​Augmented Standard: A new approach to rethinking housing production

How to stop reinventing the wheel and use platforms to create better housing.

When you think about standard housing in Russia, the first thing that comes to mind are grey districts of prefabricated concrete-paneled buildings. The Open International Competition for Standard Housing, operated by Strelka KB, aims to transform that urban reality by creating new forms of residential developments.

Led by Strelka alumnus Maksym Rokmaniko, Anarchitects studio was shortlisted in the first stage of the competition with its project ‘Augmented Standard.’ The firm is one of 20 finalists that hail from Russia and nine other countries. The winners of the competition will be announced in May.

Maksym Rokmaniko. Photo: Evgeny Kruglov / Strelka Institute

While studying at Strelka’s The New Normal design think-tank last year, Maksym developed the speculative project DOMA, a housing platform powered by blockchain technology.

Strelka Magazine spoke with Maksym about his approach of how to customize standard housing and softwarize the process of its production.

CRITICAL APPROACH TO STANDARD HOUSING

In Russia there is still a modernist heritage of knowing what people want. Expert groups claim to know what people want because of their expertise, rather than actually asking the people what they want, or using a feedback loop.

But now, when we engage the market economy, we see that people who inhabit standard housing are not all the same, and designing one building and implementing it across the entire country doesn’t work.

Augmented Standard aims to develop a softwarized way of creating buildings that are essentially standard, but are more adapted to the environment and the needs of its inhabitants. The broad idea behind Augmented Standard is to build a tool that will allow people to say what they like and what they don’t.

SOFTWARIZING CONSTRUCTION

The simple idea behind Augmented Standard it is to have user-friendly software for developers, architects, and customers.

The software can analyze the site and react to it by taking into account crucial features. For example, in order to build an energy efficient building, it will analyze the site and the neighborhood, and say that the windows should be facing south, to create passive solar heating.

Augmented Standard by Anarchitects Studio
Augmented Standard by Anarchitects Studio
Augmented Standard by Anarchitects Studio
Augmented Standard by Anarchitects Studio

We have a library of base forms and modifiers that can be combined in different ways, depending on factors related to the site and preferences of those who will live there.

Each base form defines geometric logic of the future building: variation of the units, depth and width, the location of elevators and stairs, possible connections with other buildings. Base forms define what buildings are and aren’t. The base form can be shrinked or extended, a number of floors can be added, and the composition of units altered.

If a base form does not satisfy particular needs, it is likely to require a modifier, which addresses different anatomic parts of the base form. The digital library of projects will basically allow a person to choose what he or she wants instead of being limited to very rigid requirements of standard housing.

The problem with architecture is that very often it tries to reinvent the wheel. What is interesting about platforms and digital libraries is that we don’t need to design all the buildings ourselves. We can source many Russian architects to help us build this library of standard buildings.

PLATFORM FOR FEEDBACK

At The New Normal, we had this agenda from Benjamin Bratton of thinking of states and markets, and also cloud platforms as a third force that can co-exist and sometimes overlap in its responsibilities with markets or states.

Russia is a very interesting context because it went from completely state-based real estate construction to something market-oriented. And what we’re trying to imagine is a huge platform, like if there was a Facebook or Amazon for producing cities.

The idea of having feedback loops is a key to how such a platform works. Facebook needs to know what you like and share in order to show you more customized advertising, so it can be efficient and financially sustainable. And with the same logic we are trying to see how to leverage such a platform in the broadest possible sense.

Text: Anastasia Dolgova