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Competition: Standard Housing Concepts, Russia

Strelka KB has launched an open international ideas contest for affordable housing across Russia (Deadline: 25 December)

The competition seeks conceptual proposals for new standard urban housing typologies, which could be harnessed by the country to meet its target of rehousing 30 million people by 2025.

The call for ideas, backed by the Russian government and Russia’s Agency for Housing Mortgage Lending (AHML), is divided into three categories covering low-rise, mid-rise and city-centre development. Participants must submit four concepts for each category they compete in.

Housing in suburban Moscow

Housing in suburban Moscow

Source: Image by Artem Svetlov

Housing in suburban Moscow

According to the brief: ‘The projected volume of housing development in Russia by 2025 will be about 900 million m². A task of this scale requires the development of high-quality template solutions that will, on the one hand, minimise costs at all stages of the project, including upkeep, and on the other, significantly improve the quality of the residential environment in Russian cities.

‘The project is based on the basic target models of the urban environment that were developed by Strelka KB: low-rise, mid-rise and central. Each of the models developed on the basis of the analysis of the basic scenarios of the daily life of the urban dwellers is formed by a set of parameters assigned to it that determine the functional diversity, volume and spatial characteristics of the environment itself.’

Russia is embarking on a major overhaul of its urban housing stock, which comprises large numbers of prefabricated buildings constructed during the Khrushchev-era (1955-64). Earlier this year Zaha Hadid Architects was among 20 teams shortlisted in a separate contest for a major overhaul of historic housing estates across Moscow.

Golovinsky District, Moscow

Golovinsky District, Moscow

Source: Image by Svetlov Artem

Golovinsky District, Moscow

The competition organiser, Strelka KB, is the consulting arm of Moscow’s Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design. Its previous contests include the design of two new subway stations in north-west Moscow and a Nanotechnology Centre at Tel Aviv University.

The latest project aims to reduce costs and speed up the delivery of new homes in urban areas by optimising design and management processes through standard architectural solutions.

Jury member Giovanna Carnevali said: ‘Given the fact that by 2025 the plan is to provide 30 million Russians with new homes, this competition represents an incredible opportunity for the Russian Ministry of Construction and AHML to develop and promote new innovative standard solutions for residential houses based on the target models developed by Strelka KB.’

‘The international vision and expertise of Strelka KB provides this competition with international visibility and will bring together an international community of high-level professionals — both as jury members and as participants.’

Twenty finalist teams, due to be announced in February, will receive 1 million roubles each to further develop their proposals over a six week period.

Five winning teams will then receive prizes of 2 million roubles each while five runners-up will also receive prizes of 1.5 million roubles each. A further 10 projects will meanwhile receive third prizes of 1 million roubles each.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 6pm local time (GMT+3) on 25 December

Contact details

Strelka KB
6, bldg. 3, Bersenevskaya


Visit the competition website for more information

Atelio home case study: Q&A with Paolo Vimercati

The associate principal at Grimshaw discusses lessons learned designing a new low-cost and rapid-to-construct modular housing solution

How will your Atelio home project deliver a range of housing for different needs and locations?

Atelio is a modular system based on an efficient and innovative material capable of delivering insulation, structure, and weatherproofing within a single element. The material is 85 per cent recycled glass and is very simple to manufacture and ship as a flatpack and erect on site, allowing us to be more open-ended with our design. We are developing a suite of external finishes which can be directly applied to the panels in the factory. These vary from a resin-based render to more traditional timber slats. We think this is fundamental to give our clients a choice and to be able to fit our design into very different locations.

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

Our design focus is to deliver more physical space for a lower price than traditional houses. As a result, we’ve focused on high ceilings and large windows, with all key spaces being 15 per cent larger than the current mass house builder offer in the UK, yet thanks to the technology we’re employing we can build at a cheaper cost.

An initial landscape concept drove the design of the houses and their openness to the surroundings; we want to propose a new way of living in our homes, which leverages new technologies to the full, enabling people to be more in touch with nature. Smart sensors and energy systems are embedded within the house fabric without making them visible, yet allowing the developments to be energy positive and environmentally efficient.

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

What advice would you have to contest participants on designing new standard housing typologies for Russia?

Designing homes for people is one of the greatest challenges and responsibilities for an architect. We would always advise designing something you will be happy to live in yourself, and to really focus on the balance between customisation and standardisation. Allow people to take ownership of their home and make it their own as much as possible.

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Atelio modular housing concept by Grimshaw and SAM Architects

Q&A: Giovanna Carnevali

The jury member discusses her ambitions for the contest 

Why are your holding a competition for new housing solutions in Russia? How important is architectural innovation and quality?

Housing represents a complex issue, encompassing economic, social, urban and political dimensions. 
It is both a fundamental right of a citizen and a major economic driver of urban development. 
Providing affordable housing has always presented itself as a tough and complicated task for local governments and cities, and the situation in the housing sector soon became an important indicator of both the immediate changes in citizens’ needs and of the societal changes on a wider scale such as population growth or the shifting. The cities leading the quality of life rankings are the ones that have succeeded in creating attractive urban environments and managed to effectively redistribute resources for new housing in the context of rapid population growth.

In post-Soviet Russia the focus of housing development has been primarily on quantity and profit-creation. The quality of the built environment as well as of public space and social infrastructure had failed to become a priority. Only in the recent couple of years the changes in this approach has started to show, mainly in the public space renovation projects in larger cities of Russia.

The estimated volume of residential construction by 2025 is 90 million square metres — this will provide housing for more than 30 million of Russians. This presents us with a great opportunity to introduce quality standards in residential development based on the target models developed by KB Strelka. The existing standards do not offer a rich variety of solutions for urban planners and also often fail to match the pace of technological development. Architectural innovation is a fundamental feature of this competition, bearing in mind the rapidly changing needs of the Russian citizens.

Why do you think international participation in the project is important?

The profession of architect in Russia Federation has been experiencing a certain decline in recent years: construction companies and developers often have more influence on the outcome than the actual author of the design concept. The other issue is uneven distribution of technical expertise and unwillingness of various professionals to collaborate to produce better solutions. There are still not enough famous architects and outstanding companies in Russia. KB Strelka has been putting a lot of effort in the last 3 years to bring more expertise to Russia by inviting international experts to collaborate with local architects in order to exchange experience and knowledge. This competition is not an exception: architects from all over the world are invited to participate and find local partners with whom they can share the project.

What is your vision for the residences?

KB Strelka expects this competition to provide varied and innovative architectural solutions for both the houses and the surrounding public spaces and territories of infrastructural objects such as schools and kindergartens. Contestants should be able to provide a comprehensive approach to developing residential blocks in various types of urban environment that could later be included among other standard solutions proposed for mass implementation in Russian cities. The mass housing of the Soviet period and the urban environment that it has produced is rapidly becoming obsolete signalling the need for the next big step in the development of residential sphere in Russia. The monotony, mono functionality and low quality of the current environment must make way for diversity, adaptability and sound design solutions.

What are the most important features to consider while developing the housing typologies?

Some of the most important features to consider are the flexibility of planning solutions and the adaptability of spaces to different needs. The projects must propose environmentally and economically efficient concepts that will allow to create affordable housing and comfortable public realm for various user target groups.The Competition Brief provides specifications regarding the length and size of urban blocks, the positioning, heights and structural models of buildings, the basic requirements for indoor private and shared spaces, as well as outdoor public spaces and school/kindergarten territories.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is open to both young architects and well-established international architectural companies. The Jury will not be able to favour any particular bureau on the basis of experience in residential design or reputation among fellow professionals. The authors of the proposals will not be disclosed during the selection process, allowing the panel to focus exclusively on the quality of the concepts. The winners of both the First and the Second stage of the Competition will benefit both from sufficient media coverage and financial support of the prize.

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