The Vitra Design Museum is housing Together! The New Architecture of the Collective, an exhibition focusing on social housing that is mostly triggered by social unrest, high real state values, and housing shortage. Launched this past week, the exhibition shows social housing's history and development through time, presenting various projects from Europe, Asia, and the United States. The exhibition shows how new concepts of collective housing are creating a new form of living, and it pushes the message that conventional housing development might not be the answer to our 21st-century housing challenges.
Using models, films, and walk-in displays, the show is structured in four sections, starting with a look into the history of collective housing borne from social and political unrest. A series of films show the responses to housing challenges of their time, including the Phalansteres invented by Charles Fourier, the late-19th-century Monte Verita colony in the Swiss part of the Ticino, the housing cooperatives of the 1920s, the autonomous community of Christiania in Copenhagen, and the Karthago cooperative in Zurich. "For many, the idea of collective living offers an affordable remedy to urban isolation," says the exhibition's press release.
In the exhibition's second section, visitors can get a closer look at 21 large-scale models of contemporary social housing experiments, curated to create an imaginary city. In addition to focusing on the social aspects of collective housing, these projects—designed by international architecture firms such as Einszueins Architektur, Heide & Von Beckerath, Michael Maltzan Architecture, Ondesign $ Partners, Pool Architekten, and Ryue Nishizawa—explore fundamental principles of "volume, facade, and materials," according to the press release, and demonstrate how facing challenges along the way led the architects to achieve a unique aesthetic. These projects also blur the boundaries between private and public spaces.
In the third section, visitors can walk into a full-scale model of a "cluster apartment." Here, a photographic essay by Daniel Buchard depicts daily life in eight new collective projects from various countries. "This shows that the new collectives emerge as social laboratories not least because the digitization gives rise to new possibilities of life/work organization," says the museum.
The last section of the exhibition presents five mixed-use case studies: the Sargfabrik in Vienna, Zwicky-Süd in Zurich, La Borda in Barcelona, R50 in Berlin, and the Apartments with a Small Restaurant in Tokyo—all of which highlight economic opportunities that collective housing provides today. Questions such as "How does the new architecture of the collective work in economic terms?" "Which new challenges come with it?" and "How can innovative housing forms actually be realized?" are all addressed in this section. "At the Kalkbreite in Zurich, for example, approximately half the floor area is reserved for commercial and other non-residential uses including a cinema, a packaging-free supermarket, three restaurants and cafes, health consultancies, various offices, and a publicly accessible courtyard with a playground," says the press release.
Curated by Ilka and Andreas Ruby and Em2n, Together! The New Architecture of the Collective, runs through Sept. 10 at the Vitra Design Museum in Rhein, Germany.