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Creating communal neighbourhoods

Architecture students at the University of Liechtenstein aim to encourage communal interaction in a Lustenau residential area through a residential complex – making the social community a tangible experience and, in the transition from public to private, fulfilling the inhabitants’ requirements for both a meeting point and a retreat.

Architecture students from the University of Liechtenstein want to encourage communal interaction in a Lustenau residential area through a new residential complex and to link the public area to the private space.

In her semester project, supervised by lecturers Nicole Hatz Volpato and Marco Volpato, Rosalie Schweninger first wanted to design a multi-storey complex with the aim of strengthening the residents’ social relationships in the community. However, this was not quite enough for the 23-year-old architecture student from Lustenau, so she decided to create both a residential complex including a communal kitchen and a broader master plan. Quite a mammoth project, which aims to develop the area around Augartenstrasse in Lustenau. 

Area in need of development 
In a place where income is low, unemployment is high and the building structures are poor, the architecture student chose a site encompassing 9,000 square metres, which currently includes two blocks of flats and is located between the Rhine dam and Augartenstrasse. Due to the inferior quality of the current building structures, the blocks of flats will probably be demolished sometime in the next 20 years. Then there would be enough space for Rosalie Schweninger’s residential project, which features 31 flats and a communal kitchen. The residential units, which vary in size, resemble the offset design of the popular detached houses in this area.

Rosalie Schweninger: visualization of inner courtyard

Enhancing the area’s qualities
Seen from the outside, the offset cubes are designed to create an asymmetrical surface featuring balconies in various sizes. Through varying wall elements, the layout of the flats can be adjusted to suit the residents’ needs. The flats’ different sizes and varying standards are intended to attract different groups and generations. This would reanimate the Augarten area and improve its image. The residential area is situated on Augartenstrasse, a road that is often used by drivers who wish to avoid the busy main road. People frequently accelerate up to 80 kilometres per hour on this straight stretch, which makes it a very dangerous place that the residents tend to avoid. To solve this problem, Rosalie Schweninger proposes a shared zone, a street where pedestrians and cyclists take priority and cars are merely tolerated. The road’s linear form could be interspersed with green recreational areas and trees. The partition of the road’s surface also influences the zone’s appearance. Parts of the stretch of road might be turned into single lanes. “I tried to include as many non-commercial ideas as possible in my master plan. I thus placed a language cafe, a library and a kindergarten on Augartenstrasse, representing a range of public and semi-public offerings.”

Exterior view of public space

Alternative model featuring commercial elements
Architecture student David Dudler (26) chose a site encompassing 1.4 hectares in Lustenau-Rotkreuz, which already features a supermarket. A kindergarten, a primary school, a residential area of detached houses and an estate  with council flats are in the immediate vicinity. David Dudler’s two-storey to four-storey complex reflects the architecture of the surrounding buildings. As a linking element, an expansive saddle roof spans the entire structure. Large windows face the inner courtyard, which functions as a more private area for the residents. The front facade features slit windows. With this design, the architecture student from Buchs aims to direct life to the courtyard.

David Dudler: visualization of private inner courtyard

David Dudler’s flats are made from prefabricated wooden elements with flexibly adjustable light-construction partition walls. Just like Rosalie Schweninger, his aim was to include different residential types in his complex. The ground floor is characterized by transparent, open architecture featuring glass fronts and supports for commercial premises and a crèche for infants below the age of four. It also includes a public multi-purpose room for adolescents. A cafe links the public space, i.e. the commercial zone and communal meeting point, to the more private courtyard. 

Exterior view of the north and east facade

A clever network of paths 

“I spent a great deal of time on developing ideas to link the public area to the private space,” explains the student in the Bachelor’s degree programme. “I wanted to create a place that fulfils people’s varying needs: a place for encounters and community life on the one hand, and a retreat for the residents on the other,” he adds. With his mix of commercial zone and residential area, he has managed to animate life in a public space and create a communal meeting point that can be frequented throughout the day. For this, the required infrastructure had to be established. Fences were taken down and new paths between the primary school and crèche, detached houses and commercial zone, social meeting point and estate were designed to promote interaction in the neighbourhood.

Plan of residential-commercial complex

The research project on “Social neighbourhoods – key factor in regional development” examines the relationship between interactive communities and existing housing estates in the Rhine Valley. As a part of the project, students at the University of Liechtenstein worked with scientists from the FHS St. Gallen University of Applied Sciences during two semesters, with the aim of thinking out of the box. They focused on residential environments, neighbourhood structures and how interactive communal relations and structural conditions influence residents’ cohabitation. The project is supported by the International Lake Constance University (IBH).

Preliminary work
In the previous semester, students had already examined neighbourly relations between Lustenau and Widnau, two municipalities in the Rhine Valley. They came to the conclusion that there was practically no exchange of information between the two places. To counteract this situation, the prospective architects were asked to design a multifunctional community centre that could be used by the inhabitants of both municipalities and would function as a new meeting point. Therefore, the neighbourhood project expanded on these preliminary analyses and provided the students with insights into housing-estate structures in the Rhine Valley and interaction among communities.