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New normality for housing

Representación cartográfica de la superficie construida total en edificios con uso predominante de vivienda por habitante empadronado, en cada sección censal de Madrid. Los perímetros de las secciones censales han sido limitados a aquellas zonas de cada una donde se concentran dichos edificios de uso predominante residencial según fuente catastral.  Elaboración propia según datos abiertos de la Dirección General del Catastro y del Instituto Nacional de Estadística para 2018. © Javier Barros Guerton y José María Ezquiaga 

Cartographic representation of the total built area in buildings with predominant use of housing per registered inhabitant, in each census section of Madrid. The perimeters of the census sections have been limited to those areas of each one where these buildings of predominantly residential use are concentrated according to cadastral source.

Own elaboration according to open data from the General Directorate of Cadastre and the National Institute of Statistics for 2018.

© Javier Barros Guerton and José María Ezquiaga

This shocking name can be applied to everything that happens in our cities in this period, as if before we lived outside of normality and that would be worrying if not alarming. The speed of changes and the need to adapt to them have taken us by surprise.

So it is surprising the lack of reaction and the little debate that is taking place about housing when it has been the urban component most affected by the pandemic. The house has the connotation of home, the place of family intimacy, whatever the variable composition of the family. Until today it is not a place conceived to work but to share the life of relationship of the different members of the family unit, leisure times, and coexistence.

Working at home requires dimensions that do not alter that coexistence, in a shared space that requires that each individual, whatever their age, could be able to develop their activity successfully, be it work or study, as the most immediate cases to contemplate, respecting the space of each other, so homes should be more flexible and hybrid.

Suddenly, by focusing only on one area, teleworking has been recognized as a necessary evil, if not a panacea for the future. Anyone who had a job has decided to use the kitchen, the side table in the small living room or bedroom as a work place, of inadequate dimensions to deploy all the necessary instruments today in any workplace. In addition, it is necessary to have good digital communication systems, a set of software tools, the availability of advanced communication systems, to share information and the physical security of the information: performance, availability and accessibility to it through tools available on the net and without which the job would be impossible. This has established another debate about who should provide these tools, the employer or the worker, in many cases starting from a precarious situation.

Telework was seen coming, for a long time, Terán already said in 1982: “The development of communication technologies made foresee a change in the current concentrated urban model, through a dispersion not only of the population, but also of the headquarters of culture and business, since more and more people would like to live and work in the most remote and attractive natural places”.

Ascher has been working for a long time on what ICTs mean and how they affect the social body, and Nicholas Carr has been warning for a long time about what the Internet means in our lives, about how compared to the book that allows the fixation of concepts favoring creativity and in-depth thinking jumps from one source to another, without the slightest critical vision.

This process requires an ethic for which we were not prepared. In the debate there is a generalized agreement in relation to telework, on which basic operating rules are being established. However, personal relationships, face to face, are necessary for an in-depth debate and of course for obtaining agreements or signing a contract. For this reason teleworking has to be compatible with face-to-face work.

The domestic space, without being prepared for it, has become a diffuse space in which the limits are not clear, beyond its walls there is a whole networked world that has unexpectedly become part of the day to day, demanding new spaces and their compatibility, which affect the definition of traditional housing.

If it affects housing, it also affects the typology of offices, beyond the mere palliative and provisional measures that have been generated. Large firms are not willing to dispense with their corporate headquarters, but they do accept a possible division, thinking about proximity to their workers, demanding fewer and safer travel, and allowing the shared workspace to be maintained on a smaller scale and with less risk.

Coworking must have another dimension, more flexible, offering not only workspace but also spaces for relationships, for those who need to leave their homes. It does not seem credible in the long term that the terraces of the bars serve as alternative and satisfactory workspace, although they can be the path of transformation of the hospitality industry, an oversized sector, with spaces that can be divided and rented offering services in parallel.

On the other hand, the real estate market indicates the growing demand for housing outside the big cities, with lower prices, with gardens and the possibility of a more attractive environment, in which teleworking is an incentive by connoting freedom of choice and space. This situation contrasts with the predominance of home ownership in Spain, which anchors the physical space. There are only around 17% of rental homes, which significantly hinders mobility, a very different situation in the Netherlands, Germany or Austria, which have a long tradition of rentals and, moreover, public.

Just look at the map of Madrid to see the extent of the problem. Homes in the South, where the pandemic has affected the most, are those that have a smaller surface area, are older, and affect the population with fewer resources to face any change. This leads to raising the need for a powerful public intervention to rehabilitate and generate new homes at an affordable price, whether for rent or ownership, which helps to regenerate a clearly obsolete housing stock from a functional point of view. These actions must be supported by cooperation agreements with private initiative, with incentive policies, agreements already existing in other times with an active construction of protected housing. The need to promote a culture of public-private partnership is manifested, which in our environment has been neglected, when in other places it has been an asset in the production not only of traditional housing but also of new types of housing with flexible and creative formulas.

This is not the time to reproduce the CIAM discussion about minimum housing or the debate that occurred in the middle of the real estate bubble. It is necessary to propose an in-depth change in the protected housing regulations, in the habitability regulations and in those of urban planning. Wider living spaces and diverse and flexible functional programs, which allow an integration between physical and digital space. Which leads to a necessary control of the price of housing that must come from a determined public intervention.

But we must not only talk about housing but also about public space, which significantly affects our way of life. They must be proximity and accessible spaces, be it the retail trade or facilities and green areas, supported by citizen participation to detect not only demands for use and location, but also design, in a shared responsibility, recovering the streets to walk, the car, thus less necessary, must lose prominence, giving space to a kinder life.

The speed of change requires new instruments that affect both the configuration of housing and public space. Social policies must evolve to guarantee greater social cohesion and equity.

María A. Leboreiro

Nota Legal
Directora: María A. Leboreiro Amaro, Dra. Arquitecto. Profesora Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid
Secretario de dirección: Alberto Leboreiro Amaro, Dr. Arquitecto
Secretario de redacción: David Hidalgo Pérez, Arquitecto
Consejo de redacción:

Miquel Adriá, director de la revista Arquine

Carmen Andrés Mateo, Arquitecta. Profesora Asociada de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

José Mª Ezquiaga Dominguez. Dr. Arquitecto. Profesor Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

José Fariña Tojo. Dr. Arquitecto. Catedrático de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

Fernando Fernández Alonso. Arquitecto. Profesor Asociado de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

Josep Mª Llop Torne. Arquitecto. Profesor en la Facultad de Geografía de la Universidad de Lleida

Llanos Masiá González, Arquitecta. Profesora Asociada de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

Javier Ruiz Sánchez. Dr. Arquitecto. Profesor Titular de la E.T.S. de Arquitectura de Madrid

Edita: planur-e
Avda. Valdemarin, 68
28023 Madrid
Traducción: planur-e
ISSN: 2340-8235
Copyright: (2013): planur-e
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