Coveted international award goes to local architect

by Ofentse Sefolo
Coveted international award goes to local architect

Winning the coveted San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge, Martin Pretorius, a Capetonian architect with the company Workshop and Machine and his project, “Rethinking row-houses/apartment blocks”, again showcased the range of South African talent and ingenuity operating on the global stage.

The aim of the concept is to redevelop the row-house and apartment blocks of San Francisco into a system that uses space more efficiently, while still introducing greenery to the city. Pretorius’ striking design of modular, stacked units integrates a bridge to allow the community’s inhabitants to traverse its busy main streets.

The San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge is part of Bee Breeders’ Affordable Housing competition series. Run in partnership with ARCHHIVE Books, this competition tasked participants with submitting innovative design proposals for mitigating San Francisco’s affordable housing crisis.

The challenge did not limit the ideas to a specific design or site requirements, with the only brief being that the project designs were flexible, enabling accommodations for a variety of inhabitant types: Single professionals, couples, families or group living, with somehow making one of the most expensive cities in the world more affordable.

No shortage of innovative ideas
More than 20 000 entries from across the globe did not make for easy judication. The jury gave weight to designs that challenged standard housing typologies, while at the same time incorporating practical design elements or means of implementation that could feasibly enable these projects to offer real solutions to San Francisco.

Thinking beyond the conventional
Speaking about his winning concept, Pretorius says:


“Contemporary housing in the 21st century should provi

de more than shelter. The concept’s aim is to redevelop the row-house and apartment blocks of San Francisco

into a system that uses space more efficiently and introduces greenery to the city.”

Inspired by Yona Friedman’s Spatial City concept, the objective of the modular arrangement is to make use of wasted space above transportation routes, apparent in traditionally residential areas, while creating a platform for urban farming on rooftops.

Sustainable housing harvesting crops
By providing farming facilities for each resident within the development, it would encourage individuals towards sustainable living and create a business opportunity for those who wish to sell their crops. This initiative could ultimately sustain individuals that form part of the unemployed sector.

Throughout the last decade, urban farming has become a viable option for millions of city dwellers and major cities across the world have started to invest in the development thereof. In addition, the placing of transportation routes in the centre of the site allows for the introduction of parks and jogging trails on the sides. Beyond these obvious benefits, each resident will also be provided with electricity through solar harvesting.

The project’s striking 3D visuals, created by Raphael Trischler from Xpose 3D Studios, perfectly capture the envisioned look and overall feel.

Jury feedback
The jury describes the proposal: “Beautiful and elegant. It addresses both land and space constraints to develop a design for a lively community.” Such a development would naturally require high-quality construction and well-considered design, with finishes at street level ensuring the streetscape does not become a dark space, like those beneath bridges and overpasses.

The second prize was awarded to Arseny Pekurovsky, Chon Fai Kuok and Megan Gahlman from the University of Minnesota in the United States of America (USA). This “Living room, the policy of living space in San Francisco” challenged the anti-development culture by creating a “living room” – a common space supporting a range of connected living arrangements.

The third prize was awarded to Monica Lamela Blazquez and Sofia Betancur from Spain, whose “Home sweet home” project identified the interstate highways as precious, underused spaces within the city.

Looking to the future

Winning an international competition, Pretorius says it is the validation of his vision that architecture and design should go beyond commercial value. He is currently working on a cost-effective design solution that can be implemented in our country. Such a project will not only stimulate our construction industry, creating much-needed jobs, but will also result in communities that are truly self-sufficient, fostering a culture of actively building towards a better future.

The San Francisco Affordable Housing Challenge demonstrates that a multipronged approach is needed to make affordable housing a reality. And a proudly South African winner demonstrates the visionary innovation that can be sourced locally.

To see the full jury comments as well as high-resolution images of these designs and our BB Green Award winners, visit www.sanfranciscochallenge.beebreeders.com.

Workshop and Machine
Martin Pretorius
Email: workshopandmachine@gmail.com

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