To envision a role of architecture in shaping a complex relation between living and working in 2050 is a process of speculation. According to the majority of the scientific community one of the biggest challenges of humanity in the next thirty years will be stopping climate change. At the same time, the gap between the rich and poor is at its highest level in decades and it grows more and more after each economic crisis. The architectural discourse has not yet addressed these contemporary issues, due to the general conservative approach of the industry and its slow pace to adapt to new scenarios. The consequences of this no action is a housing stock which has not evolved in years, it lacks affordable solutions and hardly allows a coexistence of living and working, as many people found out when they were suddenly obliged to spend weeks at home during the Covid-19 pandemic.
There are large groups in the current society which recognise the danger of maintaining the status quo and they are experimenting with solutions, also taken from the past. These individuals attempt to develop an alternative lifestyle and they are the true pioneers of urban change.
These people decide to start living together.
Young families move together to help each other grow up kids without the help of grandparents which don’t live anymore nearby. Young entrepreneurs share living/working spaces as the only way to afford an accommodation close to always changing job opportunities. Elderly people get tired of being alone in their best years and share spaces where they finally realize the dreams of their lives.
Living together is a peaceful revolution in a society marching into loneliness and digital reality. The new created groups are not represented neither in the political system, nor in the property market and therefore in the architectural discourse.
It is for these groups we propose our project. With a hope that seeing different ways of organising your life are possible will inspire larger groups to pursue a more meaningful life for themselves.
The main objective of the project is creation of a network of working gardens. They are places where people gather to live and work, feeling connected to the community they create around themselves and create meaning through the work they do.
Even though the campuses have elements which allow them to become partially self-sustaining, they are thought of as nods in a bigger network. Their inhabitants engage in the local, national and international networks of production and distribution. Most importantly, they are embedded in a circular economy, based on the idea of repairing used products and upcycling waste from industrial and construction processes. As such, inhabitants create products, services and building components which have small carbon footprint.
During this process, vast amounts of knowledge is generated and can be shared, creating an economical boost and facilitating sustainable development, but also contributing to creation of new communities gathered around knowledge sharing.
Each campus is equipped with different devices to produce energy and they are connected to a smart electric grid, allowing them to exchange energy with neighbouring buildings. Lastly, each campus will include a productive landscape to cover at least part of the food demand of the campus community. The remaining demand is met as a result of direct relation between the inhabitants of the campus and local farmers from the green heart, a large area of agricultural land located in the centre of Randstad.
4 exemplary locations
We propose four different types of innovative living-hybrids: Innovation hub, community exchange, family community and knowledge hub. They are based on the existing trends of the sharing economy and communal building projects. Each typology is designed to serve different groups whose needs are not met in the current housing market and society in general. Each project is made of 4 elements: housing, production (material and immaterial), productive landscapes and spaces especially dedicated to well being and communal activities - confetti. For each of the hybrids we selected a specific location. The locations were selected based on two main criteria: suitability for the programme and target group and providing diversity of housing. Selected locations exemplify a variety of the external conditions in which office parks are located. The selection exemplifies proximity to different sub centres: Rotterdam, Utrecht, Almere and Schipol, each location presenting unique characteristics.
We never considered ourselves eco hippies or anything like that. We used to live in Amsterdam before, and we loved it there. It's just that there was this pressure. It's hard to put a finger on it, it grows on you slowly. Maybe it's that you just get used to the "good stuff" quickly. Anyway before we knew it we were working crazy hours to pay for lots of stuff we didn't really need. Just to get something brand new, to eat at good restaurants etc, and you work hard for it. If you work so hard, you deserve a reward, right? The realisation came when our younger son started coming back to school crying. Some kids bullied him because he has an older phone. May sound stupid but it made us realise something was wrong. We were really lucky to get a spot in the Almere campus. Now we share a large living room with glazed roof and vertical farms with several families. It feels almost like living with a large family, or a village as we share a lot of ideas and do a lot together. Things like maintaining the campus, trips, homeschooling but also economic projects.
The campus arrangement is quite peculiar, I think it helps to create these bounds. Individual houses can open up to the shared part and all the kids spend time together, both in the living room and in three different gardens. As a photographer, I work in the shared workshop, below the house with several other people from the campus. Most of us are freelancers: artists, designers, programmers. We can share the cost of the studio and we all got access to tools and machines we could never afford. I also made a lot of contacts here. We exchange knowledge, skills and clients and as most of us have a fluctuating workload we can help each other out from time to time. With the whole front facade being a large solar panel we cover most of our energy demand. On a sunny day we can even provide some surplus to our neighbours. We converted parking areas in between the buildings into small farms. We are ten minutes walking form the central station so few shared cars is more than enough. It requires keeping a tight schedule, but you get to open your window every morning, being a few minutes from the centre of Amsterdam and see kids playing in the wheat field. What a surreal and inspiring feeling.
Today I woke up early, I shouldn't have stayed for the whole movie marathon but I was really curious. The movie night group always organises great events, not only cool movies but also great talks, explaining the context etc. There is so much going on in the campus it's hard to catch up. Leaving my room I see there are already some housemates in the living room, someone set the coffee pot, thank you secret hero! Eating breakfast I am listening to the discussions at the table, it's political, as usual. I am not very aware of the situation, I try to follow the news but it seems almost too abstract, I prefer to engage here in the campus. The lecture starts in few minutes so i head to the lecture hall. I have some time, so on the way I check the tomatoes I planted in our courtyard. The rain water collection helps a lot, few years ago half of the vegetables died in the drought. Quite ironic, if you consider the effort to keep the country dry while the sea level is rising. After the first lecture the day unfolds with a mix of activities assigned to different courses I selected for this quarter. Most classes are focused on sustainable technologies. Theoretical background is explained in one of the lecture room in the edge of the campus. I go below the lecture and study rooms, to the workshops where all the practical courses are given. We are working on the prototype of an integrated system of shading with solar panels. If we manage to propose interesting solutions they will be tested and used in the campus. These are my favourite classes, it provides lots of satisfaction to see something you worked on in use. On top of that, this week some workshops are rented to people from wind energy research company, from outside of the campus, so i go to take a glimpse into their work. The lady overseeing the prototype is friendly and the project seems really interesting so I ask her to give a presentation to the students in the campus. It's so easy to organise an event here, the whole infrastructure is just there to be used.
Dinner time is my favourite time of the day, normally We eat in the living room but today is the birthday of my housemate, so we decided to make a barbecue on the roof. We prepared the vegetables and fruits we made here in the campus, somehow they taste so much better! Everyone in our friend group has a different speciality, making treats and being sure our food is good for long so we have fermented sauces, jams, salted and dried products. Two of the guys picked up beer making lately, so I hope we will try some tonight as well. The evening goes well into night and looking at the sunset from the roof terrace I wish I could keep living here forever.
It's a busy period at the moment, well now that I think about it, it's always busy. You gotta put in the hours if you want to be competitive. Let's do a walking meeting, if you don't mind. I try to do walking meetings as much as possible these days, all this sitting is killing you. I start my day in one of the rooms here in the campus, most of our small team live here actually. It's really convenient and we get to know each other in a very different way. My room is small, austere you could say, but i like it this way, less distractions. Even here I have a hard time focusing - I think we try to do too many things at the same time, you know what I mean? In the morning i dont have much time so I usually just grab one of these liquid meals and I can get on the work floor. I hear that robots make the meals from all the plants in the vertical farm. They are definitely not the best chefs but it keeps me going! When I enter the work floor I start to feel the rush. I must say, there is something about this place! You just feel the energy and for me it is consuming. I spend the whole day on the floor, typically a long one as well. I consider this time as an investment, and seeing how everyday we are closer to releasing a new energy management app, makes me feel it's worth it. When I get too much on my mind I go to one of the capsules, attached to the vertical farms. There is a sauna, gym and meditation pad. You gotta take care of the body if you want to use the mind. Some days we cook dinners together, with housemates from my floor. We get along quite well together, definitely better than the guys upstairs, I have a friend who lives there and I hear the vibe is unbearable. I think this way of living is not for everyone. Sometimes in the evening I go on a bike ride just outside of the campus. I like to wait until the sunset and the lamps in the vertical farms turn on. The whole campus is lit like a lantern. Even though it might sound strange, it feels like going back home somehow.
When my retirement age was extended for the third time i was devastated. I thought I would literally die looking at lines of code. I remember in my mind imagining cleaning bot finding my dead body on the keyboard. One day something just clicked and i could not do this anymore, day in, day out, just numbers which don't have any meaning to anyone. I hated that job and yet feared to be fired for years. Who would hire a guy a few years away from retirement? And then out of nowhere I came across a group of people online, trying to build this house and the idea spoke to me. Before I knew it, we found enough people to buy the first building and because most people stopped "going to the office" finding an empty and cheap building was easy. Beginnings were tough. We were occupying one building quickly transformed by dividing it in homes and adding a gallery. We were used to a different life and sharing a living room with people you met not long ago, was something I sure had to get used to. Soon we started to get along like a house on fire. We all shared a common goal, so discussions became easier over time. Soon we started expanding, bought more buildings and added facilities in the middle. Its way more spacious now.
I finally reached the retirement age and what an irony, i hardly use it. After i adjusted my lifestyle i dont need to work to get by, but I do lots of small things for living. Always with different groups of people from the block. I take care of the farm, have a small repair workshop in one the spaxes downstairs. I even give lectures and tours about this place! My favourite is when they bring a broken oldtimer from the 20s. Such a simlle technology! Not many people can fix such a car these days. We also have a lot of activities in community rooms, there is a theatre restaurant and a gym but i dont go there often. I prefer to work on projects with people, when i relax its gotta be just me, good read and a glass of wine.