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Case study: Living Frame | Work Skyscraper

A building with no land.
Living frame|work is a collection of skyscrapers designed to provide improved life conditions in urban environments, while preserving – and enhancing – the local socio-economic dynamics of the local context. Living frame|work is a building with no land. Erected on top of existing slums, it is a 3D steel ‘scaffolding-like’ grid, where container units and open platforms can be plugged into place with a simple crane. The construction’s minimal site coverage increases the skyscraper’s implantation possibilities in any city. Living frame|work deploys its space above the urban fabric and its solely structural base occupy a minimal footprint on the plot (steel columns only) on which it is implanted. The plot can therefore continue to be used for a variety of social, economical and environmental urban activities. Living frame|work does not need an empty plot and can be implanted anywhere above existing urban fabrics. It is easily transferable and replicable in other contexts and highly populated cities around the world.  Rising like a tree looking for air and sunlight, Living frame|work is a solution for the rapid urbanisation of highly dense populated areas.

This is not a building, this is a city.
Living frame|work does not provide housing, it provides housing, shops, open spaces, ‘roads’…etc. Just as “Dharavi is a city within a city”, Living frame|work is not a residential building but a piece of the city, with complete socio-economical dynamics happening in a complex curation of different typology spaces. The housing flats in this complex have private but also semi-public and public sections allowing small home-based businesses and production units to be run from the ‘residential’ units. In addition, Living frame|work contains open plazas, public spaces, ramps, stairs, water collection systems, solar farms, recycling facilities, leather tanneries, metal and wood workshops, pottery studios, garments, luggage and jewellery workshops…etc. In its different towers and different areas (ground floors and roofs), this project houses different neighbourhoods with their different activities and industries.

Capturing the atmosphere of dense urban centers, Living frame|work aims at fostering interactions. This is because we believe that interactions are the heart of all activities and innovation. Like Schuiten and Peeters’ “Fièvre d’ Urbicande”, Living frame|work creates the context that fosters social interactions, in order to support the local economy of residents, and revitalise socially deprived areas.

Living frame skyscrapper residential project Akka Architects

An incomplete skyscraper.
This proposal provides the framework (structural, mechanical, electrical, sustainable but also open plazas and public spaces…) and a starting status (a number of container flats are provided). Once people inhabit the skyscrapers, do business, grow their families and attract other residents, Living frame|work will grow organically – within the structural framework – as a city grows. It is up to residents to move in new container flats, move them out, acquire a new one for their newly-wed son or start a new business. Delivering this project as an ‘unfinished’ building creates room for growth and invites the residents to further interact with their spaces, their ‘city’.

Starting with an “incomplete skyscraper” requires lower initial costs. The structural grid as well as operational and sanitary facilities – including electrical, mechanical, circulation, water collection, solar panels…etc) – are financed first, and container flats can be purchased and plug into place as more people inhabit the skyscrapers. Future growth is not only controlled by the structural and facilities’ framework but it is sustained by residents who can add container flats as they go and where the space allows. Living frame|work is not only delivered ‘incomplete’, it is also impermanent – it is constantly evolving and changing – and imperfect – it is not a shiny new skyscraper, but rather a city within a city, with its textures, smells, hustle and bustle, it is a living vertical urban fabric.

Living frame skyscrapper residential project Akka Architects

Sustainability is three folds.

Living frame|work is designed to be a light, non imposing and non-obstructing landmark. Living frame|work is a self-sufficient, organic and sustainable ecosystem. Sustainability should not be restricted to green or ecological measures only. We believe that “sustainable” means a system that can sustain itself for the long-term future. So in addition to the environmental sustainability, Living frame|work ensures social and economical sustainabilities as well.

Environmental sustainable practices are incorporated in the form of water collection and purification systems, compost treatment, waste collection and recycling, solar panels, local farming and growing food, natural ventilation systems and others, please refer to the diagrams below for details of each. Contrary to traditional skyscrapers, Living frame|work is an ‘outdoor’ building, designed with open spaces allowing views, air and natural light to inhabit the towers. Even though container flats can be plugged in by residents themselves, that is only possible within the provided framework, which ensures that public spaces, views and natural light cannot be blocked.

Social sustainability is key in creating a successful community, and that starts with interactions. To foster interactions, flexible serendipitous spaces are essential. Residents will use the building as it suits them. The building will grow and adapt with the lives of the communities inhabiting it.For fruitful rich interactions, horizontal circulation is crucial. This is one of the main disadvantages of skyscrapers. In Living frame|work, the use of elevators is discouraged and instead a multitude of ramps and small stairs connect close-by floors, providing a more natural horizontal circulation that is more inviting for interactions.

Economical sustainability is ensured when the new skyscraper does not eradicate local practices. On the contrary, Living frame|work retains the residential but also economical nature of slums. In addition to open spaces and market squares being incorporated on the ground floor as well as within the towers, every container flat also includes semi-public and public areas to do business from home, as is the current practice.

Container Flats
Each container flat is constituted of 2 containers, a floor plate and a roof plate. One of the containers contains the (semi)-public areas and is lifted ‘open’, thus connecting to the top platform. Containers are designed to connect to each others like lego pieces creating a continuous horizontal and vertical circulation, creating terraces and blurring the line between private and public and encouraging informal economies. Each flat is hoisted by a crane and slides into place through the facade. When in place, one of the container unit is lifted and connects to the platform above. The structure allows residents to choose the position and orientation of their container flat, they are free to install it within the provided platform, which ensures basic rules of open space, views, ventilation and natural light are always respected.The one-floor container is a private section, while the lifted container is a more (semi-)public area. Each flat is composed by: 2 bedrooms (6.8m2 each), living room with kitchen and cooking area (18,8m2), a toilet (1.6m2), bathroom (3.3m2) and storage (12m2). The containers are all insulated using recycled plastic bottles delivered by local businesses. The roof top of the «private» containers is used for public circulation as it is at the same height of the next floor. Each dwellings has its on individual staircase to access their rooftop.

Living frame skyscrapper residential project Akka Architects

Structural Design

While Living frame|work appears to be a single mass, each tower is in fact structurally independent and autonomous. The towers are designed to be earthquake-proof. The total height of each tower is calculated according to its ground surface and every tower is separated from its adjacent neighbouring towers by a safety gap allowing free independent movement without friction. In addition, the beams change direction every floor to ensure stability and the entire structured is reinforced by an external diagonal bracing.

Ventilation & Water Purification
Along the skyscrapers’ towers, strategically located voids guide the wind to provide natural ventilation. Starting from the north-west they form a spiral to ensure complete distribution. In a similar but opposite spiral, green areas are distributed inside the towers. They catch and purify rain water through phutoepuration. Every 13 to 17 floors, an entire floor is dedicated to services and facilities. It is a green floor, where people can gather, do laundry, sell products…

Cantilevered Terraces
Cantilevering outside the structure, green terraces are provided throughout the building to complement the water collection & purification.Those cantilevering terraces are located in conjunction with the internal green areas to create a holistic distribution of green water collection & purification points.

Living frame skyscrapper residential project Akka Architects

Solar Energy

To avoid blocking facades, solar panels are located along external sides of beams and cantilevering terraces, on the west and south facades. For maximum sun exposure, the panels rotate and are located on the facades, not roofs, since facades provide more surface.

Waste Treatment
Residents dispose of their individual garbage in compartments located above elevator cabins, separated from the cabin of course, that you can ‘call’ like the elevator. The waste compartments are emptied on the ground floor, where the waste is collected, sorted and recycled in on-site local or nearby factories.

Connection to Street Level
The project is erected above the land and leaves the street level free as a multifunctional space for community activities. This plaza is the interface for residents to interact with the rest of the slums and Dharavi by holding a market for example. These social dynamics are crucial to nourish the relationship of the skyscraper with the city.

Water Collection & Purification

The towers all have green roofs that collect rain water using plants. The water runs inside pipes attached along the beams and pillars. Grey-water arrives on the ground floor where it is filtered by phutoepuration, stored underground and redistributed to the towers and surrounding slums. Every flat is connected to the water pipes network for the domestic use of water. Regarding drinking water, after it is purified, it is provided at fountains located in open public spaces in the towers. Going to get water is a social event in the day of Dharavi’s inhabitant, specially women and that preserved here.

Open Public Areas
In each tower, open public floors are regularly located. These spaces are multifunctional communal areas, used by residents to do laundry, sell products, grow food, let their children play or simply meet and chat. They are also the focal points of functional facilities such as drinking water fountains, hanging laundry, etc…

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