Many houses were designed without thinking of the basic housing needs and living in these places could be quite uncomfortable and frustrating.

The idea of spatial flexibility in building is becoming an interesting subject matter in architecture and the concept is an important concern in the design of housing. Flexibility refers to the idea of accommodating change over time. Thus, flexible housing corresponds to housing that can adapt to the changing needs of users (Till & Schneider, (2005). Adaptability and typological variety are the other important terms related to flexibility.

So many architects have conceptually addressed this subject of flexibility in so many ways. Examples of these designs includes; Louis Kahn‟s The Served and the Servant Spaces, Peter Einsenman‟s Blurred Zone, Mies Van Der Rohe‟s Universal Space, Gerrit Rietveld‟s Schroder House, Carnegie Mellon University‟s Intelligent Workplace. Schneider and Till, (2007) in their book titled Flexible Housing, also portrayed some important highlights on flexibility which will be developed fully in the chapters.

Early modern and contemporary architects adopted the concept of movable partition as a way of achieving flexibility in building spaces. They believed and portray that a house is a changeable open zone, which can be subdivided by sliding or revolving partitions.

Other several means of achieving spatial flexibility were highlighted by Kevin Lynch. These included zoning and concentration of structures at a few widely separated points, leaving wide spans where future changes would not affect the fabrics of the


whole, use of modular or lattice structures whose peripheral growth does not affect  the structure at the centre, use of low intensity buffer zone between spaces to allow their programmes to expand and contract without running over their uses, avoidance of narrow adaptation of forms to specialized functions, over supply of space to provide generous room for future expansion of programmes, use of temporally structures and a well networked communications so that programme and interaction changes can be analyzed and accommodated efficiently.

As a result of changes and advancement in technology, spatial flexibility has become even more important than it was a decade ago. The correlations between the duality of architecture and the notion of functional flexibility in today‟s context are important themes that should continue to be investigated in contemporary architecture.

                        BACKGROUND INFORMATION


Early building obsolescence arising from the emergence of new technologies, new working arrangements as well as user‟s peculiar need of space is becoming prevalent in our society today. Planning and executing projects with flexibility in mind should be the ultimate aim of every planner in order to provide individuals with the best use of work space to suit their requirements and to accommodate any present and future changes. According to Schneider and Till, flexibility as accommodating change in housing addresses a number of issues related with the current and future needs of the users. Firstly, it offers variety in the architectural layout of the units. Secondly, it includes adjustability and adaptability of housing units over time. And finally, it allows buildings to accommodate new functions. In order to provide flexibility, architects should consider the possible future needs of users during the design process; in other words, long-term thinking in the design process is required. The benefits of flexibility in housing are discussed both from the perspective of users and


in terms of innovative construction and design under four main themes: the structural system, the service spaces, architectural layout and furnishing for flexible use. According to Schneider and Till, (2005), one of the basic principles of designing flexible building is to avoid inflexibility. In other words, the design of the inflexible parts of a building plays a crucial role in achieving flexibility. Structural system and the service spaces are the permanent components. First, through the consideration of the structural system, it is preferred to reduce the load bearing walls. Next, through the consideration of servicing, accessibility and adaptability of technical equipment is crucial to make changes in the future. Over the permanent components, the architectural layout can be investigated in terms of its typological variety and adaptability over time. The research focuses on the structure and plan of residential blocks and their use. It also addresses the issue of social sustainability. According to Schneider & Till, there are two controversial methods in flexible housing designs, which are regarded to belong to the rhetoric of flexibility: a determinate way of design that refers to movable transformable spaces and an indeterminate way of design that points to endless changes. These two ways indicate a foreground consideration of flexibility in the design process, but as Schneider and Till asserted, some of the most successful examples of flexibility tend to operate in the background, which is another way of flexible design.

Owing to current shifts in social patterns and rapid turn-over rates in building programmes over time Scott Brown advised architects to design buildings that can house a wide range of activities or functions beyond those called for their first users. (Brown, 2004). She uses the analogy of a glove versus a mitten in proposing a spatial layout that achieves this. A glove fits the fingers of the original user well but mitten can be used by various users because of its extra „wiggle room‟. In other words,


instead of designing a building custom fitted to one original function, Scott brown suggests providing an architectural of the „wiggle room‟ in building to anticipate future space requirements. Scott Brown Identified generic, high ceiling, open-plan industrial loft buildings or Italian palazzos as examples of flexible space, in other words, they have the capacity to meet changing requirements. This kind of characteristics is called flexibility.




Figure 1.1 Glove vs. Mitten Sketch and examples of the spatial types with „wiggle room‟ from Architecture as Signs and Systems.

Source: Shifting Paradigms Part 1: Renovating the Decorated Shed, May 15, 2008. Flexibility can be defined as the degree to which the spatial and temporal boundaries are pliable (Hall & Richter, 1988). It is also defined as the ability to adapt to new situation; ability to change and be changed according to circumstances. (Microsoft Encarta Dictionary 2009).

In the context of educational system, as early as1968, recognition of the importance of flexibility in educational sector was outlined (Gross Murphy, 1968). Four distinctive sub categories of flexibility were identified. They includes: expansible space, convertible space, versatile space and malleable space.


  • Expansible space: This space can allow for ordered growth. Rydeen (2004) cited the use of structural steel frames with long steel joists and the elimination of internal Structural walls as key developments in this context;
  • Convertible space: This kind of space can be economically adapted to program changes. It involves the adoption of relocate- able partitions as part of the School Construction Systems Development (SCSD)

In more than 3100 US schools between 1966 and 1977 the measure used to meet this Challenge was illustrated.

  • Versatile space: This space serves multiple functions. Rydeen, (2004) cites as an example the „house concept‟ using a central open learning area tech-hub surrounded by
  • Malleable space: This space can be changed at once and at will. Rydeen, (2004) suggests that open learning environments help to meet this challenge by supporting variable class

When architects employ the term flexibility, they often make distinctions between physical properties internal to schools and abstract social forces impinging upon school design (Ehrenkrantz 2000; Fiske 1995; Leggett, Stanton, C. William Brubaker, Aaron Cohodes, and Arthur S. Shapiro. 1977). Under this rubric, physical flexibility refers to the adjustability of a space to the practices of individuals, such as meeting  the special sensory and/or mobility needs of students. Movable furniture and walls, or re-configurable buildings, rooms, and passageways all represent this type of physical flexibility. On the abstract level, flexibility refers to the ability of built space to accommodate for unforeseeable changes such as demographic shifts, community needs, or policy mandates. (Moore & Lackney, 1994). The concept of a school facility mediates between these internal and external extremes by connoting the material


presence of buildings and their relationships to larger social structures, such as school districts or communities.

Flexible properties of space.


In order to evaluate the practice possibilities of built spaces, flexibility is subdivided into five properties of space: fluidity, versatility, convertibility, scalability, and modifiability.


Fluidity: This property represents the design of space for flows of individuals, sight, sound, and air. Open spaces lend themselves to fluidity, yet they can hinder fluidity if they seem oppressive in their expansiveness. In these instances, well-placed screens in classrooms, for example, can increase a sense of intimacy while triggering curiosity for the space that flows around the screen (Caudill, 1954). Such a space then becomes more engaging and less overwhelming. Well-placed windows can also increase a sense of flow and connection between spaces.


Versatility: It indicates the property of space that allows for multiple uses.  Cafeterias, auditoriums, and multi-purpose rooms signal one mode of versatility, but versatile spaces such as these run the risk of homogeneity. Since all spaces afford certain activities and flows, generic spaces without any overt indicators for specific use require extra effort, pedagogical or otherwise, to achieve the tone or rhythm of specific uses. Individuals must invest more energy to work within these spaces, because the spaces do little work on their own. For example, performing a play in a generic auditorium requires the investment of added decoration and props in addition to individual suspension of disbelief in order for that production to succeed.


Convertibility: In educational concept, this designates the ease of adapting educational space for new uses.

Educators must often convert spaces to accommodate for changes in enrollment, curriculum, or pedagogy. Modern office buildings are commonly proffered as models of this type of convertible space, because they possess a core with HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning), electrical, and communication systems that is surrounded by a shell containing easily re-deployable space for varied activity programs (Brubaker, 1998). Space designed for convertibility requires an imagination for future eventualities; it should possess a degree of modularity and open-endedness at a structural level, a design open to re-design by others.


Scalability:  It  describes  a  property  of   space   for   expansion   or   contractionFor expansion, schools may require annexes and additions to meet the needs of increased enrollment or curricular alterations. Tightly coupled spaces (rooms and corridors) may utilize space efficiently in the short run but present costly obstacles for later growth. For contraction, as space needs decrease, schools should be able to temporarily convert buildings and rooms to other community or business purposes. For example, surplus school space can be leased out from year to year so that when space needs rise again, schools can re-convert buildings for educational programs (Brubaker, 1998).


Modifiability: it is the spatial property which invites active manipulation and appropriation. Spaces that lend themselves to quick reconfiguration are comprised of mobile components such as walls, partitions, furniture, and equipment. Highly modifiable spaces invite imaginative experimentation to coordinate space and subject matter with the specific learning needs of different student populations. The design of


such spaces requires much forethought, because these spaces must take into account many structural dependencies such as ceiling configuration for lighting and air circulation, floor materials for ease of partition movement. (Leggett et al. 1977).




As a result of changing life styles, the diversity of accommodation user requirements is increasing and asking for more flexible solutions. The technical implications being that conventional building structures are not designed for change. For that reason every transformation within a dwelling has to do with demolition of part of a building or sometimes whole built structure.

The rapid densification of population in universities all over the nation  today whether induced by high pursuit of knowledge, increased awareness of the importance of education and high demand for school accommodation induced by the need for settling proximate to school, high cost of living/accommodation outside the campus has caused the value of student hostel designs to rise, thereby creating an economic necessity to re evaluate the importance of flexibility in hostel designs, and to explore spatial arrangements that can accommodate more functions than conventional layouts in the same allotted space.

There are many female students enrolling in education today as against what was seen in the 60‟s. Existing hostel buildings which were built around the 60‟s could have been more effective in use today for these female students if flexibility was put into consideration during their construction. Therefore the increment on the number of female students in the universities today as against the number in the 60‟s illustrate the need to incorporate greater flexibility to meet unforeseen changes in use in the future.


Architecture by its nature is to respond to new life styles and necessities of today, spaces must reflect end-user‟s satisfaction. It is a common fact that any building facility that is not efficiently serving the needs of which it was erected is as good as a failed building.

Rigid spaces which are found in most hostel designs do not give room for adjustment of spaces to the needs of the user.

In order to increase buildings transformation capacity building design/construction should be focused on further systematization of building and development of innovative building methods that will provide flexible structures whose parts could be easily replaced and reused or recycled.

The purpose of this study is to investigate on the different strategies of achieving spatial flexibility in hostel design.

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