Project name: ELAB 未来人居原型空间产品研发设计任务书
ELAB Future Living Prototype Space

Status: Delivered patent, design development

Program: Flexible housing units for urban dwellers in China

Total area: Type A – 97 sqm + 50 terrace; Type B – 77 sqm + 14 sqm terrace

Budget: confidential

Client: Shanghai Ding Zhuo Network Technology Co., Ltd – 上海定卓网络科技有限公司

Location: Shanghai, Beijing, Chongqing. China

Design: 2017/2018

Team: NAUTA architecture & research: Valentina Cella, Anastasia Celli, Maurizio Scarciglia, Francesca Vanelli, Tianyi Xue, Nur Zayat

The Max Transformer

Cities are becoming very big. Thy are so enormous that living in a metropolis means today living in a constellation of cities, where we might live in one and work in another, basing our lifestyle on traditional commuting patterns.

Cities are a good invention, many say. They bring together smart minds, they boost the economic power of a region, they generate opportunities. Cities cluster immense numbers of people in one single spot, emptying the countryside from its human power and micro economy. Nevertheless, everybody is attracted to the city and all trends predict massive growth in urban population, with an exponent need for sustainable housing, for new complex and extended family patterns.

Nowadays spend the biggest chuck of our existence in between production and consumption activities. We wake up in the morning and move to our office where we spend almost the whole day, till the time we grab some grocery and go back home to spend the few  left hours of the day with our beloved ones. This lifestyle has generated a vast opinion on the need to reduce our housing to minimum space, where we can satisfy the essential needs of privacy and rest, while externalizing all social activities outside, in a square, a bar, a restaurant, a club. Cities like Tokyo or Hong Kong are the perfect example of this lifestyle. Because of the insane costs for housing, here people can live into units as small as 15sqm, spending most of their time outside and reducing their belongings to the very essential.

These housing models offer very little space to kitchen and living, making sure that the inhabitants have the truly essential base for living: a shelter to rest and sleep. When looking at the latest trends though, we discover a multitude of lifestyles blossoming in our society. The evolution of the employment market, the switch from traditional long term employment to a more dynamic work environment, according to which youngsters are very encouraged to embrace entrepreneurial activities or multiple employment, consultancy and freelancing, are all factors that will deeply transform how we live.

It is not new the possibility to combine living and working in the same place, extending the brief of the architect when designing a house. Remote working and easy web communication make even more sustainable working at home, since people can drastically cut commuting time and maximize their time working and living in one place. This model brings as well the benefit of reinforcing so far threatened familiar relationships; it improves the quality of life of people otherwise forced to spend hours in public transport every day, while cutting the number of cars moving in our cities, thus reducing pollution.

So what will the future of urban dwelling look like? Will it shrink to minimum size living, or will it host all necessary spaces that a human being needs during the day? Will it externalize social activities or embed work and entertainment in one single place? Perhaps the answer to this doubt will translate in a system capable to absorb different wishes and therefore the housing market will gradually offer the flexibility to customize every dwelling according to the specific needs of its inhabitants.

From hyper fragmented dwellings we move to loft models, where the wishes of the buyer can potentially customize the same units into very different solutions. How to accommodate this flexibility, how to make it technologically smart, economically sustainable, are design tasks for the coming future. One more issue to consider is the multi-functionality of the residential clusters, in order to offer all necessary amenities to the local inhabitants. These functions space from office spaces to retail and entertainment facilities, such as shops, restaurants, gym, spa, as well as cultural venues, transforming the new real estate developments into complex leasable machines. The multi-functional developments can benefit from the flexible program, in order to absorb possible shifts of market and therefore become buffers for the developers’ investments. The mix of functions cuts as well on distances, favouring the sustainable mobility in the city. In this perspective, mixed use developments, combined with housing, are to be incentivized.

We could summarize the key arguments driving the future urban dwelling as being:

– exponential growth of urban population, which will increase the need of housing stock

– the transformation of familiar patterns, with a growing number of families composed by one or two persons.

– Climate change and the impact of fossil fuel will affect tremendously new lifestyles, drove by the urgency for new sustainable forms of transportation and mobility.

– The virtual world will blur the strict separation between working and living spaces, improving remote working.

– Dynamic lifestyles will transform the concept of property, favouring the concepts of ‘sharing’ and ‘temporary’. Emblematic is the case of Airbnb, Uber, Couch Surfing, apps that support the modern nomadic lifestyle.

– Housing prices in the city centres are growing exponentially worldwide. This will either bring to the exclusivity of city centres, accessible only to high social classes, or to the shrink of housing size.

In light of this, the new housing will bring to compact developments of micro apartments, developed within multifunctional clusters, micro cities within the metropolitan magma.

Suspended floor

This project is an exploration on flexibility, based of the internal height of the apartment. The requested prototype should have an internal height of  3.0 m. This makes us think that, beside working on traditional sliding walls, we could take advantage of extra space located under an added floating floor.

We provide the dwelling with a suspended, partially movable floor, that in its normal position is lifted 60 cm from the actual structural floor, reducing the standard internal height to 2.40m . When the portions of movable floor are lowered, the dwelling presents internal pits, reaching 3.0 m height. The hollow space below the suspended floor accommodates beds, couches, chairs, provided with wheels for their easy manual sliding.

This system offers the the maximal flexibility when the floor is lifted and all furniture are stored underground. We propose three pits that can be used as 3 bedrooms or 2 bedrooms and one living room. In order to divide the spaces into private rooms, we engineered a system of sliding/rotating closets that can parcel the spaces, while lodging closets, TV, as well as the necessary sound proof partitions between rooms.

To materialize the prototype the market offers sophisticated hydraulic movable systems, as well as simple pulling-ropes systems, adapting to the different budgets from the investors purchasing the patent. Combined with a completely foldable glass façade, the plan allows the maximal flexibility of the apartment, offering an internal open space of approximately 80 sqm. This can additionally be summed to the terrace, reaching a total open space of approximately 130 sqm. Our goal is to offer the possibility to have simultaneously the maximal open space, as well as a normal 3 rooms apartment with kitchen and two bathrooms. Kitchen and bathrooms are packed on one side of the apartment, providing space for all movable furniture in a unique efficient block. The open corner of the flat offers a perfect location for a panoramic Jacuzzi bathtub that in the summer can offer an open air spa experience.







如果我们去观察在大城市中人们的生活方式,当今我们在生产和消费中所花费的是最多的。每天早晨去公司上班,花几乎整天的时间在办公室,下班后去超市买点市场所需,花费很少的时间与我们的家人在一起。这样的生活方式产生了一个广泛的选择是在满足基本室内空间需求和休息隐秘的情况下,将我们的居住面积竟可能的减小。提高室外的社交活动如:广场 酒吧 餐厅,夜店等









如果我们去观察在大城市中人们的生活方式,当今我们在生产和消费中所花费的是最多的。每天早晨去公司上班,花几乎整天的时间在办公室,下班后去超市买日常所需,花费很少的时间与我们的家人在一起。这样的生活方式产生了一个新的的选择是:在满足基本室内空间需求和休息隐秘的情况下,将我们的居住面积竟可能的减小。提高室外的社交活动如:广场 酒吧 餐厅,夜店等。









  • 城市人口的增长将增加住房所需
  • 家庭模式的变化,一人或丁克的家庭数量增长
  • 气候变化和燃料大量使用影响新生活方式,需要走向新的可持续发展的交通方式和流动性。
  • 网络 世界也会影响生活方式,工作和生活空间没有明显界限和提高了家中工作方式
  • 动态的生活方式将改变购买住房的概念,支持共享和临时的概念。具有代表性的应用程序都支持现代流动的新生活方式
  • 城市中心的房价的增长使城市中心具有排他性,非常高的社会阶层的人,或选择住房小尺寸来满足城市中心居住的可能。




  • 城市人口的增长将增加住房所需
  • 家庭模式的变化,一人或丁克的家庭数量增长
  • 气候变化和燃料大量使用影响新生活方式,需要走向新的可持续发展的交通方式和流动性。
  • 网络世界也会影响生活方式,工作和生活空间没有明显界限,家中工作方式将提高。
  • 动态的生活方式将改变购买住房的概念,支持共享和临时性。具有代表性的Airbnb, Couch surfing,应用程序都支持现代流动的新生活方式
  • 城市中心的房价的增长使城市中心具有排他性,高的社会阶层的人,或选择住房小尺寸来满足城市中心居住的可能。





Program: Spatial and economic regeneration of the New York State canal system, comprised of the Erie Canal, the Oswego Canal, the Cayuga-Seneca Canal and the Champlain Canal.

Size: 524-mile water network

Budget: N/A

Client: New York State, Canal Corporation 

Location: New York State, USA

Design: 2017-2018

Team: NAUTA architecture & research, ARCADIS New York, New York University, HZ University Vlissingen (NL)


As a first stage of the competition, publicly available data have been collected to gather a broad understanding existing conditions along the Canal. The collected data includes: infrastructure, existing paths and trails, harbors and ports, population, ecological networks, locations of touristic activities and energy resources. A Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats analysis (SWOT) was carried out to identify areas of opportunity. Some of the findings include an abundance of spaces for tourism and recreational activities, an initiated shift towards renewable energies and a fair national and local infrastructure. The project goals can be accomplished by building upon these strengths and opportunities, as well as mitigation or preventive actions can be undertaken by analyzing threats and weaknesses.

During the implementation phase, additional information will be collected such as land use, flood risk maps, topography, surplus properties, historical sites, ecological networks, existing paths and trails. This information will be layered in an interactive map which will be used as a tool that helps in decision-making. The data will be consolidated in an opportunity index along the Canal, generated upon diverse characteristics and assets along it. Specific areas of opportunity for development and project implementation will be identified and carefully evaluated through this methodology.

Through mapping problems and opportunities, our analytical methodology allows us to proceed identifying focused areas of interventions, in which multiple phenomena occur simultaneously or singularly, making clear which actions could better enhance the specific local condition. This operation allows as well to control both scales, regional and local, in order to address different solutions and allocate them into proper planning instruments (whether regional or local). This process results into Macro and Micro strategies along the Canal, in order to achieve the project’s goals on long and short terms. Each strategy  is described below as they relate to the project goals.

Promoting the Canal System as a tourist destination and recreational asset

Bringing people to the waterfront.  New ways of interacting with the river can be implemented by taking advantage of existing conditions of the Canal. Specific examples include densifying along the river edge with sustainable and well-proportioned residential and commercial developments. Nature trails will be completed to allow for recreational activities along the Canal. Increasing access points to the Canal will promote its use for aquatic activities. The development of infrastructure can include parks and outdoor theaters providing spaces to interact and engage in leisure activities. The new developments and infrastructure along the river shall observe impacts to current topography, nature, flood risk, storm water re-directioning, etc. to ensure a long-term project life cycle. Focus of the tourism strategy will be the careful monitoring and avoidance of negative gentrification and the promotion of a healthy commercial development based on the real resources along the canal. This implies a continuous cooperation with locals and a constant evaluation of positive and negative effects of each change, with the purpose of promoting and informing wise investments.

Promoting the heritage and historic values of the Canal System

Efficient decision making through community engagement. To abide by the interests of different jurisdictions administrating the same area and the combination of national, county and local governance, a participated planning process will be implemented. It will be focused on inclusive involvement and active communication on all steps. Including all governances and collaborating with historians, will allow the development projects to be aligned to the historic values, preserve and promote the heritage of the Canal System. Participated planning and inclusive design help to ease decision making, informing all political, social and commercial parties involved. It preserves transparency in the process, budget control; it enhances team work and facilitates proactivity in the implementation of smaller projects. It helps as well to reduce the governance complexity by promoting self-initiated projects and low budget implementations, either for the long term or for provisionary actions. It is proved from international examples that participated design is worldwide becoming a practical tool to make things happen, avoiding bottleneck effects in decision making.

Other aspect to address concerning heritage preservation, is related to the rich stock of vacant buildings along the canal, most of which presenting relevant industrial quality. This becomes an important opportunity to preserve historical values, as well as reducing building costs by retrofitting and reuse operations. The volume of this phenomena is important enough to become a real chapter of our strategic framework, because it implies as well a requalification of very decadent public spaces.

Promoting the long-term financial sustainability of the Canal System and sustainable economic development along the canals and beyond

Shift to a circular economy. By promoting local engagement and employment in the cultural, tourism, agriculture, commercial markets. This strategy encourages the inclusion of the most socially fragile layer of the community, unemployed or in complex familiar situations. Promoting local employment contributes to fostering social health, wellbeing and safety. 

Enhance residential densification. Urbanization and densification are positive actions for a sustainable development, when density is adapted to the real local conditions. This means that, in order to pursue a sustainable development, it is necessary to spill program on the canal, as well as adding a reasonable stock of residential opportunities (living, lodging, health assistance, student residences), that can improve the human frequentation of the spaces, their social control, safety and livability. Specific areas will be identified where the natural context and the presence of human settlements coexist in a healthy balance. (It means that keeping communities too small is not sustainable for a long term development. It is proved that all world populations are attracted by metropolitan areas, for all the opportunities that they offer, for work, culture and lifestyle. This means that promoting a rural model is a failure and that in order to promote a sustainable long term realistic economic development of the region, it is necessary to transform the current fragile pattern of shrinking centers into a constellation of micro cities, possibly complementary in economic specialty. This is associated with a sustainable mobility system that allows those cities to work as a metropolitan network. This concept is quite wide and complex, I am aware of that, but it is key to solve any contemporary urban development. Therefore we need to explain this with practical reference to the actions to promote it, such as the addition of new inhabitants and work opportunities that can bring a reasonable demographic volume for a long term economic success and avoid possible future migrations). 

Enhance sustainable mobility

Complete the network of all mobility layers by adding a soft layer of sustainable mobility (bikes, walking paths, electric mobility, bus or shuttle etc.). Integrated to this, implement a sustainable temporary strategy for parking areas/buildings, leading to the progressive elimination of cars and switch to a TOD (traffic oriented development) on the long term. Parking facilities will be progressively transformed to new uses.

Promote the culture of waste recycling in all scales and forms. Waste is proved not only to enhance the culture of environmental preservation (global warming fight and all related matters) but most importantly to activate an upcycle of economic development that can generate new entrepreneurial opportunities and technological innovations. It is a true opportunity for economic differentiation and growth. (Waste is not only meant anymore in the conventional cycle of lower use – from paper to toilet paper for example- but in a new cycle that generates higher quality products. Think for instance about the Nike shoes produced with plastic bags found in the ocean and similar cases. This is a true future economic field of investment and leadership.


Masterplan New Urban Centre

Program: multifunctional 

Total NUC area: 18,9 Ha

Total built area: 146274 m2

Exposition center

Program: cultural building with 6 events/exhibition halls, flexible to be combines into one auditorium of 1200 seats.

Land plot area: 5,502 m2;

Total Floor  Area: 9674 m2 (excluding underground parking);

budget: N/A

Client: Municipality of Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Location: Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria

Design: 2018


The proposal for the new city center of Veliko Tarnovo finds its foundations on a balanced density, proportioned to the existing city center. By analyzing the center of the city and the surrounding districts, Veliko presents the urban fabric of a medium size town, which does have the ambition to find a role in the national and international market but that preserves its authenticity in a powerful relationship with nature and history. 

The new city center, rather than aiming at a metropolitan scale, follows density and scale of the existing center, with some picks of modernity added through contemporary architecture and few landmarks. The multi-functionality proposed in every portion of the masterplan is achieved by mixing uses within every building block, as well as carefully curating a system of public spaces that will allow a 24/7 frequentation of the center. 

The plan is based on the application of sustainable forms of energy, smart mobility, resources saving and circular economy. Veliko will be too a pioneer city in fighting climate change, preserving the environment for its own community. 


The masterplan is characterized by an homogeneous mixed use distribution, with a vast use of vertical mixed functions. This strategy wills to facilitate the human frequentation of the public space all the time, fighting periodic building vacancy. It increases the participation of private and public stakeholders in the development of the different blocks.

The districts are designed with a functional predominance, from north to south, from administrative-commercial to residential-commercial, till the southern cluster dedicated to the hotel-wellness center. The residential stock is distributed in every district, adapting typologies: in the north, lofts and apartments will fit the work-commercial environment. In the south terrace-apartments and family houses will define a living district with a more domestic character. The abundance of green-permeable areas improves the bio-climatic performance of the masterplan and facilitates rain water collection and discharge. The use of water collectors and wind corridors contributes to fight the Urban Heat Island effect.


When comparing the maximal density allowed by the brief (FAR 3) and the maximal m2 allowed, with the requested built up area, we believe that such a density would not be appropriate for a city like Veliko. Aware of the needs for new services and functions to support the whole city, we propose a FAR of 1.9, giving maximal precedence to residential and productive functions. We believe that a city, to be sustainable on the long term, needs primarily enough residents, who will guarantee its economic growth and stable wealth. This is why we propose to realize the maximal residential and administrative program, rebalancing the other functions to achieve a lower density. 


Beside preserving the existing buffer green along the river, we propose to create a network of green and open spaces that crosses the whole masterplan and that allows every district to benefit of a constant relationship with nature. The connection with the surrounding green system (including the Marno Pole) is granted by boulevards, alleys, gardens and parks. The almost 70% of permeable surface is achieved by the extensive use of green roofs, that together with the public green will grant optimal climatic conditions throughout the year. Sun energy and rain water storages will contribute to enhance the sustainable performance of the district. 


The masterplan provides enough underground parking areas to cover the need for local workers, tourists and residents. This is achieved by splitting the parking system on a peripheral network that will work as transfer hub, forcing everybody (including residents) to leave their car before accessing the very core of the masterplan. This leaves the vehicles traffic within the central area only reserved to logistics and emergency, making the heart of the city center focused on pedestrians and bicycles. We envisage a system that can easily absorb the future innovations in the fields of sustainable urban mobility. 



The development is articulated is such a way that every phase of realization can offer functions and interventions useful to activate the area since the beginning. This means that every phase offers a mix of functions that wills to make each realized portion autonomous from the rest of the masterplan. Given the fact that the functional distribution in the proposal is quite homogeneous, the masterplan will never suffer mono-functionality, thus allowing the frequentation of the realized public spaces at all times. The administrative district (including its residential stock) will start up the process, favoring the private-public participation. Similarly, every phase is inclusive of green and public space portions, as well as commercial and leisure activities.


The area designated for the Expo Centre is very limited, making necessary to compose the building as a compact and efficient machine. The terrain slope between south and north side of the plot, requires attention on how to solve technically and functionally the site depression. For this reason we imagine a centric system in which the main hall becomes the starting point of the Floor plan. 

The T shaped halls host spaces for different performances and events: a cinema, a black box/podium, a theatre with possible orchestra pit, an auditorium and 2 exhibition halls. All these spaces can benefit of the site height difference, being supported by a lower efficient system of logistic and parking areas. In fact, the lower levels provide a dedicated logistic entrance from east, the access to the basement of the podium/stage, as well as all support and technical spaces below the theatres, making the centralized position of the podium accessible from every side. A system of sliding walls allows the partial or unified use of the spaces, transforming the center into a forum capable to host up to a maximum of 1725 seats (when even exhibition halls are integrated to the auditoria), 1220 seats with the three auditoria united, as well as 6 separate rooms. The center can thus host concerts, musicals, theatre pieces, cinema, music events, fashion catwalks, commercial fairs. The terrain slope allows to concentrate 3 underground parking levels with a total 210 parking places only within the building boundary. For this reason we free the north side of the building from additional parking use, maximizing the green surface and giving back this public space to the adjacent north district.


The west side of the building, facing the VTU, hosts the main lobby, perfect arrival from the city as well as the from NUC. The south side offers an additional public entrance under the cinema hall, making it suitable to welcome the visitors if the central hall would be used as exhibition space or temporarily closed. This entrance reconnects to the main hall, which is split on two levels.

The roof of the hall hosts a semi covered square and an auditorium suitable for open air events during spring and summer. At the north side, a volume separates this space from the city center, defining a urban living room. The north volume hosts café-restaurant, as well as administration, rehearsal rooms and a roof exhibition/lounge, which offers a spectacular view towards the historical center of Veliko. The truss roof structure is used as lighting and sound system for the open air events, duplicating the capacity of the lower covered hall, while defining an iconic hollow space, visible from the city center, establishing a dialog with the rest of the urban fabric.


Restricted Competition


Program: Parking hub, public park and amenities

Total area: 8.4 Ha

Budget: 5,2M €

Client: ADER

Location: Fez, Morocco

Design: 2017/2018

Team: NAUTA architecture & research + Cabinet d’ Architecture et de Design Najiba el Alami Malti

How can we design a parking area capable to be transformed in time, adapting to the future of urban mobility, in which cars will be banned, especially from historical contexts? How can we dignify such an important part of the urban landscape, while supplying a necessary facility to support the access to the Medina and improve the local mobility? How can we design a car centered space, while focusing on sustainable principles that can enhance the environmental quality of the city?

Based on these questions, we thought of a rational structure of parking lots as a structuring pattern for both, the design of the parking, as well as the adjacent park. The area will be very visible from the upper hill of the Medina, making it an important visual scenario from the historical center. This makes its perception very important and delicate.
We structure a pattern of funnel shaped canopies, based on the use of two modules. The canopies contribute to shade the parking lots, especially during the warm seasons. At the same time, being distributed on different terraces, they articulate a sculptural landscape. The canopies, as well as the parking lots, are distributed following a color code according to each parking sector, facilitating the orientation. The tridimensional landscape is integrated to the design of the landscape: the patterns of the canopies and of the trees dissolve into each other, connecting artificial and natural landscape in a unique composition. From the upper Medina, the colorful area assumes the visual power of a land-art composition, where nature and technology create a powerful visual symbol, memory of local traditions, such as the ceramics and the leather tannery.
The canopies are as well integral part of the sustainability strategy; The funnel shape contributes to canalize the rain water into underground collectors, which are connected following the inclination of the terraces. The topography helps to canalize the water to the lower site, where tanks redistribute the water to the park and use it for gardening and public toilets. The flow of water between terraces contributes as well to lower the temperature of the spaces under the canopies during warm seasons, working as a natural cooling system.
Every canopy is equipped with a solar panel, capable to supply energy to the led lights illuminating the canopy; Every canopy becomes energetically autonomous, reducing maintenance costs and promoting a sustainable model to run the parking.
Fez tradition of Andalusian influence is the base of the park design. Following the linearity of the parking terraces and the regular pattern of the canopies, we create a unique composition between parking and green area, echoing the Andalusian influence. The resulting composition makes nature and artifice a unique gesture, broken by the irregular geometry of the archeological ruins crossing the site.
The project envisages a parking complex capable of adapting in time to the new mobility innovations. This is the key starting point to design a space that can host in time different social and commercial functions. For this reason we imagine the linear structure of the parking terraces as capable to host a market or public spaces, a sort of contemporary Medina that can extend the program of the Fes El Bali.