the design of places in which people live or reside – both buildings known as dwellings and public spaces in which we dwell – be it by choice, chance, or otherwise. Students are encouraged to explore and re-imagine the phenomenon of ‘dwelling’; an important research theme in architectural phenomenology since the work of Heidegger (1951), and arguably a mainstay of architectural practice since its origins. Certainly the private house ‘occupies a unique position in both the history of architecture and human imagination… an object of fantasy, a source of delight, a talisman and a testing ground’ (AR, 2021). But architects also have an important contribution to make toward the design of high-quality housing.

In the UK there exists a long-standing housing crisis often framed as a crisis of volume – a chronic undersupply of affordable housing particularly – but critical problems equally exist in design/build quality and the lived experiences of residents. Recent changes to the UK planning system appear to short-cut residential development. For instance, Permitted Development Rights seemingly lessen the need for professional design input and opportunity for statutory control on quality, while other measures have allowed for expedient conversions of office buildings to substandard housing (Levitt Bernstein, 2019). Globally, ‘private developers and investors are dominating housing systems in an unprecedented fashion, often divorcing housing from its social function by treating it as a commodity for speculation’ (Farha, 2019).

This year students explored the theme of affordability, reflecting former RIBA President Jane Duncan’s view that ‘everyone has the right to live in a well-designed, sustainable, affordable home…not just the wealthy few’ (RIBA, 2016) and subsequent RIBA Ethical Practice knowledge schedule, which sets out ‘a duty to society and the end user’ mandating it members to be attuned to the ‘dilemma’ of affordable housing provision (RIBA, 2021). The projects presented here suggest ways in which the profession could respond.


Architectural Review (AR) (2021) ‘AR House 2021 is open for entries’, The Architectural Review, [online] 4 May, London: EMAP Publishing Limited. Available from: https://www.architectural-review.com/awards/ar-house/ar-house-2021-is-open-for-entries

Farha, L. (2019) Guidelines for the Implementation of the Right to Adequate Housing, [report of the Special Rapporteur] Geneva: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). A/HRC/43/43. Available from: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Housing/Pages/GuidelinesImplementation.aspx

Heidegger, M. (2001), ‘Building Dwelling Thinking’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, New York; London: Harper & Row, pp 141-160.

Levitt Bernstein, Why the government should end permitted development rights for office to residential conversions (London: Levitt Bernstein, 2019). Available from: https://www.levittbernstein.co.uk/research-writing/why-the-government-should-end-pdr-for-office-to-residential-conversions/

RIBA (2021), RIBA Ethical Practice Knowledge Schedule, London: RIBA. Available from: https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/resources-landing-page/mandatory-competences

RIBA (2016) Housing Matters: #20 Ways to tackle the housing crisis, [policy document], London: RIBA. Available from: https://www.architecture.com/knowledge-and-resources/knowledge-landing-page/housing-matters


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Gendered Architecture: Women's Refuge Centre

"Gendered Architecture: How can Women's Safety in Cardiff be Addressed through Urban Development + Dwelling Interventions?"

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Rewilding Whetsted Woods

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Cameron Edwards

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How can innovative prefabrication methods empower local communities and allow for wide-scale urban regeneration?

Szymon Smyk

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