Photo by Casper Rila
Architects Council of Europe
(Future of Architecture)
The COVID-19 crisis has multiplied questions on urban planning and climate issues. In your eyes, how will architects re-think cities and re-invent spaces?
Where Will Innovation in Architecture Come From Next?
These are the key questions of our time. What COVID-19 does, it highlights and speeds up main themes in society that were already strongly present but couldn’t break the economic barrier yet. The big cities are dense. Young people who are entering the housing market after their education, have to compete with people senior to them that have decided to exchange their bigger houses in the suburbs and the rural areas for the comfort, healthcare and the cultural program of the cities.
Meanwhile, young families can’t leave the city for the absence of schools, sport, healthcare and basic food suppliers, all facilities that were economised in rural areas in the last decades. Given the current situation, it is time to reinstall the level of those facilities there, so young families can choose to go and live in places where they can afford bigger houses.
At the same time, in the cities, many single professionals become isolated, living, and working alone in their homes. We must develop new housing typologies for the cities in which people can live and work together without losing their privacy and independence.
We all work hard to achieve proper balance in our energy consumption. This goes beyond our need for the fuel itself, it also incorporates the rethinking of how we like to spend our personal energy. Innovations will go hand in hand with the acceptance and understanding of maintenance - of our bodies, our social, natural, and built environment.
For Andrew McMullan, "today, we have a responsibility to use architecture to benefit humankind." Is it time now to take responsibility and adopt a new mindset?
Yes, Andrew McMullan is right that we have a responsibility here. But in fact, we always have had. Architects often are balancing between economic, social, technical, and ecological interests. That sometimes makes it seem like we don’t care, but we are also always right on the frontline of new developments. The bad and the good ones. It is exciting to see what is possible with new materials and technical innovations which we didn’t hope to dream of in a long time. For a while, climate urgency gave us a wider social and political support to actually make a difference. I hope we can hold on to that, and instead of COVID-19 being a spoiler, it turns into economic support of the best balanced and adaptive projects.
(Your team/your own experience in NL/new ways to work)
The COVID-19 pandemic showed once again the solidarity of architects and the creativity of designers. How did your team deal with this exceptional situation?
Architects and designers as all creative people strive when faced with changes. We are excited to be a part of new movements, new ideas and we will always find a way to adapt. What is exceptional now is the fact that we can’t meet as much as we need to excel. It feels we are slowing down a bit. At first, it worried me, it still somewhat does, because it is much harder to brainstorm when working remotely. But I can also see the good things that grow in times of reflection. Slowing down also means giving individual team members much more time to truly understand and participate in the process. It is like the old African saying, in reverse:” if you want to go fast - go alone; if you want to go far - go together”. Architects are always somewhere in the eye of the storm. Sometimes it slows us down but brings us to a new adventure.
(Your home is your shelter”, the survey)
In an attempt to analyse and understand how people are dealing with forced isolation in their current living conditions, your studio KAAN Architecten has released an online survey that questions the space we are currently living in and how it influences our mood. What are the key takeaways messages? What did you learn?
The survey was released on 1 April 2020 by my chair at the Munster University of Applied Sciences in cooperation with my architectural office in Rotterdam. I wanted to know how people appreciate their homes when they are forced to be there 24 hours a day, whether spatial conditions in average houses would influence their happiness. A lot of young people from many different countries completed the survey, many more than we expected. We are currently working on the outcome which we are translating into an “Urban Village” model. For now, I can reveal that a lot of people could use a little less of the obvious in their direct environment. The fact that our good old and holy “form follows function” could be near its expiring date comes to mind.