The Casitas Concept +
To Be Home, An attachment to Place
Bradley Mansfield AIA
Westberg White Architecture
Affordable housing that is designed to meet the needs of the residents that they shelter has a growth potential of enormous proportions. Why? Because it has to. The essential need, the demand, the necessity for affordable, inclusionary housing is overwhelming and critically under served.
The sheltering desire for new affordable housing must meet the needs of the entire community and allow for flexibility over time. A village belongs to its location and must be located as if it has always belonged. The shortage of affordable living opportunities does not need to mean a shortage of quality.
“The Casitas Concept”, distinguished by Westberg White Architecture (WWA), is a new platform for affordable residential living and adequate housing. This new concept transforms the current architectural “design definitions” of how affordable and attainable housing options for seniors, workforce-living and multi/inter-generational residents is being visualized. The Casitas Concept blurs the boundary lines to provide supportive communities of living interdependently. This creates unique and independent districts of breathing buildings.
It is within this mixed-use and diverse environmental fabric for attainable residential housing where resources, services and uses are intended to be shared across independent residential districts. The ideal is to decentralize city life and services by instilling re-vitalized urban development and planning methodologies. Parking reform is encouraged by eliminating current jurisdiction parking requirements where new housing communities are being developed in transit oriented locations. Transportation options such as ride-sourcing, bike lanes, pedestrian only connections, rail hubs, and conveniently located bus stops reduce the dependence on private vehicle retainment. Parking structures will soon be re-envisioned as opportunities to recapture urban areas for living and community adaptive re-use projects due to the changing need for private automobiles.
Emerging Boutique Residential Campuses and Districts
Each of these new emerging Districts, or residential campuses, are places with contrasting identity where residents live secure and safely with respect, individuality, and identity. Each district has its own personality, unique and identifiable. The intent is to end segregation generationally. All people learn from other people, which creates more relevant life education experiences, inclusive of individual priorities and characteristics.
The re-connecting of these individual communities form an established unity between the independent residential campuses and their neighboring districts. This is achieved through motivated personal and community conversations, businesses, and activities. Some districts may have an “anchor” component such as a college, health care or big brand concert/theatre/sports venues. Other such campuses may implement boutique cultural encounters such as artistically located and historic participation.
These self-sufficient intuitive districts will be structurally organized to bring physical energy and connections across the residential campus atmosphere. Each residential village functions independently with its own blend of cultural boutique dining, shopping, learning and entertainment. More pet friendly third place discoveries will be provided to reflect the authentic atmosphere of local colors and flavors contained within these elements. Yet there is a connection with neighboring villages and their specific uniqueness, coexisting to offer a wider array of experiences.
Each district supports their own village, as well as other villages within a walkable neighborhood scale. Each district acts as a self-contained city within a city. The thriving district/campus concept has many centers from which activity is directed and focused by utilizing innovative vertical and horizontal pedestrian circulation patterns. Shared use/pedestrian first ideals are implemented to build neighborhoods that seek the most effective and efficient ways to connect residents across their residential campus structure, both personally and socially. These offerings bring a variety of opportunities that focus more on the unique, local experiences for adventure, to explore, to discover and to re-discover.
This new platform for affordable residential living supports a common humanity with activated spaces in co-living styles of residential floor plans where the interior space is flexible, almost floating. It is only each building’s exiting points for fire-life-safety egress that remain fixed. Distancing, separation, and independence is achieved in residential and social settings by creating distinct life-long cruise ship-like compartments defined by adjacencies and flexible connections. These surroundings enhance the ideals for active affordable residential life through inter-communal connections in the texture of the “campus” experience to prioritize community-making creativity in resident living.
15 Minutes to Everything
“15 minutes to everything, the walkable mini-metropolis” forms the overlay for the ‘15-minute city’ ideals which originated in the “Neighborhood Unit” concepts formulated in the 1920’s. These mixed-zone neighborhoods provide the integration of a variety of complex amenities. It is a life where residents can walk or bike to community scale services and activities such as work, school, housing, student housing and shopping. Residents can visit open space arenas such as urban forests, parks, gardens, and promenades. Fast, frequent, and reliable public transport connections to other neighborhoods and centers of work will make these concepts not only obtainable, but desirable.
This all-inclusive environment is provided within a car-less 15-minute radius of their on-campus residence. Paris, France has implemented these walkable community concepts. These planning ideals have been a tremendous success for those who choose to live in the city.
Pocket Neighborhoods, Shared Use and Pop-Up Businesses
Opportunities for Pocket Neighborhoods are enhanced and encouraged in these settings, all which have their own expression of individuality. Shared use activities in libraries or places of worship that may lay dormant and inactive throughout the time span of a week can be rejuvenated, re-envisioned and stimulated by implementing new uses in these often-neglected spaces. Creative Pop-Up business ideas are encouraged that provide unique dining, shopping, culture, retail, art as entertainment and outside engagement center options for all residents to explore. This visionary concept to is to allow for privacy, yet also to draw residents out into their village. Each of these vibrant and unique business expressions have a personality of space that may last for a day, a week, a month or may even become a permanent fixture.
This contrasting and rebalancing of the previously desired master planning concepts based almost exclusively on the automobile would be revolutionary, only if they had not been envisioned some 100 years ago. The Casitas Concept utilizes these planning objectives such as pedestrian first and walkability to bring life into affordable housing communities. All benefit from creative ideas and solutions. These are the conceptual ideals to create diverse, inclusive, and flexible neighborhood communities that transform the affordable living experience.