Collective Housing Competitions in Switzerland. The Parameter of Innovation in Architectural Conception

Antigoni Katsakou


During the last fifteen years there has been a radical change as to what concerns architectural competitions practice in Switzerland in the collective
housing domain. What mainly outlines this change of scenery is the use of competitions in a sector of the construction market that until now has been marked by the private initiative constantly leading to a repetition of well-known typologies and a rather reticent attitude towards young and inexperienced professionals.

This situation is being currently modified. An increasing percentage of housing competitions, especially in the German-speaking part of the country, makes part of long-term development schemes regarding urban or suburban areas, schemes related to rehabilitation and densification
mechanisms. At the same time the competitions system is being well promoted thanks to a subsequent number of detailed publications. State services and local authorities encourage cooperative constructing societies to act as exemplary promoters, in an effort to affront the housing shortage problem and to adequately qualify the dwelling space, elementary module of the urban environment. Collective housing is no longer considered exclusively in terms of financial conditions and compromises but also in terms of domestic spaces quality, given the rapid social changes that define new ways of life and set higher the users standards.

A therefore increasing number of architects is being offered the opportunity to investigate certain areas of interest that in the past would not comply with the financial priorities of private investors. Innovative ideas and original images are being positively evaluated, whether concerning urban forms, housing typology or integration of technological achievements. The article
presents four projects issued from recent housing competitions in Switzerland, as study cases that focus on different innovative aspects of the
architectural conception.

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