What place will microliving have in the European cities of the future?
The cities of Europe are all very different. In the future, microliving will play an important role wherever land is in short supply. In such places, available apartments are rare and expensive. The market has to create offerings that cater accordingly.
In terms of planning, what specific requirements apply to the minimized apartments?
One particular challenge consists in offering, within a very small area, a living environment that can be changed around and respond again and again to new spatial desires.
This adaptability can be achieved by using flexible floor plans and movable elements. Is there a hierarchy here?
My position is clear: no matter what type of residential building one builds, quality is always determined by the maximum availability of the space. Therefore no area can be wasted and the rooms should be able to fulfill several different functions. If the living area is small, as an architect one really has to consider how this quality can be achieved. Room elements that support versatile uses can also play a role here.
You served as jury president for this year's Hawa Student Awards. How significant for the students are architecture competitions sponsored by companies?
First of all, the students are inspired by the challenge of dealing with an exciting topic and naturally also the prospect of winning the prize money. Moreover participation in the contest may help with a subsequent employment application.
What’s your motivation for serving on the award jury again, for a total of three times?
Although it may sound sentimental: on the one hand, it’s my affection for the products of Hawa Sliding Solutions, which I've known and loved since my student days. On the other hand, the connection between the people at Hawa Sliding Solutions and me has grown over the years. We have great respect for one another.
The Hawa Student Award 2020 asked the students to design solutions for a microliving project right in the heart of Zurich. What were the greatest challenges?
The creative tension between the objective of creating optimized living forms, on the one hand, and creating an appropriate solution for the built urban environment, on the other, was difficult to manage. Contestants had to consider whether to just spatially compress the apartment itself in terms of small floor area, or whether the entire building would result in increased subsequent density in the overall context of the neighbourhood. In other words: the question about the socially tolerable density had to be answered not just for the individual apartment, but also at the macro level – from the built urban environment right down to the sleeping berth.
As a solution, the winning project proposes a slender high rise. What set this work apart?
First, the clarity and self-evident quality with which the authors arranged the bus parking areas on an open area. This solution creates a great deal of urban open space and it isn’t necessary to cut down the trees on the property. Yet there is still room for a sufficient number of parking bays for the buses in the building itself, where passengers can board and unload under shelter. The high rise is also convincing. For one thing, it clearly separates the private spaces and common spaces into different volumes. For another, it is vertically subdivided into clear units that each span three stories. And finally, I like that the new building's footprint in the city is relatively small and connects to the existing structures.