Living architecture - Architekt Dirk Scharmer

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Living architecture

When buildings come to life
Living and sustainable architecture spans five dimensions. It is designed and shaped with materials coming from an as closed ecological circuit as possible. Buildings are used in a particular way, they serve the inhabitants’s lifes and requirements. Rooms and units provide support and protection, they boost activities and well-being while staying in them. Niches allow for seclusion and privacy, common rooms support companionship, paths lead to encounters etc. Considering construction, design, utilization and ecology is a characteristical approach to building.

But since industrialization began, the livliness of architecture went more and more astray. The following text describes how to reclaim this vibrancy back.

Even newly built architecture can convey as much quality of life as slowly developed buildings from former times. Draft, planning and construction have to merge during the origination process, thereby bearing all five dimensions in mind, so that the vibrancy holds the same significance as engineering, aesthetics, functionality and ecology. A building and its ichnography must be developed in intensive correlation to the surroundings.

Pattern language for living architecture
How to boost something as intricate as habitation quality and vibrancy? Isn’t it enough to just plan the future use – e. g., in case of a residential building, to keep the living room in mind? How can a room become cozy and homelike – maybe by putting a sofa in place somewhere?

Actually living buildings, good examples of slowly developed premises, reveal a complex network of correlations and connections. They can be compared to the versatile human behavior, preferences and activities – architect Christopher Alexander calls them "patterns". In his volume "Pattern Language" he mentions more than 250 of these patterns for the American culture area from the 1970s’ perception.

By dint of these patterns – slightly modified and adapted to our culture area – it is possible to create living architecture that centers on humans and allows for more privacy on the one hand and neighborship on the other.

Design process with patterns
It starts on the whole. By and by you let about a dozen selected patterns, which best answer to the nature and scope of the project, affect this whole. If a single house shall be built, you have to start with the site and preferably with the neighborship as well. If a group of several houses shall be built, you have to start not only with the neighborship, but preferably with the residential area. By means of patterns and with the aid of ideas, drafts or on-site pegs and ribbons this whole will be formed bit by bit into its future shape. With space for privacy and companionship, room for work and living, rooms and a garden of your own. With inviting entrances, clear borderlines and passages between private and public space.

The focus is on the advancement of the unique way of life in the future rooms. Nothing is enforced – buildings can offer, allure, inspire, stimulate. The patterns serve as connecting pieces that merge life and building into a unity.

An architect can assist with morphing the logical and rational arrangement of the elements like a writer into poetry – if these are mutually supportive and benefit from synergetic effects. A pattern design makes you rediscover life in your own four walls and outdoors among houses and plants.

Opportunities for cooperation
Depending on nature and scope of the project, the pattern design will more or less be focused on. In case of a single house and a short budget only one day may be enough to initiate the building process. In case of more complex houses, e. g. multi-family homes, clusters of homes or residential areas, at least one to two weeks of cooperative work will be necessary. Whether simple or complex – once an individual pattern language is defined, it provides support to the building process for months or even years as a thread for rebuilding, annex and exterior design.

In the following, two especially beautiful patterns exemplify an enthralling and satisfying design process resulting in a building that can make life easy and multifaceted.

Edge of the building
Every newly created place shall provide an uncompromising quality of habitation. Every wall invites to stay not only indoors, but outdoors as well. Protrusions, niches, canopies ensure protection and coziness. A formal decision to go outside is not necessary as life similarly takes place indoors and outdoors. If outside edges of buildings are animated, the adjacent space gains quality of life as well as a connection. Thus, neighborship can be developed and communal places are not enclosed.

Every building is in need of a clear entrance. As its position complies with the paths or driveways as well as the communal areas, it is situated face to face to the neighboring entrances so that day-to-day handlings ensure encounters. The clearly recognizable main entrance mediates together with the area in front of it and the doorway between communal and private space. That way it ensures security and regulates proximity and distance. Furthermore, it welcomes you and provides – for instance by means of a canopy – shelter from wind and weather before arriving inside. Beneath the canopy you can either sit down to watch the events taking place outdoors in a private atmosphere or participate in life and have a chat in the street or at the fence. It allows for views from the inside to the outside and vice versa.

Both patterns are closely linked to many others that indicate the types of walls and openings, the shape of paths, the size of places and how to enclose exteriors in order to be welcoming despite wind and weather. (see Christopher Alexander, "A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction", Oxford University Press, 1977)

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