Architecture and Design as Solution for Affordable Housing - An Interview with Christophe Hutin, Architect of Hauts Plateaux, France


Today, more than half of the world population is living in urban areas: more than 3.7 billion people. By 2050, this number will more than double. The current development of urbanization we observe either goes into the direction of slums, informal settlements or sterile mass housing high-rise districts. Such developments are neither safe nor aesthetic but the two similarly portray the need for architecture which combines affordability with inhabitants’ desire for aesthetics. An interview with Christophe Hutin, Architect of “Hauts Plateaux” in Bègles, France, will shed more light on existing architectural ideas that already solve this issue of access to architecture and design.


Q: What is the role of architecture in solving the problems of access to housing for low income families? 

In the face of ever increasing urban sprawl and of the issues that come with it such as remoteness to economic activity centers and services as well as pollution, it is today necessary to develop an alternative to the suburban housing model that fits the current economic and social context. In France, the suburban housing model is primarily characterized by pavillions, free-standing, individual and identical houses.

Habitat densification and quality of living are neither opposed to one another, nor are they incompatible.

It is about creating new housing patterns that reconcile people with the idea of living – and the desire thereof – in a city with greater density. This can be achieved by catering to the need for privacy and individuality – which often translates into the desire for a house – while responding to the requirement for collective living and density that has now become indispensable for the future of cities and to curb the endless development of urban areas.



Q: Could you describe an example of an architectural solution that has allowed making housing more affordable to the low income families?

In order to provide a solution to the current urban challenges, the « Hauts Plateaux » project aims to develop the pavillion model vertically. An innovative, economical and rational concrete structure makes it possible to accommodate constructions and a garden in a very flexible manner. Each inhabitant has the freedom to build their own home.

This project is divided up in volumes structured around two concrete slabs that are positioned on top of each other, 6 meters apart. Future dwellers acquire volumes on these slabs in which they can build a duplex individual home.

This project aims to give architecture back to inhabitants by connecting the individual and the collective in one single habitat structure.


Q: What are the key actions needed to replicate that solution? Could you give one measure that would make that scale up possible?


For this project, a collaborative research work was carried out over several years with the LafargeHolcim research center as well as lawyers, notaries, surveyors, developpers and municipalities. Legal developments are essential to bring about real innovation in the housing sector. A specific legal framework has been thought through and set up for this project – it is replicable.

The Hauts Plateaux’s ambition is to respond specifically to the situation of each inhabitant from each family in order to finally do away with housing standardization. It is about making the extra-ordinary available to all.



About Christophe Hutin

Chsitophe Hutin is the architect who has designed the first vertical living spaces in France with the project Hauts Plateaux in Bègles, France. You want to learn more about his work? Visit his website.