"Architecture can only intervene in situations which have already been defined as being worthy of intervention. Yet, to fully exploit its potential as a generator of reality, architecture has to position itself in such a way that it is not bound to wait until a brief is presented (which it can then gracefully react to), but rather so that it can produce a brief in any given situation of its own. Architecture's avatistic habit of responding to a brief is then replaced by a practice of scanning reality for situations which have the potential to be acted upon by architecture itself. Escaping the reductive assignment of being the problem-solver, architecture assumes the capacity to pose problems, or rather, issues, that are relevant for architectural intervention. In doing so architecture would ultimately escape the boundaries it has been living with for too long and start to self-confidentially negotiate the limits of its actions in every step it takes."

- Andreas Ruby, from "Reprogramming Architecture," in Organizing for Change (2007), edited by Michael Shamiyeh & DOM Research Laboratory.

The UrbanAid group (where NextGen is based) at UTS faculty of Design Architecture and Building:

Welcome to the NextGen housing wiki

This wiki contains information on the NextGen research that is being jointly undertaken by UTS and RMIT universities in Australia, as well as the taught course on the same subject. We welcome contributions to this wiki, so please sign up if you are interested.
- Professor Tom Barker
18th Feb 2010

What is NextGen?

NextGen investigates the next generation of affordable housing for Australia. At the upper end of the market, contemporary Australian housing has achieved a certain standard that is good in terms of design and quality of construction. Environmental aspects are much less developed however, as are materials technology, higher density neighbourhoods, and construction processes.
At the mid to lower end of the market, housing can be inferior in terms of design and execution. Affordable housing represents the bulk of housing demand in developed countries. There are several definitions. These include housing in which costs do not exceed 30% of a household’s gross income, housing for “key workers”, and various price bandwidths in the market.
Underlying any cerdible solution to affordable housing has to be the quality of the architecture. As money reduces and space shrinks, nowhere is the role of design more critical. Spaces under pressure bring out the best and the worst in design terms. This is why it is so hard to find great examples of affordable housing outside of a country's historical vernacular. We are not helped by the increasing costs of constrcution across the globe. But it is a battle that architects should fight for.
Spatial innovations in multi-residential housing – coming to terms with housing types and moving beyond the 'flat' and the 'McMansion' spatially dull, spatially wasteful.
In a way that is not such an issue in European cities, high density development has a taboo element in Australia, breaking the Australian ‘culture of space’. Hence a search for new paradigms using architecture, along with the ‘technology of efficiency’, to evolve higher density housing that is consequently more desirable.
Qualities and poetry of space, light and form. Built interrelationships: unit, block, neighbourhood.
Alternative ownership models of housing that might begin to open up affordability – this involves comprehensive case studies from Scandinavia and the UK, and looking at the work of philanthropic housing organisations such as the Peabody Trust (UK). More exotic economic models such as micro-credit financing systems.
Building typologies and neighbourhood integration.
Issues of programmed demographics, for example aged care, and the specific needs to ‘knit’ between groups in terms of community inclusivity to avoid isolation or ghettoisation.
From single dwelling to “Whole Town” concept: urbanism, transport and infrastructure requirements. Establish key performance indices and user feedback / metrics
Amenities, common ground, distractors and attractors such as art space and other cultural or leisure components. Vibrancy ‘seeding’ models such as ‘free’ art space, event space, community facilitators, etc.
Ensuring vibrancy is akin to predicting the future and many good examples of urban vibrancy have evolved over a long period or have been the result of accident. However, there are techniques for creating the ‘scaffolding’ for vibrancy through architecture, social-economic and cultural conditions.

Below - some of Tom Barker's work: Greenwich Millennium Village (HTA + Ralph Erskine); Singapore Masterplan (Zaha Hadid); "Living in the Cities" (b consultants)