Tomasz Broma is an architect based in Wrocław, Poland who holds a masters degree from Wrocław University of Science and Technology (WUST). In 2016, he was the winner of a Young Talent Architecture Award from the Fundació Mies van der Rohe. He continues his research as a PhD candidate at WUST exploring different aspects of low-tech strategies.
Concept for a modular, algorithmic housing structure
By Tomasz Broma
Let’s imagine that architectural space is a huge, interactive game board. And we, as users of this space, are active players who may directly and dynamically transform the game board with different types of resources and raw materials. These can be processed and crafted with tools gathered in the inventory according to our individual skills, requirements, financial capability and the style and pace of our lives. This is how s’lowtecture works. It is a process of creating a housing structure in which users can freely decide the arrangement of their own houses and common public space. This is achieved via a three-dimensional cellular automaton algorithm that generates various different housing units and places them within the structure.
The concept of s’lowtecure is based on five pillars: the hypothesis of atavistic space assuming that our spatial preferences were formed during the process of biological and cultural evolution, a self-organised and shared society, low-tech, slow movement, and participatory architecture. The resulting s’lowtecure is experimental, spontaneous and vital; flexible, open-minded and creative; democratic, inclusive and egalitarian; cooperative and socially sensitive; ingrained in place, traditions and craft.
The s’lowtecture algorithm divides space into a matrix of cubic cells. Each may be assigned one of three states: a built-up cell, an empty cell or a garden cell. Built-up cells serve as a housing space, garden cells complete housing units and the empty ones provide gaps between houses filled with semi-private spaces that allow encounters between neighbours. In these spaces community facilities like laundries, workshops or small urban farms can also be set up.
The various states of the cells affect each other. Relations between them are regulated by the algorithm. Its rules are based on the analysis of the surrounding neighbourhood and allows the generation of complex, dynamically adaptable and emergent structures. Within them are typologically diverse housing units – from two-celled, single-person micro-units to multicellular and multi-level houses. The algorithm efficiently accommodates units into the cellular structure but gives inhabitants as much independence as possible when building their homes.
Whilst preserving this autonomy, the game determines the most rational use of the available space, guaranteeing appropriate distances between housing units to provide access to sunlight, facilitate communication and connect with infrastructure. It also prevents spatial blockages and conflicts. A vibrant and flexible housing structure is created, comprising housing units suited to inhabitants’ needs, with individual gardens and community space.
The s’lowtecture housing structure prototype would be installed above a FabLab where inhabitants use tools to prepare the materials required to build their houses. These are easily available and local, natural or recyclable materials that do not require long-distance transportation or energy-intensive manufacturing processes. Instead, simple, open-source technologies are used to create each of the building systems described in a step-by-step guide. Construction experiments and experiences are collected into an ever-expanding ideas pool to serve future inhabitants. By committing their own time and energy towards construction, inhabitants’ costs are reduced, they can adapt or rebuild the house according to changing needs and, above all, have a sense of belonging and independence. ■