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You’d be forgiven for thinking that the Urban Village Project exudes a Danish accent. That’s because it does — and we’re not talking hygge here. Copenhagen-based EFFEKT Architects’ vision for better city living draws on the holistic tradition that permeates many urban developments in Denmark, such as a focus on human health and environmental sustainability.

But EFFEKT’s idea of the livable city goes further by also proposing modular residential buildings that can be disassembled and repurposed (creating a closed materials loop) and an overhaul of how homeownership is financed in order to make it more accessible. In both spirit and practice, the Urban Village Project is democratic design at its best.

And therein lies its beauty. Instead of the all-too-common practice of building anonymous condo towers that silo, say, younger buyers not intent on staying put or investors not interested in building community, a civic spirit is built into the DNA of this proposal.

To attract a cross-section of society — the elderly, young families, professionals, the socially disadvantaged — EFFEKT’s notion of village becomes that of a global one reflecting real life. To achieve this, the firm posits breaking down the economic barriers to quality living by making homeownership possible through a subscription-based model that lets residents earn equity in their housing over time or purchasing shares when they have the means to do so.

The buying field is levelled, in other words, by encouraging a gradual way into the housing market and specifically through a modular one, much like the scheme’s actual living spaces. All of the structures that make up the urban village — be they single-family homes, townhouse groupings or high-rises — are modular by design. Incorporating prefab cross-laminated timber that has been built to common specs regardless of typology cuts down on production and construction costs and reduces the environmental footprint.

It also makes the structures easy to modify or disassemble. If a resident welcomes a new family member, a parent using a wheelchair moves in or a child leaves the nest, a home can be edited to fit new needs as required. And most components can be replaced, repaired, recycled or repurposed, facilitating maintenance, adding years and value to the units and limiting the amount of waste.

“A wonderful vision about future ways of living, considering new architectural and financial models for achieving positive social and environmental impact.”
Luca Nichetto, AZ Awards juror

What transforms these buildings into communities, regardless of their size and how many people they house, is their complementary gathering and engagement of residents, as a traditional town square would.

By further incorporating shared facilities and activities such as playgrounds, communal dining halls, fitness centres and urban farms, as well as a network of paths for active transportation, walking and cycling, the concept effectively boosts human interaction and a sense of belonging. And with most things within easy access, there’s no need for residents to own a car, enhancing the sustainability quotient and potential for human connections.

2020 AZ Awards Gala

Designers EFFEKT Architects (Copenhagen, Denmark) with Space10 (Copenhagen, Denmark) Team Tue Hesselberg Foged and Sinus Lynge with Arielle Khosla, Linn Granlund, Kathryn Goligher, Karolina Pajnowska, Marco Antonio Ravini, Emil Vindnæs, Evgeny Markachev, Yulia Kozlova, Daniel Veenboer and Kasper Reimer

AZ Awards 2020 Winner: The Urban Village Project

EFFEKT’s vision for a community-centred development is a winner in Concepts: Ideas and Prototypes.

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