“Home Futures”, a new exhibition at the Design Museum, questions whether ‘we are living in the way that pioneering architects and designers throughout the 20th century predicted’.
The answer – in many instances – seems to be yes.
In particular, two ‘past futures’ displayed in the exhibition were particularly prescient.
Firstly - the exhibition included a model of the Instant City, a vision of a city made from airships, imagined by the 1960s avant garde architectural group Archigram. Instant city was premised on urbanisms that could move ‘from site to site’, redefining the city as a temporary event. This vision of the urban has striking similarities with ‘pop-up housing’, such as Lewisham council’s pioneering PLACE/Ladywell, which provides modular social housing that can likewise be moved from site to site by being rapidly disassembled and reassembled.
Secondly – Architect Pier Vittorio Aureli’s ‘Minimum Dwelling’ designs proposed a way of living ‘in which every person would have a private room, but all the other domestic functions would be communal.’ This model is an exact description of how ‘co-living’ – a new trend in rental accommodation – is functioning in cities like London or San Francisco today. Co-living companies such as ‘The Collective’ provide dorm style accommodation, where residents rent a small room but have access to shared facilities including gyms, cinemas, kitchens, cafes, libraries and gardens.
However, perhaps what wasn’t foreseen by the past visions featured in Home Futures, was the motivations that would push these projects into the limelight. While the designs and plans on display are primarily presented as utopic visions, the rise of pop-up housing or co-living has taken place in a far from utopic context, as responses to the housing crises gripping cities worldwide.
Does the resonance between past visions of future housing, and emerging housing trends today, therefore suggest that better modes of urban living are emerging from the ashes of financial crisis? Or, conversely, does it indicate ways that architects and developers today take inspiration from visions from times past when looking to brand compensatory housing solutions?