Parasitic Architecture

“Today’s architecture and the mutation of cities must be built on existing heritage”.

Building on, under or out of existing structures, environmentally-friendly and financially a concept of  low budget, “parasitic architecture”, a new architectural language, gives an economical solution creating living space in urban areas short of space for new developments.

Parasitic solutions can be erected in a matter of hours onto the facades of buildings, as a way of creating complementary inhabitable spaces.


“The idea is working against the urban sprawl that kills our social links,” said Malka (Malka Architecture), in a statement. “It’s also a contemporary way to discover new perspectives of a city. We have accessed a new Paris above the horizon.”

Malka’s project, called 3BOX, takes advantage of a new city law allowing extensions to old buildings being renovated in Paris.

Steel, wood and glass boxes are quickly forged piece-by-piece in workshops before being bolted together on site and attached to their ‘host’ building.

“Parasitic architecture can be defined “as an adaptable, transient and  exploitive form of architecture that forces relationships with host  buildings in order to complete themselves.Parasitic  Architecture can be thought of as  a flexible and sometimes  temporary structure that feeds off the existing infrastructure and build  form. A parasite has to work with existing infrastructures and use them  to its own end but can also  be considered as an architectural  intervention that materializes and transforms the built form. A  parasitic construction redefines and reconfigures a built structure and  provides a new perspective or orientation to the public and potentially  offer a new space”.


French studio Stephane Malka Architecture will introduce a flower-filled green space to one of Paris’ most urbanised districts after winning a competition to masterplan a €5m (US$5.4m, £3.8m) landscaped garden.

The 1,500sq m (16,100sq ft) project, called OXyGen, will bring a colourful flower garden, open terraces and a number of new restaurants to Vignes in La Défense; the French capital’s business hub.

“Inspired by the tradition of the romantic gardens of the 19th century, we wish to recreate green areas while remaining contemporary,” said Stephane Malka. “We aim for a kind of vegetal version of Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens, with different varieties of greenery, but also large vegetated cavities of different sizes to invite people to shelter from the sun, rain and wind.”

Spread in a semi-circular shape over two levels, the gardens will act as a bridge covering the city’s highway. Grass rooftops and floors will cover the terraces, restaurants and open kiosks, camouflaging the architecture among the landscape.

The site’s buildings will be entirely prefabricated off-site to avoid noise and disruption to local residents, office workers and hotel guests.

“The masterplan carefully considers the user’s wellbeing and flow management,” said Malka. “The garden will be noticeable from the towers all around, like an invitation for people to visually discover a new sort of place and a landscape which is in constant evolution.

From Stefan Eberstadt the Rucksack House is a room that is suspended by steel cables designed to be attached to any existing facade(Credit: Claus Bach)

Is “parasitic Architecture” transforming placemaking in cities?

As simple as it may seem, profound changes will be needed.




This concept, from Panos Dragonas Christopoulou Architects, was designed to sit on top of an apartment block in Athens and act like a rustic tiny cabin akin to a rural retreat in an urban jungle.


In 1971 the French Architect Jean-Louis Chanéac installed a parasite bedroom on the facade of a regular modernist residential apartment block in Geneva, Switzerland. “Parasitic cells are volumetric inhabitable elements which are mass-produced by industry, or spontaneously built by individuals. They can be erected in a matter of hours onto the facades of buildings as a way of creating complementary inhabitable spaces is claimed on the website of the European Student Competitions for sustainable Architecture.


Parasite office – za bor architects –main facade at night



A parasite can be considered like an architectural  intervention that materializes and transforms the built form.

parasitic-architecture-39 (1)From Malka Architecture comes a concept called Pont9 New Bridge. Referred to as a micro-city, the design is modular, mounted on scaffolding, and intended to sit on top of other urban spaces such as footbridges.

lara calder

Lara Cardel Architects: The “parasite prefab” from the australian firm lara cardel architects have sent us in images of their latest project ‘the prefab parasite’. “The prefab parasite is to populate the unused space found in urban landscapes.  to achieve sustainable densification the dwelling attaches itself to a blank building fabric found in the city.  it grows on empty facades, rock faces and bridges. it finds value by turning dead public space into lively private space”.


The Green Exhibition House appeared in Rotterdam in 2001, designed as an experiment in assembling a prefabricated structure onto an existing building. In true parasitic fashion, the water pipes, sewage and electricity were all tapped from existing connections in the base building(Credit:Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten). photo: Anne-Bousema


Contrast a- a very prestigious old traditional building and a parasite of modern design

“The city presents an enigma to the citizen, which is held in place by the principal functionalism of its architecture. In the windows of a towerblock, in the empty lots of a multi-storey car park in the floodlit pointlessness of an empty tennis court on the roof of an office building there is a sense of mystery – a question without a plausible answer – which compounds the intense romanticism of the urban experience” – Michael Bracewell.


The Parasite office in Moscow from za bor architects utilizes the abandoned space between buildings to create a multistory office environment. The structure sits above the laneway between the buildings and resembles an organic growth seemingly joining up the two disparate buildings on either side(Credit: Peter Zaytsev)


Manifest Destiny, by artist Mark Reigelman, is a tiny cabin affixed to the side of a hotel in downtown San Francisco. Designed to envision the “romantic spirit of the Western myth”, this interesting structure positions itself as an compelling juxtaposition between the old and the new.


This installation, called Stealth Shelters, sits between public and private property suggesting an in-between liminal space where those without a home to go to could find a safe place at night(Credit: Malka Architecture)


 From architects Project Orange comes this fascinating extension on top of an old Victorian industrial brick building. The new black roof literally cuts through the original shell with the parasite completely overwhelming its host

parasitic-architecture-22 (1)

An elegant example of parasitic architecture this addition to a city building in Spain from Bailorull Architects is a clever way to stylishly expand the footprint of the structure in a thoroughly modern way(Credit: Landscapehall)

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 Haus-Rucker-Co, a design collective active in the 1960s and 1970s were known for a series of pneumatic structures that often popped out of pre-existing buildings. These parasitic outgrowths are often considered perfect early examples of the parasitic architecture movement. (Credit: MKG/Dennis Conrad)


A fascinating example of a figuratively explosive parasite from Studio Libeskind expanding out of the existing building. (Credit: Tony Hisgett)

The gloriously wonky design of architect Eric Owen Moss often bulges out of or sits on top of pre-existing structures suggesting a dynamic relationship with its host building.



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