Spectra’s block system was designed to support spatial variety with a modular and affordable kit of parts.
The foundational unit of Spectra’s spatial and social structure is the block. Inspired by successful patterns of low-rise density such as Barcelona’s grid system, the Spectra block responds to the challenge of designing an affordable, modular system that can be a supportive lattice for seeding spatial variety. To arrive at the current block system, the team conducted research to find a sweet spot for block size that would work both spatially–in terms of the setbacks on the terraces and size of the courtyard– and also as a scale for decision-making and local governance.
Corners and Connectors
Blocks are composed of only two main building types: corners and connectors. They contain homes for up to 500 residents or 80 families, who share decision-making power over how the modular system is deployed for their block. Being a resident of the block comes with both voting power and profit share from the outcomes of these decisions. One decision blocks can make is to drop one of their corner buildings to create a public plaza at an intersection. They can also choose whether to connect to other blocks with bridges from their second level and rooftop spaces. Through Spectra’s cooperative governance layers, the kit of parts that forms the block system can generate a fair amount of spatial variety even before introducing interruptions to the grid system.
The current designs assume a hot and humid subtropical climate. Almost all of the block’s apartments have facades on two sides for ventilation and passive cooling. The team researched urban areas with similar conditions and noticed that in summer temperatures, public streetlife would often move entirely into shaded areas. This translated into the open and adaptable ground floor concept: an attempt to maximize the amount of completely open, shaded public space where street life can flourish even in hot and humid conditions.