In 1926 Le Corbusier built his first major housing project, 50 houses in Pessac, on the outskirts of Bordeaux. In the years following, occupants added shutters, flower pots, sloping clay tile roofs and stone exteriors; modernism is all very nice, but people like a little bit of individuality sometimes. New York architects Axis Mundi appear to think so too, and have designed a high rise residential building that is a vertical neighborhood.
Instead of disguising the tower’s mix of uses by containing them within a unitary, homogeneous form, the Axis Mundi design expresses that diversity in a re-organized way, reflecting an emerging reality for tall buildings as collections of domestic elements: dwellings, neighborhoods, streets.
This architectural diversity starts with a double-ring, multi-level floor-plan unit, anchored by two cores that run the full height of the building, containing elevators, stairs and other vertical services. The ring units, called “SmartBlocks” make possible a wide variety of floor plans. By varying the mix of units, the design leaves space for vertical fissures that move irregularly up the tower. These bring light and breezes into the open centers and frame spectacular, theatrical vistas to the city through the building’s own structure.
This proposal suggests new expressive possibilities in an urbanism of difference rather than of homogeneity. In a city where more than 300 languages are spoken, architecture can celebrate that diversity rather than see it as a problem that must be solved.
This is not the first project of this sort that I have shown; I love the idea of a sort of plug-in framework where people can express their individuality, like they often do in the country. It might open up a whole world of design options for people to build what they want on a lot in the sky instead of out in the middle of nowhere, away from art and culture. One could start small, with a shed or a tiny house on their grow home in the sky, adding on as needs or income grow. Perhaps it could be a different economic model to make it even more affordable, a trailer park in the sky where you lease the lot and haul a sort of urban trailer up, park it and hook it up.
All on top of the MoMA yet; art and culture downstairs, homesteading upstairs. More at Axis Mundi