Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sociopolis: A Rurban Housing Project in Spain

Five years ago, a housing project called 'Sociopolis' - a shared habitat - was proposed for Valencia, Spain. This project was aimed at triggering social interaction between inhabitants, proposing a new type of housing for the family structures of our time, and offering an environment of high quality.

Now it's becoming reality; roads are being build, and trees are being planted.

The main focus is on the social actions that a neighborhood should trigger, in order to create well-being in the city. Looking back in history, the construction site used to be the fertile region of Valencia since the time of the arabs, with clever irrigation systems, orchards and vegetable gardens.
What happens usually when european cities grow, is that nature and agriculture gets pushed aside. Rural and urban become two opposites that are hardly connected. For the arabs however, the vegetable plantations were their gardens, that formed part of the landscape and provide food for each family.
For the architects Vicente Guallart, (and his team) who presented the philosophy of the project at Barcelona Design Week, it was important to bring back the rural into the city; they call it rurban.
City vegetable gardens bring back the culture of the kitchen garden and its values, getting citizens involved again in the production and consumption pattern of today's economy. Eating locally grown food is not only more environmentally-friendly, but also makes you see where your food comes from, and what it takes to grow it.
Apart from creating houses with a view on gardens, Sociopolis is designed for the new way people get into groups to live together. Standard families (two parents and 1 or 2 kids) are now less than 50% of the Spanish families, and people have other needs. 8% of the population has some kind of disability and the new generations are expected to live much longer, which means that houses need to be made accessible, and livable, for all kinds of people, in order to avoid social exclusion.
The first stage of Sociopolis is currently being build; 2,500 homes on 35 ha on the shore of the river Turia in Valencia. The existing vegetable gardens and fertile lands are being protected, an irrigation system is being constructed and the historic country houses that exist on the land are being restored. Sociopolis aims not only to be a housing project, but wants to bring back the rural to the city, create a new kind of landscape and enhance citizen's well-being through a more social and natural environment.

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