Living as ecosystem
a design vision on the contemporary living environment
spatial design as an ecosystem
Designing our living environment extends beyond the realization of spatial ensembles and buildings. A programme of requirements therefore does not only consist of a quantitative statement of surfaces and volumes, but it also concerns programming, management and sustainability, or social relevance. It is about the formation of a coherent and meaningful image of daily life translated into its spatial conditions and architecture; the cohesion is that strong that we can speak of a “system”.
The system keeps itself in balance as much as possible, striking the analogy with the functioning of nature; the composite of flora, fauna and climate is so diverse and rich that there is circularity; an ecosystem. In contemporary spatial planning, a far-reaching parallel can be drawn with these ecosystems.
The living environment as an ecosystem is intelligently designed in such a way that it makes a direct contribution to the happiness and well-being of the residents. Quality housing, the promotion of community building and the opportunity to learn and / or work are essential building blocks. The deployment of appropriate care, nature and facilities ensure the creation of a complete system, in which all components are in balance with each other.
Each development consists of its own combination and interpretation of these building blocks, whereby the context determines the choice for integration in the own program or the search for connections in the network.
network and community
A thorough integration of the living environment into the existing neighbourhood network is an important starting point for the formation of an ecosystem. The ecosystem connects different scale levels, with each scale providing its own form of collectivity and meeting. The context forms the basis for this: it determines the network that can be formed and thus the degree of collectivity. Various program components, facilities, partners and collaborations can be used to expand the (both informal and formal) network and thus organize the community.
To keep the ecosystem in balance, it is important to make place for a diversity of target groups. The ecosystem is based on the principles of reciprocity; the system is aimed at meeting various target groups through collective interest and it facilitates informal connections so people can support each other. This contributes to community building and offers residents and other stakeholders the opportunity to discover and develop their individual talents. The context and preconditions of a development location determine which combination of target groups is valuable and how the collective interest can be used in the ecosystem’s program.
nature as carrier
A special emphasis is placed on the significance of nature in supporting the ecosystem. The relationship with the outdoor space, the landscape and the development of sufficient diversity ensure that nature can fulfill various roles in the ecosystem.
Local food production provides food for own consumption, which stimulates the maintenance of a healthy lifestyle. Nature provides opportunities for social connection around activities in a collective garden and forms the basis for collaborations with neighbourhood initiatives. For example, nature offers work and learning places, and it can function as a valuable daytime activity for people with care needs. A green living environment literally offers room for reflection, by creating places where people can withdraw in silence.
Living quality comprises more than a functional translation of a spatial programme of requirements. It’s about atmosphere, identity and experience. About materialization and proportions. But also about the relationship between individual and collective use, privacy and flexibility.
Within the ecosystem, living is regarded as a link or building block, so that the various relationships with the environment are taken into account as a natural part of the living world.
Social trends such as individualization, assisted living environments, and diversification of demand, but also issues such as the energy transition and sustainable use of materials require a broad and integrated view of the design.
organization and management
The long-term sustainability of a spatial design depends on various factors. In order to be able to realize a suitable design for this, the time factor is introduced; how does the city, or a building, function during different stages of development, but also from the moment of completion on? Organization, management and programming, within the financial frameworks, are handled as an integral part of the planning. This includes looking at the collective interests of or mutual relationships between different players in the area (or building). With sufficient synergy, the chance of creating a community and thus creating ownership is greater. An important condition for a sustainable ecosystem.