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New Growth
on Old Growth

A Design Scenario for Affordable Housing in Vancouver, BC




New Growth on Old Growth is a design scenario for affordable housing in Vancouver, British Columbia. It explores the notion of parasitism in an architectural context and investigates the development of new urban communities that simultaneously support the growth of affordable housing and greening of the city. It is a scenario that when applied at scale acts as a form of stealth urbanism that could enhance the city as a whole.

Shortlisted for the Buildner "Vancouver Affordable Housing" International Competition 2022

Masters of Architecture Studio II final project led by Dr. Graham Livesey (University of Calgary | SAPL)


The roofscape is ground for new growth. In Vancouver, land cost is the primary factor affecting housing affordability leaving the city one of the most expensive places in the world to live. There is an opportunity to leverage existing buildings to support the growth of new urban communities that simultaneously offer space to build new housing and green the city. Buildings with large, empty rooftops, such as storage facilities, are ideal sites to place small footprint homes and utilize existing utility infrastructure to reduce costs. Prefabricated, modular dwellings allow for this type of housing to be constructed and delivered to any appropriate building rooftop across the Greater Vancouver area and beyond.


Walk into a forest along the west coast and you'll find new growth like moss and fungi finding new homes on old trees and stumps. Giving the forest new texture, colour and life.

Image by Kamy

You can see this happening across the city of Vancouver, with moss and vines overtaking commercial buildings and houses.

A few meters off the ground there exists a roofscape that could serve as ground for new growth. Simultaneously offering hosts for new housing developments while creating an opportunity to green the city with rooftop vegetation. At the same time revitalizing and re-visioning the light industrial areas where this scenario is sited.

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The site analysis for this scenario focused on the Vancouver suburbs of Mount Pleasant and Strathcona, which contain an assortment of residential, commercial and light industrial areas. The site contains a handful of educational institutions such as Emily Carr and Vancouver Community College, and is connected to major thoroughfares that lead to the University of British Columbia. Within this region there are a number of empty rooftops suitable for a housing development. This scenario examines the potential for a rooftop community to be built on top of the Public Storage facility on Terminal Avenue, which runs parallel to the Sky Train's Expo Line.

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The dwellings are inspired by a precedent study conducted on Tado Ando's Azuma House in Osaka, Japan: a small footprint rowhouse composed of four identically sized living spaces separated by an open-air courtyard that contains the vertical circulation. This feature offers an interesting move towards affordability and showcases how to bring private access to Nature inside a home. Combining these insights with an analysis of the architectural history of the site, inspired the use of a pitched roof to reflect the early 1900's gabled vernacular houses found across Mount Pleasant (Vancouver's oldest suburban neighbourhood) and to introduce a lofted space on the second floor, providing the units with more adaptability in terms of use.

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The scenario proposes a parametrically designed substructure that can be adjusted to fit any roof shape and offer a slightly curved, moss-like topography to assist with drainage and provide varying building heights. The substructure also supports the weight distribution of housing, hardscaping, and green roof elements. It provides an organizing matrix to locate housing docks, landscaping units, and utility extensions for the dwellings. Vegetation units are cultivated off-site and ready to keep growing when placed on the roof; providing residents the opportunity to grow their own produce and contribute to the greening of city air and beautifying these light industrial areas.

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House One

- 1 Loft Bedroom
- Office/Flex Space
- Full Bathroom
- Kitchen & Living Room


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House Two

Small Family Scenario
- 1 Master Bedroom
- 1 Loft Bedroom
- Office/Flex Space
- Full Bathroom
- Kitchen
- Living Room
- Powder Room


Alternative Arrangements:

- 3+ Co-Living w/ Shared Kitchen

- Work + Office Split

- Rental Split

- 2 Artists w/ Shared Kitchen + Studio

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Community Space

A central unit is a dedicated community that houses a shared laundry and coffee shop above. The intention is to create a point of intersection and interaction to foster community building.

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The roofscape is ground for new growth.

Copyright © 2021 Joshua Clarke.  All rights reserved. Every last one of them.

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