With apartments in land-starved cities getting increasingly smaller due to urbanization, purposeful design ideas will be needed to address new challenges and demands. One of the biggest challenges faced by the world today is urbanization, a double-edged sword that on one hand can allow people to lead better lives and bolster the economy, while on the other lead to the formation of slums with unsanitary living conditions. Indeed, one would only need to look at Mumbai, India to understand what unchecked urbanization can do. Although this coastal Indian city is renowned for its glitz and glamour, it is also notorious for its slums, which are estimated to be home to more than half of the city’s population.
The pace of urbanization isn’t going to slow down any time soon. According to the United Nations, more than 55 percent of the global population currently live in urban areas, and the proportion is expected to soar to 68 percent by 2050. Given macro factors like climate change and fast depleting global resources, the need for sustainable urbanization has become paramount in the 21st century. Understanding the importance of driving conversations that could lead to sustainable
solutions for urbanization, sanitary giant American Standard held its Design Catalyst LIVE webinar last March 23 that saw architecture and design experts come together to discuss this topic. The consensus was clear: purposeful design and architecture will be pivotal to sustainable urbanization. At a macro level, designing a sound development plan for slums will be key to tackling issues such as poor sanitation and housing conditions, and the lack of clean drinking water and waste-disposal options.
The sustainable way to go about development, said Mr. Rahul Kadri, Partner and Principal Architect at Mumbai-based IMK Architects, is adopting a community-led approach where residents get to participate in the decision-making process and have control over the future of their homes. This approach has already been proven to be critical in the development of slums in other countries like Thailand. Other important factors Mr. Kadri mentioned include government incentives, partial financial
contributions by families and the availability of affordable homes. Mr. Kadri also shared how the future homes for those currently living in the slums could look like – high rise buildings with communal spaces for recreation and socialization at podium and terrace levels, and biophilic elements such as rooftop gardens. Another by-product of urbanization is shrinking home sizes, especially in cities that face the problem of land scarcity.
With regard to this trend, Mr. Rakesh Kumar, Chief Design Officer of Godrej Properties Ltd, shared with participants of the webinar that conventional interior design solutions could eventually become less relevant, while space-optimized design solutions configured as multi-use spaces could see greater demand. Another reason behind shrinking home sizes is market demand. Research done in various parts of the world has shown that millennials prefer living in smaller homes because they are more affordable. This trend is certainly prevalent in India, where developers have been rolling out increasing numbers of smaller apartments to meet demand. As such, the demand for folding furniture that helps maximise the use of space is expected to rise. Market research and advisory company Technavio estimated that the global folding furniture market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 6 percent between 2019-2023.
Homes of the future should also be catered to hybrid work practices, the new norm forged during the COVID-19 pandemic. To address this, designers and architects should pivot their mindsets and view homes as more than just residences but office spaces as well. But seeing how new homes in many parts of the world are becoming smaller, Kumar pointed out that designers and architects will need to explore a different dimension – vertical space – to create more functional and storage areas. Lofts, for instance, can be one way of carving out space for a dedicated workspace when there isn’t a spare room available. Another possible solution is the use of non-structural walls or movable partitions to create activity spaces whenever needed. An evolution in home design and architecture is on the cards, and design professionals will have to respond to imminent changes in the market.