‘Floor Plan Manual Housing’ 

Fifth, revised and expanded edition, Birkhäuser Publishers, Basel, October 2017 

(368 pages, 1580 Figures, available as English or German version, as soft- or hardcover or as E-book) 

Editors and authors: 

Oliver Heckmann
(editor-in-charge) Friederike Schneider,
with collaborator Eric Zapel for 5th edition 


The project section is preceded by introductory essays, whose various focal points provide the reader with knowledge on ways of reading of plans, historical developments, contemporary challenges and tendencies, circulation systems, apartment typology and morphological and organizational approaches to apartment designs.  


“The Sweetness of Functioning is Architecture: On the Use of Floor Plans”, Oliver Heckmann 

The introduction focuses on the various ways of reading floor plans in general, taking both reading and inhabiting plans as an act of analysis, interpretation and appropriation. The Floor Plan Manual Housing invites to read potential ways of living into the numerous examples it presents. The reader can peruse all the floor plans in this book, reading them simultaneously in a critical and curious, an analytical and imaginative manner.

A Chronicle of Developments in Housing’, O. Heckmann, with Eric Zapel

A graphical timeline has been chosen for an essay on historical developments on housing around the globe. This was based on questioning writings using the format of a continuous thread of text to line up historical precedents along one curated narrative. The chosen format along the succession of time allows the eye of the reader to flicker around to conceptualize one’s own narrative – between historical turning points and paradigm shifts, re-occurring issues like housing shortage, affordable housing, challenges of urbanization or the impact of exemplary projects and new building types.  <>

‘Challenges and Tendencies’, O. Heckmann 

In contrast to a review of the past the presence of contemporary housing is described in tendencies. What is discussed here are some of the most important challenges facing urban housing today, such as social segregation, shifting demographics, pressing urbanization and global migration. Concrete examples are offered as illustrations of potential design solutions. <>

‘The Path toward Access and Circulation’, O. Heckmann 

The essay on circulation system typologies describes the significance and potential of access space as social catalysts and analyses different access types. They cover how their organizational configuration and spatial hierarchies impact connectivity, how they facilitate encounter across its thresholds and interfaces, and how they manage to formulate sub-clusters of apartment units that are manageable and small enough to be conducive to the emergence of a neighbourhood. <>

‘The Floor Plan Idea’, Friederike Schneider 

The essay provides an analysis of built examples and suggests working with floor plan types as a design method. The typology of the apartment, the search for the idea that underlies the specific arrangement of its individual rooms and their relationship to one another is outlined.


‘A Graphic Approach to Floor Plan Design’, O. Heckmann 

The essay illustrates morphological and organizational methods to explore overarching criteria for the design of apartment layouts before confining them to an architectural form. Morphological means of studies are proposed to investigate spatial aspects, such as by polyvalent adjacency patterns, figure-ground compositions or structural approaches – before thinking of assigning functions. Floor plans are also proposed to be devised from abstract relational and organizational aspects, such as – as a convention -by function, but also by the ‘spatial integrity’ of plans as social matrices or by allocation of Nishizawa’s ‘six essential activities’. <>