The (d)efficiency of urban housing

Robert Danziel & Sheila Qureshi-Cortale wonder about what makes successful urban housing in his new book “A House in the City“.

From the publisher’s website:

What makes a great house in the city? This book examines what has worked well in some of the most successful housing types across the world – from old to new, high-rise to low-rise, innovative to conventional. The authors critically examine significant elements of urban housing design – adaptability and flexibility, construction and sustainability, space and light, appearance and threshold, density and urban form.

The book concludes by proposing a pioneering approach to the design of a city house, which incorporates the learning from this international survey, and by describing the creation of a classic family home in London; one that can adapt to changing needs of a turbulent world.

Illustrated with aerial views, plans, sections and photographs, this book will be of interest to all those who are striving to deliver high quality urban housing for the 21st century, including architects, planners and developers, but also to non-professional readers who are fascinated by houses and by house design.

What’s interesting is that you can click through to the case studies performed in different cities around the world, where you can see the methodology used to define Danziel and Qureshi-Cortale’s vision of the ideal house for city living.

Per city, they make a topology of the different kinds of housing present in that city. He then goes on to a checklist, where he scores the type of housing on a range of criteria: density and urban form, flexibility and adaptability, appearance and threshold, space and light, construction and sustainability.

Rational house

Danziel’s applied his findings from A House in the City to design the Rational House. The Rational House takes into account all the best that Danziel has learned from the case studies: it is high-density, sustainable and low-rise.

Danziel expands on his ideas from the book in detail in this interview with the Economist.


You can read an excerpt of A House in the City over at Riba publishing.

You can buy the book via the Riba publishing webstore.

What do you think of Danziel and Qureshi-Cortale’s ideal vision of an urban living space? I think that they make quite a few ideological decisions, and I wonder if their list of criteria can be utilized globally. How does one determine desirable density? What is good scale? What are good proportions? Is the rationale the same for all cities? I’d be interested to see if they answer these questions in the book.


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