Chiara Del Core 14 jun 2021 Articles 1 comment

Housing: a mix of tradition and innovation

Residential design is a complex discipline and full of aspects to consider, however this article aims to provide a brief guide that can outline the key concepts of this specific sector. In fact, it is good to make a subdivision of the different types of housing and the characteristics that determine their characteristics and physical conformation. Below we will see how the introduction of the type, and the forms and functions related to it, over the years has influenced and defined the residential models that still affect urban and extra-urban scenarios today. The consequence of this aspect is represented by the diffusion of specific housing schemes in constant transformation. In fact, today often different construction systems are mixed to form mixed residences aimed at responding to the ever-changing needs of a vast and differentiated catchment area.

Salient characters

The first aspect to consider concerns the class to which the building type under analysis belongs, namely that of permanent residential construction. The latter includes two macro categories: single-family residences and multi-family residences which are characterized by different types of building structures.

The physical conformation of each individual building is determined by numerous factors such as the density that must be obtained and compliance with urban planning constraints, the relationship that one wants to establish with the context, the socio-economic aspects, respect for the environment and the exploitation of resources present in nature. In fact, all the elements mentioned will determine the appearance and characteristics of the housing units and the access and connection components between the parts.

Furthermore, the correct organization of the distribution spaces and apartments will maximize the clarity of the routes and restore to the inhabitants that sense of belonging to the places, today too often lost. Depending on the type of building, the relationship between roommates and that between inhabitants and the surrounding environment will change.
For example, in the case of multi-storey buildings, the only spaces to create an opportunity for meeting will be the stairwells and elevators, while in homes with distributive balconies or galleries, the meeting and exchange will take place more frequently. In fact, the routes at high altitude, in addition to representing a characteristic constructive element, will favor socialization between co-inhabitants. This last aspect will be carefully analyzed as it is decisive not only to foster the relationship between condominiums, but also to ensure their safety and security.

Brief analysis of housing types

The most common residences on the Italian territory are divided into three main categories and they are closely linked to the type of final user they will host: these are single-family, multi-family and collective residences.


As can be seen from the name, this type of house is designed to house a single family unit. Usually these are villas with two or more floors, equipped with an appurtenant area in front, intended for greenery. This construction can be placed on the lot independently or grouped. In the first case we are talking about an isolated building, which is spread over several floors and includes a basement or basement level that can accommodate taverns, garages or gymnasiums. This is an optimal solution when there is a low building density.

Example of a detached house with a large appurtenant green area

As for the grouped houses, they represent independent but contiguously positioned units. This typology includes double houses, side by side and superimposed ones. The paired houses consist of two independent but adjacent cells, which share a single perimeter wall; the terraced houses are characterized by independent entrances and by two walls shared between several adjacent cells. Finally, the superimposed houses are characterized by two independent housing units which can be accessed on the ground floor and via an external staircase to reach the upper levels.

It is therefore clear how building design can provide for the aggregation of individual cells and is able to generate housing systems that vary in conformation and building capacity.


Unlike single-family homes, this type of residence is intended for several families.
These are buildings of larger dimensions, the surface of which is divided into multiple housing units which can be accessed via paths and special distribution elements. Sometimes, the building complexes are equipped with indoor or outdoor common areas, intended for recreational and service activities, in order to encourage socialization between condominiums.

Within the current urban scenarios, multi-family residences are the most common as they meet the needs of high housing density at low cost. These residential types can be organized according to different systems, generating buildings with horizontal, vertical development, with overhangs and terraces or with common accesses along the balconies.

Let's now see the main types:

Building with in-line typology

These are multi-storey buildings with a variable number of apartments distributed on each level.
The most common solution sees two for each stair block. Originating from the multiplication of standard modules, the in-line building is often placed side by side with others with the same conformation, giving rise to complexes with variegated shapes. Examples are court, slat and corner systems.
To view and download various examples of houses online in dwg format click here
Cover image is licensed from: / Artist's: phelle.
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Multi-storey building 02


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