Residential environment: meeting place, recreation area ‒ part of a sense of home

Residential environment: meeting place, recreation area ‒ part of a sense of home

Today the concept of quality of life encompasses much more than the classification of living space according to quality, quantity or location. It's also, or perhaps above all, about adjacent areas, quality of milieu, the opportunities afforded by the area around the actual residential complex. The surrounding environment mirrors the local society. It is not just "any" urban space but a meeting place, a recreation area and part of a sense of home.

But what does this space look like and how should it ideally be fashioned?

The prevailing variants range from asphalt deserts through endless lawn areas with unused washing lines and solitary trees and shrubs to individual springers that have been provided to reflect the expected number of residents, in line with regulations. That these areas are generally not or only sporadically used comes as little surprise and in many instances this even seems deliberate.

But things are different if people ‒ the future users ‒ are taken into account and involved in the planning process. Their needs, preferences and habits must be enquired about, considered, taken seriously and catered for. For planners, architects, housing associations and residents this means a great deal of work, a willingness to cooperate and the ability to compromise.

The residential environment must fulfil many requirements. In addition to it being made more attractive, children must be able to play safely near their homes and the needs of people unable to move far from their homes for reasons of age, time or health must also be taken into account. In a modern residential environment there is a particular need to take account of these restrictions with a view to fostering inclusion. And if these interests are taken into consideration in an open and consistent process, the results are often satisfactory in many respects and for everyone involved.

The Lortzinghöfe residential complex in Berlin's Mitte district is a prime example of a project where such a planning process proved extremely successfully. This complex was built in the 1960s and also reflects the charm of this era. Architects and planners were required to come up with a new concept and the outcome was a bright, cheerful, welcoming residential complex with well planned outside areas. The Mewis landscape architects practice from Biesenthal was responsible for the design of the open space. The result was a facility that reflects the intensive facade designs. By "transferring" the facade colours into wood shades it was possible to achieve this consistency. The new area featured a sand play station, an intergenerational movement zone, a large play tower with a tube slide and recreation areas which are in keeping with the colour scheme and therefore enhance the overall look of the district. Thanks to the successful and user-friendly design of the play, movement and recreation offerings, users identified more strongly with the space. As a result there was little vandalism even though the district, namely Berlin Wedding, is one that faces a number of social issues. The landlord, the DEGEWO housing association, was delighted with the low follow-up costs.

For the Pfaffenhofen Self-Sufficient Neighbourhood an entirely different approach was taken. Here a new residential district consisting of top-quality apartments and including a new children's daycare centre was developed in the Greater Munich area. Connecting the apartment blocks was a park facility designed by the Atelier Dreiseitl practice in Überlingen. A significant element of this park area was the sophisticated surface water absorption system. In addition, three play areas were erected: a slide playground, a swing playground and a waterside playground. This meant that each area catered for a specific play function. In addition to the slides, infants were provided with a sand play station while the swing playground also featured cocoons and other offerings that are especially suitable for girls. The water playground included balancing offerings over the water areas. As a special feature the woods used were edge sawn. This meant that natural robinia woods acquired cut areas with striking colours. For the colour scheme Goethe's colour wheel was used, which differentiated the areas by colour. "Ten friends" were created as connecting elements between the play areas, also colour coordinated using the Goethe colour wheel and with new inclusive play ideas. It's a very successful concept that has been very well received and which enhances the district as a whole.


Photo: Ulrich Paulig & Co. merry go round™ OHG


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