Pop-up housing in garages
by Levitt Bernstein

Levitt Bernstein

Hackney studio Levitt Bernstein has won a housing design competition with a proposal to turn disused parking garages into tiny pop-up homes.

Levitt Bernstein to launch pop-up homes in garages

Organised by architecture charity the Building Trust, the competition asked entrants to come up with proposals for any urban area of a developed country, to offer a solution to the shortages of affordable single-occupancy housing.

Levitt Bernstein to launch pop-up homes in garages

Levitt Bernstein suggests inserting prefabricated structures into redundant garages on housing estates in the London borough of Hackney. "The proposal targets under-used spaces in high density areas where land value is high and rising," said architect Georgie Revell.

Levitt Bernstein to launch pop-up homes in garages

The structures would use parts that are both quick to assemble and easy to dismantle, so the architects are also recommending an accompanying apprenticeship initiative to teach the construction techniques to homeless people.

"This is a great opportunity to begin to deal with homelessness in an innovative and holistic manner," said architect Sarah Jenkinson. "We are excited about developing our proposals into real solutions especially in our local borough where housing is an asset that can be so difficult to obtain."

The architects are now working with the Building Trust to work up detailed plans to take the project forward.

Hackney is also Dezeen's home borough and this year we launched our own initiative to showcase world-class design and architecture in the area.

See more architecture and design from Hackney »

Here's some more information from Levitt Bernstein:

Levitt Bernstein have recently been announced as winners from over 400 entries of the open international HOME competition run by Building Trust International.

The winning proposal uses temporary ‘pop-up’ structures to occupy redundant garages on existing housing estates in east London. HAWSE (Homes through Apprenticeships With Skills for Employment) was designed by Georgie Revell and Sarah Jenkinson in collaboration with a homeless charity and training academy. The intention is for the project to be delivered through an apprenticeship scheme with components manufactured off-site as a kit-of parts. The structures are quick to assemble and can be inhabited immediately with the components being demountable and reusable. The proposals not only offer a home but education opportunities in construction techniques, a way of regenerating street frontage and a practical interim solution between other development possibilities.

The competition brief asked for proposals to focus on low cost, single occupancy housing solutions in urban areas to respond to the deficit of affordable housing options. The competition had over 400 entries for both the professional and student categories and the judging panel was chaired by Building Trust, YMCA, Habitat for Humanity and Crash. Building Trust International launch their next humanitarian design competition on the 15th Oct focusing flood resistant housing in Cambodia.

  • 3DD

    It’s a nice idea to use some unused spaces in the city. The sad thing is that, basically, living accommodation in London is getting smaller and smaller.

    • Hayden

      Yes! More people. Less Land.

      • Benjamin

        And the obvious solution is to build up. But so many pesky NIMBYs!

  • I love the idea of some very simple pre-fabricated dwellings that could be manufactured very cheaply but utilising clever modern design and using them in an urban situation such as this. However, I’m not sure what the point is of slotting them inside the existing garages.

  • Benjamin

    Er… if the garages are not being used, why not demolish them and build designed-for-purpose housing?

    • steve


  • Matthias

    I’m a developer, and I will eat you alive together with your garages.

  • @Benjamin

    Well said. They’re modern slums.

    • Adrian Johnson

      Most homeless would rather live in a slum than sleep rough on the streets.

  • I like the idea of reusing space but the quality of living in London has taken such a dive. Bedrooms in houses have been partitioned in two and every space in a house has been turned into a sleeping space. It’s getting ridiculous… the people of this city need rent control, real first time buyer’s assistance and strict (while being generous) minimum space or quality of life guidelines.

    • 3DD

      Recently there was a small article in the Evening Standard, saying that people should stop moaning about space and come to terms with living inside “shoe boxes”, which are apparently very good, and people in Tokyo and Shanghai call them “luxury boutiques”. So I doubt if we will see any regulation any time soon about basic space requirements or any control rents. Not from this government at least.

      • Hayden

        If only the people were as polite as in Tokyo!

  • Arc

    So apparently actual homes aren’t good enough for some people. This is ridiculous. Totally agree with Benjamin – knock them down, build something decent unless you think asking people to live in garages is socially OK. I don’t.

    I hate c**p like this. Easy for the architects to sit and preach as they would never have to live in one. I bet they wouldn’t want to go and live in a garage with a laminate floor. How patronising. And Hackney council – what a waste of public money and time. How about slapping a sedum roof on a skip? It’s no worse an idea than this. Well done Levitt Bernstein, pats on the back all round for a terrible yet award-winning idea.

  • Carla

    Some people really have no idea. If you are homeless then having a home is amazing no matter how small. Well done to the charity for taking a risk and trying to support the poor in the city of armchair critics!

  • Whisker Biscuit

    Arc… I agree. This is architecture at its worst: patronising academic masturbation. I’m an architect, look at the good I do! I’m going to solve complex social issues with some fun ideas and give them an edgy Hackney twist by putting the words ‘pop up’ in front of them. I would like to see any one from Levitt Bernstein or the Building Trust live in these, and the apprenticeship scheme is just plain naive. Get real.

  • Dean

    I don’t know why everyone is getting so upset about the size. I’m a student and my halls of residence living space is far smaller than what is proposed here, as are most hotel rooms. If it’s temporary housing then what is the problem? Seems a good idea to use under-used city-centre spaces. I can think of a few areas of Bristol where this could work.

  • Top idea, on a par with shipping container homes. Could be used in so many places, and having down-sized (massively!) recently, I really don’t see why size is a problem.

    If it’s well planned, then minimal living is perfectly OK – after all, you don’t need (for example) a massive TV or computer installation, when an iPad can do the job.

    In the kitchen, sure I miss my Baumatic “Cooking Theatre” (wonderful title!), but can still crank out decent food on a standard cooker. Can’t see one in these plans though – a microwave simply won’t do, so let’s hope there’s a built-in cooker inserted below worktop level.

    • Adrian Johnson

      Google “compact kitchen units”. You can get a burner, sink, oven, cabinets and tiny counter into one or two metres.

  • Carl

    I understand people in the block opposite may not want their view blocked but are the architects going to activate the side facing Kingsland Road?

  • What about services? Where does the sewage go? The whole thing’s gross, straight back to the C19th.

    • Adrian Johnson

      As in RV camps, built a communal bathroom laundry unit for several pop-ups to share. Residents could use chamber pots if they didn’t want to venture out at night.

  • Richard

    Everything is pop-up nowadays. I don't like it.

  • oosh

    I’d love one of these. Just to be able to live alone instead of sharing would be a dream for me.

  • chris

    My daughter lives in a room in a house pays £530.00 per month. No decent decor, walls peeling, cramped shower and mouldy tiles. I hope she could get one. I don’t suppose the immigrant population would entertain these as they are tiny – not good enough for them.

  • Phine

    Surely this will help people – tearing these spaces down and building new places in their place would surely cost more than reusing them? And there are many people, I feel, who would appreciate something like this. I think it depends on how these are priced etc. At the end of the day, I feel it has more positive potential than negative. There are enough unused buildings around and a way to use these surely has to be better than replacing them?

    • Benjamin

      Phine – That’s a decent sized building plot. If one’s concern is housing supply, then demolish and replace with far more decent sized homes than this vanity project can deliver. Of course it would “cost more than reusing them”, but that’s not the point. Doing nothing would be even cheaper.

  • Sim

    That first floor plan is dreadful; such a small space as it is and then chopping it up into three different rooms. Who comes up with stuff like this? The second plan doesn’t have a toilet. I don’t really see what is designed about this.

    • Adrian Johnson

      The first is a traditional “shotgun house” design – still used by the poor of the American South. Both plans can use “thunder-box chairs” or “bedside toilets” in a curtained corner, and empty the bucket at a communal toilet every day. Both these designs would be considered highly desirable by many people around the world.