Piet Blom Kasbah Housing 1973
The tartan grid accommodates different functions in each direction - in line with the structural grid, the exposed ends provide various small scale retail spaces, perpendicular to the structural grid a pedestrian garden and playspaces meander through an undercroft - in places this is open and bright, in others it is low, dark and passage-like. These low spaces lead to common staircases which organise pairs of doors, up to six per flight, making small communities around them.
Because of the unusual character of this social housing (€5-600 pcm), it attracts a particular type of occupant - musicians, artists, activists. We heard that despite the appearance of being a peaceful place to live ('what we need is love' - Blom set out its alternative lifestyle in his first collage, on show in the aptly named Piet Blom museum), acoustic separation between houses and to common areas is poor, and the flight path from the nearby airport is intrusive.
As a mat building according to Alison Smithsons definition, it is full of intricate moments, some surprising, some banal. It's edges, like the Centraal Beheer we saw earlier act differently according to the immediate context - lofty legs and look outs, framed low vistas to agricultural land, small vertical social spaces from the community space overlooking the school. Colour plays an important role in making it a cohesive whole and reminds me of Dick Bruna's 5 colour palette for the archetypal cute Dutch character Miffy (Nintje) - here Blom used light red brick and terracotta roof tiles that echo the surrounding farm buildings, with joinery in dark navy and white, spandrel panels and concrete frame in egg yolk and custard yellow respectively. The other moments of colour come from the inhabitants personal artefacts and the often lush vegetation in the common spaces (with a rich ecosystem of spiders) and along the precast concrete troughs that line the first floor garden terraces. #unit1 #birminghamMArch #structuralism #housing #commons #pietblom