16.–21.01.2023 #immcologne

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Innovative living projects

Are vertical villages the future of urban planning?

How will we live in future and what does the city of the future look like? Terms like urbanisation or urban exodus are no longer a sufficient response to this highly topical debate. Trend researchers have identified a new development that could reconcile the two aspects: vertical villages. Can this concept combine the benefits of both urban infrastructure and neighbourhood spirit?

Vertical Village by Tom Fisk on Pexels

A sense of rural community in the city, combined with individual living, is what defines the future trend of vertical villages. Photo: Tom Fisk on Pexels)

Vertical village: a slice of village life in the city?

The direction of movement is clear: young people are continuing to migrate to cities, which are becoming ever fuller as a result. Despite the fact that in recent years young families in particular have tended to move to the suburbs or countryside for financial and ecological reasons, the trend towards urbanisation continues unabated. Metropolises are growing.

At the same time, successful interior design trends such as hygge and cocooning illustrate the basic human need for closeness and comfort. Digitalisation promises global communication and yet it cannot fully satisfy this desire for personal connection. In large cities, where there is a tendency towards anonymity, increasing attempts are being made to create spaces for social encounters, but the process of reversing decades of car-friendly architecture is a slow one.

Vertical villages are an attempt to find a middle ground and integrate a bit of rural community life into the city. The urban villages in these future-oriented housing projects are designed to grow skywards – with shops, meeting spaces and leisure activities all within walking distance. In a departure from the anonymity of existing high-rise buildings, office blocks could be developed into living complexes with a vibrant neighbourhood feel – places that combine individual living with a new notion of home, young students with older generations, and urban infrastructure with social engagement. Future researcher Oona Horx-Strathern sees the concept as one of the most significant megatrends of the next few years.

Pioneering living projects

Living projects currently in their planning stages face the challenge of artificially emulating the organically developed structure of a village. Urban planners, property firms and architects need to combine the benefits of both urban and village living, while also taking into account the needs of individuals. Only time will tell if the concept is just a marketing ploy or whether the village lives up to its name.

Existing examples that have already been completed show that an important factor for success is a coherent overall approach. And there are many directions this approach can take – from car-free eco-villages with carsharing options to corporate villages characterised by a specific company philosophy. When people agree on a shared living – or even lifestyle – concept, a community grows closer more quickly, an effect that can be further enhanced through high levels of co-determination and self-determination.

The ratio of private to social spaces in modern vertical villages is different to that of traditional housing: often involving smaller living areas and larger communal spaces. Co-living villages such as KoDorf in the German municipality of Wiesenburg and Lichtenrader Revier in Berlin focus specifically on open spaces, which fulfil the function of a village square: large communal kitchens, leisure spaces and smaller areas for individual social interaction. The latter are also enjoying success even when not embedded into larger infrastructures. Innovative parklets in urban centres , which aim to counter the anonymity of large cities, provide the social contact that is so important in a neighbourhood community.

Urban neighbourhoods by Tom Byrom on Unsplash

Urban neighbourhoods with communal spaces are very popular housing projects just now. (Photo: Tom Byrom on Unsplash)

Tiny house villages: the new longing for a patch of land

Tiny house villages, a concept that is becoming increasingly popular, are based on a similar principle. Again, these are places where the desire for the proximity of village life meets the benefits of individual living, often paired with a sustainable and minimalist lifestyle. With these common values in mind, a functioning community can quickly be established – a community that purposefully connects different generations and promotes inclusion, as demonstrated by the tiny house project in the Bavarian municipality of Ursberg .

As in vertical villages, here personal living spaces are reduced in favour of communal areas. The approach takes the microliving trend to the next level: when housing units become smaller, there is more space for social life to take place outside the home – both physically and psychologically. This new form of spatial planning has the potential to permanently change the way we live together.

Interior design of a Tiny House by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

Smaller homes for more communal space is the maxim in tiny house villages. (Photo: Andrea Davis on Unsplash)

Optimising space to meet people’s needs

Urbanisation continues to be a global megatrend. The desire for a greater sense of community is giving rise to counter-movements and alternative concepts such as vertical villages. The underlying challenge is how we approach the space available and reconcile different needs – individual living and social interaction, local green spaces for recreation and centrally located housing, regional food and a sense of urban living.

Creative architecture can help with this: urban farming, often also set out vertically, attempts to minimise food miles and create supply sources in the heart of the city. Decentralised energy generation using photovoltaic systems is also on the rise and promises greater self-sufficiency for modern living projects.

Ultimately, projects and concepts, from vertical villages or cities to micro-apartments and tiny house villages, are as diverse as people themselves. The market is developing rapidly and constantly presenting us with new, exciting solutions for a wide range of living and lifestyle concepts.

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