framlab combats social isolation during a pandemic with urban housing model 'open house'

framlab combats social isolation during a pandemic with urban housing model 'open house'

seeking to combat a pandemic through housing, new york-based studio framlab investigates a system for connected living with its latest project ‘open house.’ the design research project challenges the typical model for urban housing and explores the capacity of residential environments to alleviate loneliness and social isolation. the team approaches urban housing design through the lens of environmental psychology and cognitive neuroscience, exploring parameters of geometry, biology, and modularity as means to forge connection and build trust among residents. open house aspires to serve as a prototype for a new typology of housing that foregrounds social inclusion, connection, and wellbeing.

framlab open house
images and drawings by framlab



with its ‘open house’ proposal, framlab offers an architecturally-minded response to the steadily increasing trend toward loneliness and social isolation throughout the global north — a trend only propelled by the pandemic. while more than half of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, the design team turns to urban housing in its study, noting that our living environments are instrumental in shaping our interpersonal relationships. ‘open house’ proposes a series of design strategies aimed at strengthening social bonds within the residential environment.

framlab open house



framlab makes thoughtful use of soft edges within its ‘open house’ interiors. while size and density are important first steps toward fostering community between residents, the nature of the interface between them also carries significance. the team minimizes the barrier between these two social spheres with the essential inclusion of ‘soft edges’ — a concept coined by jan gehl. studies show that ‘soft edges’ between the private and public realms help to connect residents, neighbors, and passersby. this softening also promotes passive surveillance, which increases feelings of safety and trust, and reduces feelings of isolation and fear of the public for the residents. ‘open house’ introduces a generous threshold between the housing environment and the street, that includes seating, planters, and bike storage — serving as an in-between zone which maximizes the potential for social encounters.

framlab open house



while humanity spends the majority of life indoors, the design team at framlab designs ‘open house’ to facilitate a greater connection to nature. pockets of outdoor space have been scattered throughout the building and private outdoor areas have been included in each apartment unit. this integration ‘pulls’ nature inside and blurs the separation between exterior and interior. this also makes the indoor space feel larger than it is.

framlab open house



the most significant natural element in the ‘open house’ project is a vertical, cooperative garden, which connects all apartment units. the garden extends into the backyard, where it provides a space for the residents to host dinners and farmer’s markets for the neighborhood. the vertical garden makes use of aeroponic growth systems. this is a process for growing plants and vegetables in misty environments, rather than in soil. these systems are also extremely water-efficient — requiring less than 10% of the water required by traditional, geoponic cultivation, while allowing the use of fertilizers and pesticides to be drastically reduced.

framlab open house



framlab’s ‘open house’ makes use of a closed-loop, greywater recycling system. rain water is harvested, filtered, and stored for domestic use. the water is then used for vertical garden irrigation, where microorganisms break down the nutrients in a filtering process of the water to produce vegetables.

framlab open house


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project info:


project title: open house

architecture: framlab

status: concept






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