The Architecture of Affordable Housing

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9780520208858: The Architecture of Affordable Housing

That a country of wealth cannot provide sound housing for those in need is a national embarrassment. This book is about the design of dignified, affordable housing for those not served by the private sector, and how that housing fits comfortably into our communities. Sam Davis has written an accessible, non-technical analysis for everyone interested in the creation of affordable housing. Through discussions of cost, politics, and design concepts, as well as case studies of completed projects, he gives solutions to the dilemmas posed by the development process.

Good housing design is a delicate balance of community values, individual needs, esthetic judgments, and technical requirements. Good design can save money—seventy percent of the cost of a new dwelling is affected by planning and design. As a key ingredient in community building, housing should bestow on its inhabitants a sense of dignity, says Davis. To view this as a privilege for those who can afford market-rate housing invites both social and financial disaster. He also considers our national obsession with the single-family house and our historical ambivalence toward subsidized housing—attitudes that have often led to the stigmatization of low-income groups.

This book will be indispensable to community and volunteer groups, local governments, financial backers, architects, planners, and students in related fields.

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About the Author:

Sam Davis is Professor and Chair of Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley and editor of The Form of Housing (1977). He is Principal of Davis and Joyce Architects and has won numerous design awards and housing competitions.

From Booklist:

The architecture of affordable housing has assumed as many forms as the very nomenclature. Davis presents a history of poor, low-income, social, and subsidized housing using examples of Frank Lloyd Wright, the WPA, and contemporary case studies in the most expensive state in the union, California. These examples illustrate that while the beliefs surrounding affordable housing have changed, the need has been steady, if not growing. They also illustrate many myths, one being that affordable housing most often isn't any cheaper to build than market-rate housing. The in-depth documentation of the community planning process shows just how passionate the contesting parties are and how complex the issues have become. While not offering Wright's technical secrets on cost cutting, the California case studies lend the book a credibility from which both laypeople and architects can benefit. But, ultimately, the 10 award-winning projects the author presents as evidence of "good" architecture fulfilling a social need skirt the real issue: Why is it that award-winning projects can turn into unlivable places and that less attractive ones can be wonderful places to live? While the book is valuable, Davis does not address the issue of place-making and community, which many believe is the heart of the affordable housing crisis. William Huchting

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Sam Davis
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