Solutions for the co-evolution of built environment and nature
You want to submit
NEW EUROPEAN BAUHAUS RISING STARS : concepts or ideas submitted by young talents (aged 30 or less)
SIMBIOSI | Proposal for an eco-district
Full concept/idea title
Proposal for an eco-district in Waterloo, Belgium
The ecovillage project in Waterloo in Belgium, stems from the need to create new housing in a mixed residential area, within a park, surrounded by nature reserves. The neighbourhood aims to develop a new relationship between buildings and landscape, in which both are qualitatively reinforced. The landscape is used as a productive environment for food, energy, water, waste treatment and biodiversity. The ecovillage envisaged a new neighbourhood with a green and eco-sustainable matrix.
Where is your concept/idea being developed or intended to be implemented in the EU?
Please provide a summary of your concept/ idea
Today Europe is a single immense city and the world has seen a proliferation of megalopolises and metropolitan areas, which have spread across the territory like a continuous mantle covering all the lands. The agricultural areas have been transformed into large gardens, like hortus conclusus. In the proposed project Simbiosi | Proposal for an ecodistrict, the greenery not only frames the project but permeates it, becoming an important element in the design of the building itself. The project lot is divided into four macro-areas, divided according to the existing road axes around it, forming large béguinages to recall typical historic Belgian-Dutch medieval architecture, a structure closed inwards with a big garden onto which all the houses face the residential units, mixed with coworking areas, shops for basic needs and communal areas. The facades are characterised by long balconies, from which the aluminium structure stands out to support climbing plants, creating true hanging gardens. The green roof is also designed so the residents of the neighbourhood can have their own gardens where they can cultivate, entertain and spend time together. The building was designed on the basis of the idea of a big south-facing balcony overlooked by all the dwellings and the community roof gardens. The metal balcony, a structure separate from the main building, becomes a real community space to be lived in, not just a link between the houses. All 450 flats, for a total of about 1000 inhabitants in the new neighbourhood, are therefore designed with a floor area of 60 to 80 square meters. The project's objective is crowned by the choice of natural materials and the design of an architecture capable of adapting to and coexisting harmoniously with the surrounding nature, to create a coherent urban structure - a new urban park - which highlights the significant relationship between the existing settlements, the forest and the water catchment area.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of sustainability and how these would be met
The aim of the project is therefore to bring architecture and nature together in a critical and meaningful way which does not rely on what is today commonly referred to as “greenwashing” – where nature is used as an accessory and decorative element. The 416,000 m2 site includes a wastewater collection basin, an agri-food research centre, cultivated fields and is in close proximity to the famous and imposing Soignes forest. The 0 motorway, which separated the site from the city centre of Waterloo, is addressed as a forest gardening project with the ambition of creating a green acoustic cap to mitigate sound and purify the surrounding air. Within this context, vegetation is designed to form a continuous green filter between the inside and outside of the homes, absorbing fine particles produced by traffic, producing oxygen, absorbing CO2 and protecting the terraces and interiors from noise pollution. The urban, natural and rural spheres coexist by creating a unique and integrated architectural and ecological environment at every scale of the settlement. As the urbanisation of the planet is growing at a rapid pace and the individual is turning into an ‘indoor animal’ – divided between office, home and car – the need to integrate nature and the built environment is becoming more acute than ever. Tomorrow, thanks to more reasoned urban planning and also to new technologies, this reconciliation could become closer.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of aesthetics and quality of experience beyond functionality and how these would be met
The ecovillage project in Waterloo, south of Brussels in Belgium, between the famous forest of Soignes and the Ring 0, a very important motorway connecting the capital's hinterland, aims to guarantee a green life for the future inhabitants of the neighbourhood, different from what is currently offered: in fact Belgium has become a saturated territory, an endless carpet of single-family houses served by a dense pattern of motorways and railways. The eco village project leads to the introduction of a new idea of public space and forms of domestic life beyond the single-family house. The proposal goes beyond architecture and town planning, taking into account all the factors that produce the city, such as politics, economy and culture. Sinuous forms characterise the blocks of flats, of limited height (3 floors plus the garden terrace at the top), to make the relationship between buildings and people more synergic. The anodised aluminium panels on the façade, creating a reflection of the greenery on the building, the big community balconies and the climbing plants all along the building provide acoustic insulation, purify the air and improve the tenants' lives.
Greenery, the main feature of the project, covers about 93% of the 42 hectares of land available for the project, allowing the inhabitants of the neighbourhood to live a dignified life, maintaining the same comforts as in the city, but surrounded by green expanses, parks and fields of flowers. While the centre of the project plot features a water catchment area and a careful forest gardening project characterises the west side of the project, the south/west side is dedicated to orchards/cultivated flower fields/equipped green areas/sports areas. The parking spaces for the inhabitants are obviously underground, to avoid large areas of concrete.
Please give information about the key objectives of your concept/idea in terms of inclusion and how these would be been met
Designing today also means taking care of everyone and thinking inclusively about architecture: for this reason the Simbiosi project invites everyone to take part in the life of the ecovillage. From a social and cultural point of view, the project aims to embrace as many cultures and age groups as possible, in order to allow a mutual exchange: the hinterland of Brussels hosts a large number of commuters, young couples, multiethnic families and students from all over the world, who move every day to reach the city: for this reason the highways and ring roads around the Belgian capital are saturated at peak times. In addition to the serious ecological damage that traffic produces, the surrounding ecosystem and above all the psychophysical health of the inhabitants also suffers. The ecovillage is therefore located in a strategic position to allow all its inhabitants to live a life in the green, with the pleasures of country life, but without leaving the city and its comforts. The project is in fact characterized by the community approach and highly social: to increase the community situations have been designed in fact within the housing blocks, community recreational rooms, such as multimedia rooms, game rooms, small service stores such as grocery, pharmacy, laundry and roof garden, available to all condominiums. In addition, the private balconies and greenhouses on the north facades of the dwellings, allow tenants to be able to have an outdoor space, private and semi-public surrounded by greenery.
As far as the physical accessibility of the eco-neighborhood is concerned, everything has been thought to allow the total elimination of architectural barriers: all the buildings are served by an access ramp and elevator and the underground parking lots allow the tenants to easily reach their homes.In addition, the whole park is accessible in every part, from orchards to playgrounds.
Please explain the innovative character of your concept/ idea
The innovative character of the proposed project is the fact that it can be reproduced anywhere, modifying the compositional mesh of the housing blocks according to the orography of the site, while maintaining the original concept. The idea that new housing constructions could follow the green wave and start not having cars circulating on the lot, thinking more about the environment and people's psychophysical wellbeing is an attractive one: the winning solution is one that takes into account a multiplicity of factors, including the environmental, territorial, settlement and cultural factors in which the new construction will take place.
In 2021 it is unthinkable to design without taking environmental factors into account. The greatest challenge is of maintaining a healthy and balanced planet biodiversity which can and must also be addressed through architecture. As architects we should think of nature at the heart of every project from the building to the city. Although we may not be able to recreate a real forest in the city, this does not mean the two are not compatible, rather we should explore ways of merging the natural environment, architecture and technology for greater coexistence and cooperation.
Please detail the plans you have for the further development, promotion and/or implementation of your concept/idea, with a particular attention to the initiatives to be taken before May 2022
Right now, my main goal for the development of my thesis is to study a higher level of detail of the project, going to understand how to make more and more Nearly Zero Energy Building the structure of the ecovillage. It would also be interesting to study how to reproduce the housing model designed for the Simbiosi ecovillage in other european contexts, not only in the project lot in waterloo. the demand for an integrated design in the green is increasing today and it is extremely important to propose alternative models to the classic reinforced concrete construction, which can make life better and reduce consumption through the use of natural materials, such as wood and natural fibers for building insulation.
Keeping the basic concept, it seems interesting to be able to study how the ecovillage project would behave in other European climatic zones: in fact, by modifying the materials of the external wall package, it would be possible to create a village suitable for the hottest areas of lower Europe, creating cool and shady houses in summer.
By ticking this box, you declare that all the information provided in this form is factually correct, that the proposed concept/idea has not been proposed for the New European Bauhaus Rising Stars Awards more than once in the same category.