Where do Innovative Ideas for Urban Housing Come from?

Cities around the world suffer from a common problem – a shortage of affordable, decent quality housing. Cutworks Studio, a design company based in Paris and Amsterdam has developed an approach called PolyBlocs – modularly constructed residential sites consisting of individual block rooms which can be stacked in different ways to create an array of sizes and shapes. The basic component is called a PolyRoom which is shaped like a shipping container. They provide multi-functional spaces with flexible configurations that include a range of window and door placement options. Other features include a bed which can be folded upwards, tables with built-in cupboards and compact bathrooms. The PolyRooms are designed to be stacked like Lego bricks.

This is an innovative but derivative idea. Where might it have come from? Let’s imagine we were working in the design studio trying to brainstorm ways to create affordable urban housing. We could have started in a number of places to come up with this idea.

Where do Innovative Ideas for Urban Housing Come from?

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Analyse the Problem

It takes a lot of time and so costs a lot of money to have workers on site constructing a new building in a city centre.

How can we minimise the build time?

Could we build the building elsewhere and then quickly assemble it on site?

How can we minimise the assembly time?

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Go Back in Time

Let’s think about prefab buildings – which have been around for a long time. In 1160 the Normans built a prefab castle! How can we update these old ideas to make them sustainable and suitable for modern needs?


Adapt a different kind of housing solution – mobile homes. Could we take the wheels off a mobile home and turn it into a stackable unit?

Start with a Different Industry

How does shipping make the best and most economical use of tight spaces? They use containers. Could we take the idea of a container and apply it to housing?

Let’s Play a Game

What game involves fitting things together? Let’s use Lego as a metaphor for building and see where that leads.

Rearrange the Components or the Process

We normally build a house sequentially starting with foundations and walls, then doors and windows and services, then finally fitments like beds and baths. Could we rearrange this sequence and put them together all at the same time?

There are many ways we could have approached this problem. A well-facilitated brainstom using a technique such as SCAMPER or Similes would probably have thrown up this idea along with many others. We need lots of innovative ideas to solve today’s problems. The more different starting points we use, the more likely we are to generate winning ideas.

Paul Sloane
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Paul Sloane
Keynote Conference Speaker, Visiting Lecturer, Author
Subjects of Expertise: Lateral Thinking, Problem Analysis Skills, Innovation Leadership Skills
Featured Uplyrn Expert
Paul Sloane
Keynote Conference Speaker
Visiting Lecturer

Subjects of Expertise

Lateral Thinking
Problem Analysis Skills
Innovation Leadership Skills

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