Minimising my carbon footprint, I decided to shun the bright lights of Copenhagen and take the opportunity to attend the NLA breakfast ‘Long Life, Loose Fit, Low Energy’. Speakers Alex Lifschutz and Simon Allford spoke eloquently about this age-old concept as a method to solve the housing crisis and instil a more economical means of building.
Based around the original ideas set forth in Alex Gordon’s 1972 essay of the same title, the concept is to design in a way where the end use of the building is not specific. The use does not provide the architectural or financial question for a basis of development. In its simplest form, this equates to a skeleton building which can easily accommodate the semi-permanent infrastructure required to house a multitude of different uses, allowing for the building's lifespan to be extended, or perhaps more simply put, ‘future proofing.’ This is in contrast, and opposition to, modular construction which was described as ‘the transportation of air being fitted into another structure’, spoken of as too specific at a large scale. Although conversely seen as something of value at the smaller scale of plug-in kitchens and bathrooms.
In the White Collar Factory (led by AHMM, pictured), amongst other examples, the concept has been taken to reality. Higher floor to ceilings and a deeper plan, than might be typical of housing, have been used to allow for a wider pool of potential tenants. Whether you agree or disagree, it raises an interesting architectural question: how to design spaces and forms without pre-determined uses which have character and interest, without resulting in a non-descript landscape of machines for doing something in?