by Anmol AhujaDec 15, 2020
Homelessness, the loss of built habitat, and large scale displacement of communities are among the biggest humanitarian crises being faced today. The reasons for these fall between the vast spectrum that is the socio-economic and geo-political state of the current world we live in - an ever complexing urban ecosystem. However, when it comes to rehabilitation and housing schemes, as few and far as the notable ones may be, there has been observed a marked shift from vertically stacked concrete masses to a more community centred, horizontally expansive approach. This reduction in scale arguably lends itself to an attention to individualised design and an efficiency which can lead to more dignified residences for the homeless and displaced. The Calyx Project, conceptualised by an Australia-based collaborative of shareholders including Forage Supply co-founders Scott Rogasch and Justin Westhoff, Tim Pearce of Frame Creative, Carsten Dethlefsen of Proprius Advisory, Commercial & General’s Zoe Steele and Studio Nine Architects Director Andrew Steele, exemplifies that approach.
The project looks at the design of a single-occupant dwelling, and then bringing a number of them together to create a community setting. The social enterprise seeks to provide people experiencing homelessness with appropriate social housing, landholders, community support programs, volunteers, meaningful opportunities to work, and private and public funding. Designed by Andrew Steele of Studio Nine Architects, the concept of The Calyx 16 prototype stems from the idea of a protective layer around a flower bud. This lends itself directly to the ‘pod’ style of micro-residences, seemingly protectively wrapping around the occupant. Measuring just 16 sqm in area, the pod is designed as a safe, affordable, modular, transportable, energy efficient and eco-friendly haven, with each serving to be a personal retreat: an affordable version of the popular urban typology of the ‘studio apartment’.
The compact residence for one seeks to create space vertically, such that the sleeping and ample storage space is accommodated on a higher level, along with an ensuite bath and small kitchen. The designer felt that the additional vertical volume unlocked the opportunity to push the conventional idea of what a pod could feel like. Within the limited space, each square inch of space can be uniformly and aptly illuminated solely through natural light during daytime. This is facilitated by large timber framed windows and doors to connect with the outdoors, and oversized skylights. Natural materials, primarily timber have been employed to line the internal spaces as well, wherever possible. Sans the ‘biomimicry’, Andrew Steele of Studio Nine Architects, for whom this is a passion project, claims to have successfully incorporated a number of such biophilic design elements. This is something that he felt was a necessity for the occupant’s health and well-being, and a major factor differentiating Calyx from other such pod like accommodations.
In keeping with the Forage Supply Co.’s mission statement of having “the smallest impact on the environment and the greatest impact on community”, the Calyx homes are designed to be placed in a community setting, rather than existing as a prototype in isolation. Each house will be separated by personal veggie patches on the sides, to promote self-sustenance and micro farming among the community. The layout is touted to be adaptable to any site, while a larger pod situated at the centre of the site is planned to act as a communal space that can host a myriad variety of functions, including events and skills-based workshops, cooking demonstrations, maintenance tips for the veggie gardens, financial training or even barista courses. Washing facilities and a large communal kitchen are also included within the central communal pod, surrounded by ample outdoor space. A similar pod may also be reserved for office space, or space for a case worker or counsellor to reside on site and provide round the clock support to the Calyx’s residents.
The design and implementation of a community centred project such as the Calyx Project would require an active participation of the community it was being designed for, from the very first stage. The team of stakeholders for the project undertook an extensive consultation and survey process, speaking to the intended end-users to decode the brief and truly understand how they would best use the space. The surveys laid the foundation and gave the designers an understanding of what elements the occupants were willing to share and which ones they required for individual use, allowing the design to gauge where efficiencies could be gained: minimising circulation space, maximising light penetration and improving cross ventilation within the singular pods, ensuring spaces are multi-use and adaptable. The future of the project looks interesting to say the least, with the search for potential investors going on, and a number of them from within the homelessness sector already on board. Its sustainable business model also looks to partner with land holders and developers to activate their under-utilised or neglected sites on a medium term basis, while the design team has begun researching into carbon neutral offerings for future projects.
The first prototype is currently under construction, with a pilot program in the works.