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Between Parasites and the City

Affordable housing units from the voids   urban.

This research project investigates the issue of affordable housing risk and how the increase in the population of cities generates a greater gap between the demand for affordable housing and the financing of municipalities. The hypothesis is that cities will need new flexible, sustainable and programmatic solutions for the new housing models they develop. This is where parasitic architecture could act as a viable solution due to its nature of being a flexible and sustainable option. In addition, the project offers a computational design tool from which city councils can choose host buildings for their parasites based on a variety of parameters that they can customize for their particular situation.

Using Barcelona as the subject city, and more specifically the Sant Marti district and 28 blocks within Sant Marti, maps and metrics are displayed to develop an “Affordability Index” to study how well the area is performing in terms of affordability. The index shows that it is a good location for such a project, as the district scores low compared to other districts in Barcelona.


In addition, a parasitic future of these 28 blocks is foreseen, taking advantage of the computational design tool, demonstrating key population and economic metrics that would improve with a project of this type. Finally, the research dives into other impact scenarios to develop a kind of network between the parasites and the surrounding buildings. These networks focus on how citizens can integrate within the neighborhood, which research shows is the key ingredient in driving real change with such an affordable housing model.

Affordable housing is proposed for various economic strata, but, being in the 22 @ district, the main user will be those employees or students who cannot afford an apartment near the institutions where they work or study. A public-private model that bases its management model on responsibilities and benefits for the different actors, which are defined below:

  • The user receives the conditions and the satisfaction of basic services for a home. It is close to your places of interest and work. Payment is made by the contracting institution, the user, or compensation can be given by working inside the building.

  • The tenant must adapt their common spaces to opt for a rental module. Receive 60% of the rental payment and receive a tax reduction

  • Private companies and institutions are those that request the modules from the municipality. They cost the leases of their users and in turn optimize their performance by having their users within a radius of a few meters.

  • The municipality provides temporary housing in established sectors, generates regulations for the control of construction and habitability. In turn, it provides a platform where the user can request their home.


A series of photomontages was made where all the concepts applied to the territory are shown, in this case the 28 blocks of the Sant Martí district. A reflection of how the intervention works and achieves the different objectives, however, the different images also serve to detect errors and future needs that the project must evaluate for its application.

Parasitic architecture can be adapted to different contexts, therefore, to apply the project to a territory in a real way, measure the impact and justify its implementation, a computational design model was implemented that analyzes a series of site parameters and allows the user generate the amount of parasites required by visualizing their impact on the urban fabric. After the data collection process, we used various tools to achieve the parasitic dwelling simulation. The first step was to visualize the construction typologies through a script in the Grasshopper program, connecting the cadastral data set with the 3D blocks in Rhino. This helps us better understand the landscape of the site area, especially if the project adds more housing typology in an industrial area. Agglomeration was simulated using the Wasp plugin in Grasshopper to create a modular aggregation of so-called parasitic dwellings. Then we created a set of rules for the module to adjust to certain scenarios and generate the desired impact.

Cities are organisms that live and breathe, so impact was not thought of as a simple cause-and-effect optimization relationship. As a conclusion, two scenarios are proposed where the project can be implemented: The first is the work practices programs where the tenants of parasitic homes would take advantage of the 22 @ innovation district and connect to the vibrant innovation culture, because according to the open data of In the city, more than 80% of employees live at least 40 minutes from the district today. Another scenario is the use of parasites not only for housing but also as common places or collaborative work. By painting these scenarios, it is implied that the demand for affordable housing will only decrease as the quality of its integration within the urban fabric increases.


Ultimately, the characteristics that will make a neighborhood live and function well will come from architectural and urban design, but will be based on rigorous data-driven analysis.

Between Parasites and the City_Portada.j

It is a project of IAAC, Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia.

Master in City and Technology, MACT 2019-2020.

Students: Byron Cadena, Aryo Dhaneswara, Andrew Saltzman.

Teachers: Areti Markopoulou, ALex Mademochoritis and Iacopo Neri.

Place: Barcelona, ​​Spain

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