Collective Habitat: 'The Floating Houses of Equality' by Mary Losmithgul

We are living in a world full of inequality. There is a large gap between the rich and poor; one cannot deny that those struggling financially are constantly put at a disadvantage when compared to those with better financial standing, who have access to better education, healthcare and opportunities. It has become increasingly difficult to bridge the gap between the social classes; while the rich get richer, the poor continue to suffer. This effort is made harder by the policies set by the hegemonic rich, which continue to favour them. Bangkok city is no different.

Every year, Bangkok's population continues to increase, and as the nation of Thailand develops into an industrialised society, citizens of rural ares migrate to Bangkok (Thailand's Big Apple, if you will) in an effort to improve their living conditions through opportunities within industrial and service sectors. As the population continues to grow, the inequality between rural and urban areas becomes more prominent.

In Thailand, the richest in the country earn up to 60% of the total income. The poorest only get 4%. This has to stop.

It is time to consider the role of architects within the socio-political sphere of society. As a profession with the ability to physically alter the landscape and manipulate the boundaries from which ideals of place, culture and 'roots' are formed, architects have the power - and thus, the responsibility - to help construct a world where the poor are not running a pointless race.

The floating house of equality is only a small step towards major urban changes that ought to happen in the near future. This public social housing projects attempts to integrate the urban citizens with migrants form rural areas. It is a large collective habitat designed for, but not limited to, people from rural areas, and is designed to help draw attention to the rural migrants, as well as promote interaction between the various classes.

This is accomplished through several methods. Firstly, the location. The housing project is located at the heart of Bangkok city, between the two major shopping complexes Central World and Siam Paragon. It essentially is a large intervention onto the elite sphere. While occupying one of the most exclusive areas of real estate and making it for the people, the building itself does not actually affect what was originally there. Elevated 9 metres above the ground, the housing estate provides shading for street vendors and cars below, while simultaneously allowing the inhabitants easy access to transportation.

From it's location, people will constantly see the building, and yet it is almost transparent and so they can also see through it. As an elegant structure, it attracts attention without overwhelming the area.

The units within the housing project blur the lines between public and private space, which promotes interaction between the people living there. Due to the fact that the housing project, albeit designed with the rural migrants in mind, are not limited to just rural inhabitants, it provides a space where rural and city people can co-exist and get to know the lifestyles of one-another better.

Surrounding the actual units is a large circulation floor space which connects everything together. The circulation floor not only allows people access to their own units from the elevator shafts, but are also used as private gardens. This means that when walking back to one's own unit, individuals will constantly walk past the gardens of others (which is a semi-public/private space), thus further promoting interaction between people.

The units inside have revolvable doors which enable spaces to be entirely opened up for interaction within the unit. They also have large openings whereby the inhabitants have a clear view of the city skyline as inspiration.

Due to the fact that the walls are non-load bearing as the entire unit hangs off a superstructure made of crossed columns, the building has a free plan and thus the walls can be moved outwards, allowing expansion of the unit. Thus, when the migrants are able to earn enough income to expand, they will be allowed to do so, not limiting them to just a small space. This increases opportunities, and sets the idea that even those who begin at a difficult place are able to work hard and improve their lifestyles. Perhaps a single migrant moves over to the city and works. After a couple years, maybe she earns enough money and wants to start a family. This expansion allows her to do so. 

With the floating house of equality, the opportunities are endless. Perhaps we will finally manage to bridge the gap between rich and poor after all.