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THE DIMENSION OF DWELLING: Flexibility and privacy in shared domestic environments - B.Arch final thesis

(Author: Mariana Queiroz / Advisor: Ana Luisa Rolim)

The premise of this study is the apparent dichotomy between flexibility and privacy in the domestic environment. Anchored in the Theory of Needs (Maslow, 1943; Alderfer, 1969) and the Social Logic of Space (Hillier and Hanson, 1984), it departs from the analysis of the Rietveld Schröder House by Hanson (1998) to raise initial questions regarding the several possibilities of flexible spatial configuration.


Flexibility is the possibility of freedom that enables diverse forms of living to occur, and according to Galfetti (1997), it unfolds in two ways: initial (possibilities of choice by the occupant) and permanent (space can change with time). Privacy is considered as a basic need in the user-home relationship, consisting of a process that aims to control transactions amongst people, increasing or decreasing vulnerability (Abu-Gazzeh,1996). Five cases of iconic modern and contemporary houses were selected based on Frampton's classification (2015) and empirically. These were analysed through convex, axial and visibility graphs. Aside chronological differences, the idea was to learn from such spatial configurations and assess clues on how to better address the two aspects targeted in this study.


Considering different types of users and their demands, flexibility and privacy have become increasingly important in the current sharing economy market, in which strangers (as opposed to relatives and community fellows) exchange assets and services (Schor and Fitzmaurice, 2014). Resulting from analytical investigations, the design aimed to create a spatial system based on the solid-void rational, suitable to be shared by multiple occupants and adaptable to their needs. 


The proposed system departs from two hypothetical plot plan conditions: with building setbacks at all sides and without setbacks at two sides. Four variations are proposed for the first plot plan condition, and three for the second setting. The base module derives from a typical accessible bathroom, generating an open, adaptable overall grid able to accommodate intimate, social and service spaces. Sliding panels facilitate spatial alteration within such frame, as well as voids (potential patios) allow for natural lighting and ventilation. 

Study models of the basic spatial arrangement designed based on syntactic analysis

The first theoretical axis: Theory of Needs (Marslow, 1943; Alderfer, 1969) and the human life cycle in different built environments.

The second theoretical axis: the Social Logic of Space (Hillier; Hanson, 1984) considers that space carries social aspects which are intrinsic to its configuration

The main goal was to understand and conceive solutions suitable to contemporary sharing economy

Five iconic modern and contemporary homes are analyzed: Villa Tugendhat (Mies van der Rohe, 1930), Villa Sarabhai (Le Corbusier, 1955), Y House (Steven Holl, 1999), 18.36.54 House (Studio Libeskind, 2010) and Wind House (UNStudio, 2014)

Example of diagrams and syntactic maps produced for the houses analyzed: Y House, Steven Holl, 1999.

The spatial typologies considered: spaces of transition and spaces of use

Justified graphs of houses analyzed

Villa Sarabhai by Le Corbusier: the regularity of the floor plan generates a corridor-less layout where intersecting planes define rooms and promote spatial articulation, allowing for spaces of use to be simultaneously transition spaces.

The translation of Le Corbusier's configuration into the proposed modular layout

The proposed base modules

Possible layout configurations

The two plot plan conditions: building setback from all plot sides and without setbacks at two sides

Isovist at social spaces and justified graph analysis of the typical layout

Simulation of typical layout in regular city plots

Layouts for two plot conditions (setbacks at all sides and no setbacks at two sides): black modules are fixed wet areas, and voids allow for natural lighting and ventilation

Layouts for plot condition with building setbacks at two sides: black modules are fixed wet areas and voids allow for natural lighting and ventilation

Simulation of a possible partition layout in a 9-module unit

Simulation of a possible furnished layout in a 9-module unit

Simulation of a layout variation in a 9-module unit

Several layout variations within typical city plots, including the addition of staircases (white thick border module)

Simulation of a vertical stacking of units

Stacking possibilities: volumetric variation of layouts with addition of staircase

Stacking possibilities: volumetric variation of layouts with addition of staircase