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How much living space do people need?
How much living space do people need?
Video: How much living space do people need?
Video: How much living space do we really need? 2023, February

How much living space does a person need? The high prices in our metropolitan areas have led to a decrease in the number of square meters in Munich or Berlin that an inhabitant there has on average. The cities are becoming denser - and at the same time more attractive for more and more people. At the same time, they become more sustainable.

The area that a German lives on average grew for a long time: in 1990 it was 35 square meters, today it is twelve square meters more. In large cities, however, the trend points in the other direction - housing is expensive there. Every use of space has an impact on the environment: Buildings are not only built with great resources, but also have to be heated and maintained. The smart use of less space is therefore quite sustainable. But not everyone likes it: when the neighbor just a few meters away can look into your living room, we often experience it as indiscreet. We therefore need new models for living in the city.

The Duplex Architects office in Zurich deals with intelligent solutions for high residential density and with new forms of the neighborhood. We spoke to Dan Schürch, one of the founders of the office, about the sustainability of a densely populated city using the example of the Hunziker Areal, a young city district planned by his office in Zurich.

THE HOUSE: Do we really need more and more square meters for living?

Dan Schürch: Many people would probably prefer to live in a single-family house than in an apartment in a densely built-up city. But hardly anyone can afford their own house in big cities. And our landscape can't take any more rural buildings. So you have to condense in the cities. Well-planned neighborhoods are an opportunity to develop new forms of cohesion and neighborhood. Of course, the proximity to the lively center of a city is also attractive, and you are always more mobile in urban areas because you have better public transport. In a district we built, the Hunziker Areal, you sign that you don't have your own car. That would hardly be conceivable in Germany. In terms of sustainability, however, the district gains tremendously if you use the spaces needed by cars for public life.

Dan Schürch
Dan Schürch

Dan Schürch from the Duplex Architects office in Zurich deals with intelligent solutions for high housing density and with new forms of neighborhood.

Photo: Tom Haller

What did you do differently in this neighborhood?

We first designed the spaces between the houses, with the paths and squares where you meet: the boules square, the square with the fountain, the market. This is the urban space where you communicate. If several houses stand together, then they form a square and it should work well. That is why the facades are important there, they act like a theater backdrop, they create their own moods and give the room atmosphere.

And the apartments?

We have planned the apartments so that they offer security and privacy for people. In addition, numerous shared areas and spaces have emerged as a kind of extension of the apartment. They promote cooperation. A good community is very valuable. There are many different types of apartments in the district. How so? We wanted a very strong mix of generations, people and functions in the neighborhood. Not like before, when only one family moved into an area and everyone was about the same age = ". That is why the apartments are designed very differently. For example, there are open and closed kitchens. A lively district also needs a varied ground floor, i.e. shops and small businesses. It always takes patience to find the right tenant there. Artists and the little baker would be nice, but they often cannot afford such rooms. On the other hand, such residents are important for good neighborhood and life in the neighborhood. There is a violin maker in the Hunziker area, which makes the surroundings interesting.

Some of their houses are more than twenty-five meters deep and stand close together. How does light get into the apartments?

In the Hunziker area they stand together in a corner, not in parallel. This always results in spatial expansions across the alleys and streets that let light into the apartments. The floor plans react to this and let light into the apartment from two sides. Of course, you are also close to the neighbor on narrow paths. But when you walk through the neighborhood, you can see that the curtains are not closed everywhere. Rather, a new kind of neighborhood is emerging.

The residents have already moved into the Hunziker area. How do you react?

The reaction is very positive because it has something romantic. The more hidden places where people withdraw in small groups or alone are popular. The places of the first kisses. That gives identity for a quarter. One problem is that there are often too few people on the streets. We still live in too many square meters in our cities. That is why there are often few people on the streets. Life is a bit lacking in the neighborhood - especially in the cold season. But living doesn't end at the front door.

Do you consciously do something about it?

For example, we don't build roof terraces. When the weather is nice, people should not retreat to the roof, but meet each other below. A colorful variety of apartment types is also important: Not all residents leave the neighborhood in the morning and only come back in the evening. Many also work there. The third factor is the limitation of apartment sizes and the reduction of square meters per capita. If you live on a smaller area, then sustainability will increase due to the lower consumption of space. At the same time, you tend to intuitively go out among the people.

Mehr als wohnen
Mehr als wohnen

More green in the district increases the well-being of the residents. The cooperative “More than living” not only improves the environment with community planting campaigns, but also promotes the cohesion of the neighborhood.

Photo: ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences

Are you building something similar at the moment?

In Bülach north of Zurich we are currently planning the Glasi area, a new quarter for seventeen people with business and well-connected green spaces. Each building makes a contribution to the urban space, but at the same time it has its own character. Apartments are being created for young and old, for couples, singles and families. There are also special forms for living in old age or the living together of patchwork families in shared apartments. Living and working take place in the immediate vicinity and ensure a healthy mix of different uses.

What important trends in urban planning do you see today?

I would like the rules for urban development not to be so bureaucratically interpreted. A city is more about atmospheres and moods. We want a living quarter, not a uniform settlement. This allows every resident to identify with their house.

What would you advise a friend who wants to buy an apartment?

I would advise him not only to look at the apartment, but also at the surroundings: how is the apartment connected to the city? Which shops are there, which neighborhoods? Because if the environment is lively, then I can also get out of the apartment and still feel at home there.

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