HKW in Berlin invited Assemble to develop a model for affordable and flexible housing in collaboration with elderly activists Stille Strasse, which was exhibited at the Wohnungsfrage exhibition in 2015.
The building begins with 20 empty apartment shells and a group of people. The building frame sits on a shared space that functions as a workshop, shared kitchen, shower block and storage.
Each apartment shell is made up of two spaces, separated down the middle by a heavy, soundproofing wall. One side has domestic doors and windows, the other side has big shutter doors and floor to ceiling glazing - this relationship is akin to that between house and garage. One owns the ‘house’ half, and the 'garage' half is rented from the building co-op. The house half offers residents security and privacy, enabling them to engage in community activity on their own terms. The garage half is a slack space that allows dwellings to grow, contract and become collective.
All the apartments are accessed by a big service lift and a winter garden walkway wide enough to easily move building materials in and out. The main frame is made from precast concrete. Internal walls separating units are block-work for soundproofing and fire separation.
People move in. The workshop is used to build timber stud partitions, to complete and fit out the apartments. Facilities and meals are shared between future tenants on the ground floor. You might start by building 1-2 bedrooms in the ‘house' half of your apartment. The ‘garage' half would be used to store materials and furniture.
As you make progress with your apartment, your life gradually migrates from shared facilities on the ground floor to settling in to your apartment. You live comfortably in your house half and you throw parties in your garage half, you use it as a working space, a classroom, a meeting room. Your family grows, you start occupying your garage as your main living space. It can host family gatherings that spill out into the winter garden.
Meanwhile the ground floor workshop has downsized and part of it has become a crèche, a meeting house, a place to collectively gather and to engage with a wider public.
As you get older and your children leave home, you decide to downsize, returning your garage half back to the co-op. It is offered to your neighbours or maybe converted into another 1-bed flat.
It is based on an economic construction and an alternative approach to apartment block management, offering infrastructure for collective and self-determining life in the city.