City planners have always faced a big conundrum when tasked with designing our towns and cities. Everybody wants beautiful architecture and buildings to be proud of, however this all comes at a cost and affordable housing needs to be provided for the citizens. Just fifty years ago, city officials and architects planned high rise buildings surrounded by playgrounds, parks and ball fields as the solution to inner city housing. But it came to pass that this model (Le Corbusier design) was not feasible as the buildings were expensive to maintain.

So, architects were tasked to come up with another solution, one that was innovative yet affordable and would change our inner cities forever. Tony Shitemi from Urban Architectural Initiatives once said that creative design does not necessarily have to be hampered by budget. And that good creative design can be achieved by the using of colors, the mix of materials, and the size and arrangement of windows. None of this needs a particularly large budget, and it is possible to deliver an attractive building with a relatively modest budget.

Greenhope Kandake House

A good example of this new way of design thinking is Greenhope Kandake House in New York. It displays highly creative design and came in under budget. The external parts of the building are colorful and fun, and there are different waves of brick, metal, stucco, and wood all that are supposed to replicate West African material. As the building tapers towards the river the overall effect is that the building seems to be billowing in the wind.

Dattner Architects

The problem that faces many architects that John Woelfling of Dattner Architects highlights, is that the making of affordable housing does not look like it is affordable. It is possible to design a great building by being subtle in design, and not going overboard on expense. So far, we have only touched on the exterior of buildings, but the interior is just as important, after all that is where the residents spend most of their time. Modern living now desires buildings that bring natural light inside the spaces. All common areas need to be particularly well designed, so community rooms, corridors and so forth should not just be functional, they should be the pinnacle of design.

Going Green

Many architects have stated that using green materials not only made a building look smarter, they actually saved money in the long run. The additional cost up-front has to be balanced with the running costs and benefits over a period of years. So solar panels, energy efficient windows, sensors, green roofs to absorb water runoffs, are all part of saving money and add to the look of the building.

Above all architects have to be innovative with their design and not just throw money on lavish ornamental features. They need to consider space and not just the buildings structure, that is space inside and outside as there are big costs to real estate. It is possible to design and build affordable housing in our cities across the world without overspending on the budget. And that these building are things of beauty and that we are proud of.