ARCH: housing Europe – challenging sameness


Housing forms the rooms, neighborhoods and cityscapes of our everyday lives. Housing is where our most personal happiness and societal well-being originate and find their expression. Simultaneously housing illustrates personal dramas and social ills. The Question of Housing (referring to Engels, Friedrich: Zur Wohnungsfrage. Leipzig, 1872) is increasingly reduced to the phenomena of the real estate market and disassociated from the cultural practice of architectural urbanism. Across Europe alternative models of housing concepts are lacking and for large parts of societies it is becoming more and more difficult to gain access to self-determined and affordable housing. 

The right to housing is a human right. Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly and states that „Everyone has the right to standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.“ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). Paris, 1948).



Housing Europe – Challenging Sameness investigates the interrelation between urban design and architecture, between housing and social reality taking the participating University Cities as its Case Studies. Housing is the field of architecture most heavily influenced by formal, social and spatial conventions. Investigating specific typologies of housing in different urban environments and visualizing the manifold forms and types, considering the various scales of public and private interfaces aims to broaden the understanding of – and the perspective on Housing.

The relationship of density, complexity, difference and openness of spatial concepts and use arises in every housing design concept regardless of its location or size. 

Today various forms of (re-)densifications continue to absorb the never-ending flow of new urban inhabitants while city expansions are being developed as new island within ever-growing metropolitan areas. At the same time shrinking cities, abandoned real estate speculations, or vast structural changes are phenomena found in various regions across Europe. All of these scenarios impact the specific responses to The “Question of Housing”.

  • What can we learn from traditional housing typologies?
  • How does housing types differ in various parts of Europe (or further)?
  • How can we learn from the specificities of the other? 
  • How can the battle for quantity be transformed into new architectural quality?  
  • How does the concept of adaptability manage the constant changes of individual and common demands?
  • How does the demand for adaptable, neutral structure relate to the fact architects are asked to create specific, unique buildings?
  • Which forms of housing do residents really identify with?

Due to factors like climate, culture, social practices, design – to name a few – the use of public space differs widely in different parts of Europe. Even if the proportion of ownership resided Housing varies greatly throughout Europe, the forms of Housing seem to be more of the same in different parts of the continent – but is this really true? New forms of communities, processes and ownership models are being encouraged and developed to either cope with an ever-increasing demand for affordable housing in rapidly developing urban environments or the immediate demands of structural shifts.

The term sameness has an ambiguous meaning. On the one hand it describes a lack of variety, uniformity and even monotony – on the other hand sameness defines the quality of being the same which has the capacity to generate identity through similarity.



Housing Europe – Challenging Sameness identifies, analyses, visualizes and explains specific typologies of Housing present in the respective Case Study Locations. Representing the most important characteristics in a consistent manner: key facts, photo, axonometric projection of research object and urban context and axonometric projection of a selected single unit.

Comparing typical structures aids in understanding spatial qualities and deficits of urban housing architectures. How do essential architectural elements like dimension, proportion, cohesion, access, circulation, representation, private and public space contribute to the urban architectural form of Housing in the specific context? Creating an understanding for both conventions as well as concepts of alternative, unexpected spatial configurations, promoting the ideas of radical spatial, social and functional mix. 

The Workshop focuses urban housing typologies and the multiplicity of relations between the architectural object and the city. As a manual of existing typologies, the outcome of the International Workshop allows all participants of Housing Europe – Challenging Sameness to evaluate existing conditions of Housing in a broader context based on different urban realities. This knowledge encourages a new thinking regarding the own design process that transfers, translates and transposes this understanding to ultimately challenge sameness with experimental Urban Architecture that has to be deeply enrooted and interwoven with the context of the contemporary city.



23.04.21 Introduction / Workshop

30.04.21 Workshop / Presentation



Groups of two students to analyze, visualize and communicate on housing project

Key facts of research object 

Series of photos 

Axonometric projection of research object and urban context 

Axonometric projection of a single unit

Evaluation of Drawings after Hand-in



  • Engels, Friedrich: Zur Wohnungsfrage. Leipzig, 1872
  • Janson Alban; Wolfrum Sophie: City as Architecture. Basel, 2018
  • Wietzorrek, Ulrike: Wohnen+: Von Schwellen, Übergangsräumen und Transparenzen, Basel 2014
  • Wolfrum, Sophie: Squares – Urban Spaces in Europe. Basel, 2014
  • Zoller, Doris: Herausforderung Erdgeschoss. Berlin, 2014


Prof. Heiner Stengel

Architekt und Stadtplaner 

Fachbereich Architektur 

IUBH Internationale Hochschule 


Waterloohain 9 I 22769 Hamburg