Polyvalence, a concept for the sustainable dwelling

Bernard Leupen


Polyvalence, a concept for the sustainable dwelling.
The word polyvalent has been known for years in the context of the multi-purpose hall or salle polyvalante, the kind of building that is to be found in every French village or small town, that can be used for weddings and parties, for musical and theatrical performances and as a cinema. A hall of this kind can be used for all kinds of functions without any adjustment being required to the building itself. The word was introduced to the architectural debate by Hertzberger [1991], some of whose ideas on polyvalence can be seen in the Diagoon houses (fig 1) he designed for Delft (1967 1971). Here too polyvalence means that the building can be used in different ways without adjustment to the way it is built. There is however a difference: the different uses of a salle polyvalante take place consecutively, but a dwelling must be able to provide space for all the different activities which it is capable of accommodating to take place at the same time. Polyvalence in the context of housing relates primarily to the interchange ability of activities between different rooms.
The consequence of this difference is that polyvalence imposes different requirements on the spatial organisation for housing than it
Polyvalence, a concept for
the sustainable dwelling
TOPIC: TIME-BASED DWELLINGdoes for commercial and industrial buildings. Whereas in a hall polyvalence can be achieved by the use of the proper dimensions and ratios and by the provision of special service areas such as dressing rooms or a foyer, for housing the degree of polyvalence depends primarily on the relationships between the various rooms, i.e. on the spatial composition. The spatial system of a house can be expressed by a topological diagram, a graph According to Hanson [1998]. A spatial system in which different rooms can only be accessed through another room, for example the living room, is less capable of being adapted to suit different living patterns (fig 2 B). The contrast here is with dwellings in which the spatial system allows every room to be reached from a central point or by a number of different routes (Fig 2 C and D). In my article I intend to workout this theme. Based on analysis of differed polyvalent housing projects I will try to find out the basic principles of polyvalent dwelling.

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