Urban Design and Landscape

3xP sustainable neighbourhood - Produce, Rework, Sell

Lavra Lipej
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of architecture, Ljubljana

Project idea

We live in a time when migration to the countryside is drastically increasing, especially by young employed people who, due to various factors (economical, better for raising children, etc.), prefer this type of environment. Living in the city 10 years ago was considered a good decision, financially, career-wise, and, of course, residential availability, as cities offer greater program diversity, with an emphasis on cultural events. Apartments were cheaper, for the proximity of varied content and a better workplace, we gave up larger square footage of the apartment and a private outdoor area. Relocation to cities is still growing exponentially, as are the prices of renting and buying property, and pay wage growth is lagging behind, which prevents many young people from living in the city. Accelerated urbanization and urban growth have contributed to the degradation of the rural environment and the countryside, including the closure of schools and the lack of jobs for residents, forcing them to seek employment in larger cities. As a result, there is a noticeable increase in daily commutes or migration to the outskirts of the city. Villages are being emptied, and those smaller towns near larger cities are becoming accessible suburban locations that offer more accessible residential areas.

This cycle of migration also means the expansion of suburban areas and the shrinkage and degradation of the natural landscape. With the development of the Internet and technology, we have become professionally mobile, which reduces the need for a permanent physical workplace. This is why more and more people are choosing to run their own office at home or to rent a desk in the premises of co-work "coworking". It is occupational mobility that can offer an answer to the potential limitation of the degradation of the rural environment. In this way, the need for permanent migration and daily migrations may also be reduced. There is more chance that people will return to the countryside, to a more natural environment, where they can get more living space and outdoor space for the price of housing in the city, as well as better conditions for starting a family life. In rural areas, a sense of community is built through various forms of cooperation and the sharing economy. An important element of community development is also an organized public space. Neighborhoods with a focus on community and collaboration can prove to be an alternative to living in the city, in apartment blocks that once represented an affordable model of life. An important question is how to create a rural community that preserves the original identity of the village and promotes cooperation and the economy of sharing among neighbors. In the countryside, there are mainly scattered single-family houses with a plot of land, usually surrounded by a fence or hedge, which cripples the development of neighborly relations. For the most part, these houses are too large, made to accommodate an extended family, who move out due to the desire for independence and the houses remain empty.

In Slovenia, agriculture is an important part of the economy, but these types of areas are shrinking in an unregulated and unsupervised manner, in favor of dispersed rural development. Can we solve rural development with thoughtful urbanism, which is gaining an increasingly characteristic form of suburbia? Is it possible to introduce a model of agricultural urbanism? It is based on equipping a space-in-between, a public space during construction, with common gardens and orchards, with centers such as local food markets and the like. In Slovenia, we have many opportunities to build on the potential of local food production by creating food oases (markets, common gardens 10 minutes walk from home or a maximum of 800 m away), which could supply small and medium-sized towns. By shifting production from monocultural fields to permaculture arrangements, more diverse and quality food could be produced locally. This means not only the potential for local self-sufficiency but also the culinary value, which can also attract tourism and other economic activities. The city of Šentjernej also has historical significance as an outpost between Ljubljana and Zagreb, but today it is losing its heart and the genuine spirit of the community due to poorly used and defined space. With thoughtful architectural and urban organization that upgrades the local potentials and identity of the town, we can create self-sufficient sustainable neighborhoods with a surplus of local produce, providing self-sufficiency, jobs for residents, and giving space to create more lasting, authentic relationships and offerings relevant to the wider community, the space of a town or country.

Project description

The project started with an extensive analysis of different aspects of sustainable architecture and design, from the ideological and theoretical creation of a sustainable community to the guiding design principles of permaculture and the use of natural resources. After assessing the situation on-site, a few particular problems about the location presented themselves, first and most prominent of those being, how to avoid the creation of a typical rural (slightly suburban) neighborhood, that is visually present in the surrounding buildings.

Sustainable energy, and with it a sustainable future, is not an unattainable goal. We have enough solutions, we just have to introduce them. From renewable energy sources such as solar, hydro, geothermal, wind, nuclear, and bioenergy, all the way to smart distribution systems that will ensure reliable energy supply. We also make better energy storage devices that would permanently reduce our dependence on fossil fuels (‘‘ there is enough solar energy, we just have to catch it ’’) and thus our carbon footprint. When we introduce quality systems and installations in our home, we can also drastically reduce the energy consumption of each household and by installing solar panels we can also create a plus of energy houses that sends the energy surcharge back to the grid.

Change of thought
Due to changes in the environment, we are required to adapt our relationship with waste, our seas are saturated with microplastics, which poison the ecosystems and the animals that live in them, and consequently us as well. A responsible attitude towards waste starts at every home. Waste disposal is the most expensive way of waste management and also the least environmentally friendly. If we consistently separate waste, we protect the environment and thus save money. The implementation of such thinking in the very conception of the idea significantly contributes to improving the quality of life of the population, the easier we make the transition to such a lifestyle, the more sustainable the solutions and more likely for people to persist in such measures.

We have to look at shopping from a different perspective and ask ourselves what we really need or, better yet, without which we cannot. The pyramid of responsible use and production of waste helps us with such decisions: If I don’t need to, I refuse, if I can’t refuse, can I reduce use? If I can't reduce usage, can I reuse the item? If I can’t reuse it, I can recycle it, and so on. In a sustainable neighborhood, we can envision an element of design for each of the steps, which facilitates the transition to a form of sustainable living (trade without packaging, sustainable life, exchange office, rental shop, repair craftsman, the possibility of energy recovery, recycling, processing workshops, public composters).

Based on the aforementioned research, we can compile a general circular system of care, which will be our goal during design. We have several options for design, we can choose to put together an energetic system that would be completely self-sufficient at the individual level (solar hot water heating system, solar power supply, heat pumps for space heating, biomass combustion boilers, etc.), there is also an option to establish a larger care system to provide energy for the whole neighborhood (a smaller plant with a larger heat pump, a centrally connected system with a larger biomass boiler and micro gas). The design may also include connection to a district heating system and electricity, as Slovenia strives for independence from fossil fuels and thus gives emphasis on sustainability. The water supply within the neighborhood tends to process wastewater and collect rainwater, and we try to reduce waste intended for processing.

Technical information

The basic idea is to create a sustainable neighborhood that, with the help of the principles of permaculture and a connected community, strives for complete self-sufficiency. With a lively and always up-to-date program - cuisine and tourism - it adds quality to the life of the residents within the neighborhood, as well as to the town of Šentjernej itself.

Spatial design
By implementing the regulatory principles of permaculture on-site, a simple polycentric spatial design is formed. In the middle of the location, a larger pond is arranged, intended for small-scale aquaculture, around the pond there is a strip of grassy areas, then a strip of dense trees, i.e. edible forest. Three ambiently different neighborhoods are located along the edge of the permaculture core. The orientation and structure of the neighborhoods are conditioned by the arrangement of the surrounding existing buildings, as well as by the orientation of the associated plot and construction boundaries. A public road winds through the area, connecting the city center in the north with the hippodrome in the south. The buildings are located in individual neighborhoods along access and intervention routes, taking into account the geometry of the existing adjacent structures.

Architectural design
The architectural design of individual buildings is based on selected contents and the requirements of the intended user. The buildings are designed according to the scenarios of use and creating a pleasant ambiance for living. The typologies of buildings also differ according to the needs and ways of life of individual users. The neighborhood in the north of the location is closest to the city center, so there are wider access routes and a typology with the possibility of working at home, where the program can be opened to the outside (greenhouses inside the house, office, deli shop, etc.). The neighborhood in the southeast is designed with more intimacy and private space, but at the same time maintains the openness of the space itself, with the design of an eco bakery as a space of connection. The largest of the three is the southwest neighborhood, which includes buildings divided into permanent residences, and smaller temporary residence units. A cobbled street winds between the houses, i.e. The “path of tastes”, which is used both as a market for the sale of local culinary products, as well as a space for socializing. At the western edge of the location, along Trdinova Cesta, two buildings with a public program are arranged, which complete the built sample of neighboring buildings. There are five different typologies situated on the plot, each with its own character. All the houses are fitted with state of the art energetic systems, solar panels and heat pump mainly.

The dominant element of the landscaping is the Kobila stream, which borders the location to the east, as well as a new permaculture center with a pond. The area between the branches of the stream is entirely intended for planting with fruit trees. Along the stream, the embankment is arranged in individual parts and stone steps are placed to cross the stream. In the northern neighborhood, the green areas are mostly grassy, ​​the southeastern neighborhood is bordered on the south by a tree-lined avenue, which also acts as a sound barrier. In the south-western part of the neighborhood, green areas wind between the buildings themselves in a grid pattern, especially tree-lined avenues, community gardens, herb shrubs, and greenhouses. The entire location is bordered at the edges by dense trees.

Traffic regulation
The spatial design dictates the arrangement of two new roads, which in the north and south along the stream provide access to the location, as well as the necessary connections across the Kobila stream. Access to the location is arranged from Novomeška road in the north, from Trdinova road in the west and from the Na gmajno road on the southern edge of the location. Paved paths run through the neighborhood, which can also be used in case of intervention and for delivery. There are smaller car parks for residents and visitors along all access roads to the site, but the use of more sustainable forms of mobility is encouraged. There are bicycle stations next to the public areas between the houses, and walking around the location is encouraged, as it offers visitors many different ambiances worth visiting. A mobility center is set up along Trdinova Cesta, where a bicycle, scooter, or electric car can be rented, a domain can be arranged for organized transport to larger places, by car sharing, and the best solution for the mobility of the elderly can be found.

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