MIZA Architects | Better Together

Better Together

One is good, two is better, but many is great.

Download competition presentation panels here.

Driven by a co-housing approach and a community typology based on aggregation that provides opportunities for aging in place, this project creates a diversity of unit types to accommodate families and their extended relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles), students, and singles and couples looking for a starter space who will later need to grow their space with their families.

The project also provides a model for commercial insertions through a street-oriented “mortgage helper” (or Commercial Retail Unit, in more conventional terms). The space may be used as a community space for the building and neighbourhood, or leased out to small businesses such as a café, beauty salon, professional services office, or retail establishment.

This approach aims to focus on the benefits of increased density and foster greater interaction between neighbours to stimulate exchange of ideas and create resilient communities that look out for each other.

The project was a competition entry for the Missing Middle Competition and was awarded an Honorable Mention.

Design Rationale:

Linear mass

Achieving a 1.2 floor space ratio (FSR) in an established neighbourhood is not an easy task. The proposal groups the residential units into a 3.5-storey linear block biased to one side of the site, opening the ground plane. The mass is large, relative to an existing bungalow, say, but not necessarily out of place compared to some of the existing larger houses.

Commercial/Public Gesture

At the front of the site, the generic space asserts itself along the street to create a viable retail frontage, or community-focused space for use by the building’s residents. Potential occupants of this space already exist in the area, evidenced by the handful of informal beauty salons operating out of existing homes.

Interstitial Space

As density increases, floor area per home decreases, forcing shared spaces to take on greater significance. The site’s courtyard opens on to the rear lane, destined to be recovered as a linear park once the City assembles the land over time. The shared exterior space consists of three primary elements:
1. Open space
2. Community garden
3. Gathering space

Spectral Layering

Physical and visual layering creates a spectrum of spatial character — from the private units, to the semi-private courtyard, to the semi-public faces of the project, to the public edges on the street and on the proposed linear park. Architectural strategies such as screening and semi-covered spaces are used to establish this gradient.


Social Rationale

Low barrier to entry

The proposal uses only a single lot, lowering the barrier to entry and avoiding any complex legal arrangement otherwise needed to develop multiple lots.

Multi-family and Multi-generational Living

A co-housing development model is proposed not only as a financial instrument, but also as a means to provide multi-family and multi-generational housing options. In Surrey, some homes may contain members of an extended family living under one roof. It may be desirable for these families to continue to live in close proximity, but to have their own spaces as well: A growing family with 2 or 3 children may wish to have grandparents live nearby who can provide childcare, or who may need assistance from their adult children.

Co-housing community

The co-housing model also provides a framework for like-minded individuals and families to self-assemble their own community in conjunction with the development. These people are typically motivated and committed community-oriented groups who are open to both shared responsibilities and shared experience, whether it’s through sharing meals, partaking in upkeep and maintenance, or providing ad-hoc informal childcare for others in the co-housing group.

Social Contributions

The proposed CRU can act as the public face for the building and different developments may serve different community functions. If used a gathering space, the CRU may provide a venue for local interest groups or enthusiasts, in addition to providing function space for the residents. If used for retail, office or personal services, it can provide small business and employment opportunities close to home, and draw others from outside the immediate neighbourhood into the mix.