A group of students from The College of Design’s Interior Design Department won first prize in the Gulf Cooperation Council’s Housing Competition. This honor was given to the project, research or study that contributed the most to the field of housing in the GCC. The second and third prizes were also won by projects from within the Kingdom: second prize went to the Royal Commission for Jubail and third prize was awarded to King Saud University. The students’ project is entitled: “Affordable Housing for Youth in Riyadh” and is an innovative sustainable solution that incorporates elements of Saudi Arabia’s rich cultural heritage. The project addresses the housing needs of this population, while effectively reducing any misuse of space that occurs in some Saudi houses.
The project originated in the Housing and Housing Structure Development course that the winning team took as seniors during the 2013-2014 summer term. This team was made up of the following members: Dr. Hala El-Wakeel, Badria Al Ajami, a graduate student in the Master of Interior Design program and five undergraduate students, including: Nada Al Shehri, Hamida Al Dahan, Lameya Al Saghan, Mashaer Al Abdullah and Sukaina Al Sadda.
This award-winning project provides architectural solutions that provide affordable housing units for youth, by adopting a methodology that was developed by Dr. El-Wakeel during her research studies into urban sprawl in cities within the Kingdom. This methodology started with using precise criteria, such as the selection of the project’s location and concluded with the means to change the culture of dwellings in the Saudi community in order to reduce the misuse of the residential spaces and slow down the horizontal expansion of cities; creating sustainable, affordable houses that reflect the society’s identity while satisfying its needs.
The team proposed a comprehensive housing project that is built on the ideas of flexibility and the sharing of public facilities. The proposal included a program that calculated area and densities in order to estimate the number of units. The proposal delivered architectural and interior designs for three housing units with a limited but flexible space, where the unit can be considered to act as a flexible nucleus that will continue to grow to meet the present and future needs of its users. This flexibility allows the user not only to adjust and change the housing unit during the design process but afterwards as well.
The proposed project is on 89.21 acres of land and was divided into two zones:
1- An attached raw duplex zone, which includes designs for duplexes. Each one has 220 m2 of land, two floors and front and back yards (the first design has a 256 m2 plot, while the second one is 278 m2). This zone covers 66.7% of the project area.
2- Duplex multi-story buildings, where duplexes are stacked above each other in a multi-story eight-floor building. Each duplex consists of two floors with 225 m2 plot area with a front balcony garden. This zone covers 33.3% of the project area.
The architectural design of this project is purely contemporary and matches the Kingdom’s ambition for the third millennium, but at the same time it is abstracted and springs from both the vernacular and Islamic identity of the nation.