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Looking after future generations

Architecture students have worked out potential solutions for the city of Schlieren as part of the "One Planet Project". With the aim  to reduce the environmental footprint of the region, promote sustainable construction in harmony with nature, and stop the countryside being eaten up by a continuous stream of new housing and industrial areas.

Architecture students at the University of Liechtenstein aim to reduce global footprint by means of visionary projects.

Schlieren is within commuting distance of Zurich. So the area has seen increasing levels of urban sprawl in recent years. There are pretty detached houses with gardens in the picture, but Schlieren is bursting at the seams. And this is a problem that only a few people have recognized so far. Together with their Professor, Dietrich Schwarz, architecture students at the University of Liechtenstein have tackled the issue and worked out potential solutions as part of the One Planet Project. 

The aim was to reduce the environmental footprint of the region, promote sustainable construction in harmony with nature, and stop the countryside being eaten up by a continuous stream of new housing and industrial areas. The students’ designs aim to protect and even expand agricultural and forested areas.

Twenty square metres per person
One of the key questions was: how much space, or how much living area does a single person need – for sleeping, eating, personal hygiene and living? The answer came from Master’s student Markus Lindemann (25): 20 square metres. That was what he calculated. In other words, living space of 80 square metres should be adequate for a family of four. However, in Schlieren, the current requirement is around 35 to 60 square metres per person. This inspired the student from Vorarlberg to focus his overall concept on reducing living space to produce a more concentrated approach to construction, especially around the city centre. This will reduce the size of the city centre and, in the long term, absorb the belt of fat around the agglomeration. By contrast, the resource of land used for food production can start to grow again. 

Presentation by Markus Lindemann

Interweaving nature and living space
Markus Lindemann, who was born in Vorarlberg, has designed a large urban structure where nature and living, inside and outside, come together. Modular 20-square-metre residential units can be joined together to make larger residential units and can be expanded flexibly as urban sprawl reduces. The material used is wood in combination with reinforced concrete. “In my model, I wanted to give nature space on both a horizontal and a vertical level. This means that visitors can go for a walk on the roof of the shopping centre or take a nap under a plane tree on the sixth floor of their apartment block.” A combined unit acts as a ventilation unit, heat pump and hot water tank in each of the residential units. A little energy miracle. 

Project of Markus Lindemann

Syrian-born architecture student Aza Stass (27) limited the combination of her residential units to a maximum of five floors. This is considerably less than in Markus Lindemann’s plans to interweave nature and living space, which allow for up to 16 floors. Stass’s modules are made entirely from wood. During her project, she reduced the living space for each person to 10 square metres. The would-be architect visited Schlieren several times to observe where people preferred to spend their lunch breaks and leisure time. The favourite is the old town centre with its blend of half-timbered houses, nature, green spaces and public squares. 

Presentation by Aza Stass

Architecture awakens emotions
Aza Stass’s final dissertation largely dealt with social aspects. “These days, you can calculate almost anything with architectural measurements and structural engineering. The emotions triggered by architecture cannot be measured, but they are crucial to a feeling of well-being.” This means materials, smell and appearance. Reducing living space dramatically gives a new social dimension to parks and green spaces. It is a move away from the concept “my home is my castle” towards shared spaces and a new feeling of belonging. 

Aza Stass: Quarters development

Looking after the grandchildren’s generation
The best side effect is the reduced environmental footprint and greater appreciation of the resource of land. Both projects would take several stages to complete. To begin with, all bare spaces would need to be filled with residential units. The next stage would be to gradually remove the existing detached homes while at the same time increasing the level of communal green spaces. This would curb the expansion of the town. According to Stass, it would also mean larger areas of space which could be used for agriculture. “The biggest waste of resources is transporting food around the world. Our environmental footprint would be much smaller if we in Liechtenstein and Switzerland worked in the same way as Syria and promoted the exclusive production and consumption of local foodstuffs.”

Project of Aza Stass

Independent in terms of energy
Aza Stass’s work also takes an interesting approach with respect to energy. According to her calculations, one person uses as much energy in a year as 20 square metres of photovoltaic panels can deliver in a year. In order to generate this level of energy, the Syrian student plans to cover the railway lines, main roads and car parks in Schlieren with photovoltaic systems. This would cover the needs of the 25,000 people predicted to live in the town in 2050. 

The two architecture students, Lindemann and Stass, are producing really visionary pioneering work. Markus Lindemann is convinced that his project would be easy to execute in a series of technical and construction phases. However, the stumbling blocks could be lack of awareness among the population and political incentive. After all, who would voluntarily give up their sought-after garden and swimming pool? So a lot of persuasion still needs to be done if the predicted collapse is to be diverted.