In the future, about 5,000 homes and other functions are to be built in the new district on the former site of the Suikerzijde. Although new homes are being built, this does not automatically mean better affordability.
“We also see that optimization in construction leads to smaller dimensions and less quality, flexibility and diversity”, says B-architecten, while the existing ownership structure acts as a brake on the flow in the housing market.
“Connecting quality and affordability to sustainability, climate, circularity and nature inclusiveness requires a broad spatial and socio-economic strategy. Alternative forms of development and ownership structures should form the basis for this”, according to the Flemish architectural firm.
Medium building block
The study by B-architecten focuses on a medium-sized building block with varied street profiles from the master plan for De Suikerzijde. The block consists of high buildings along an urban street and lower buildings along a green bicycle street. Located at the ‘entrance gate’ of the new city district, the building block is potentially a prominent and (therefore) expensive place, says the office.
“It is precisely here that Groningen can challenge and inspire others with a different, ambitious approach in the further development of Sugar Silk. Due to its robust open skeleton structure with flexible floor plans, strategically placed circulation and excess in storey height and load-bearing capacity, the building is sustainable and suitable for various uses.
“Future additions and additions can easily be accommodated: from new floors in double-height rooms to an extra floor on the roof. The structure can accommodate a large mix of functions and housing typologies. Following the example of housing cooperatives from Germany and Switzerland, there is plenty of attention and space for it residential mobility, good relations between spaces for private, collective and public use.”
Responding to the context
According to the office, all this increases the involvement of residents and users and ensures openness to the neighbourhood. The affordability of the plan is ensured by using standardization and industrialization, while the (cultural) sustainability is achieved by making the building ‘respond to the context’ in different ways.
“This can be done in a spatial sense by responding to the varying street profiles and the orientation of the volumes within the context of light, sight, sound and fordability. Bonding is also created by making use of materials and production power present in the environment,” says B-architecten.
“We propose to scale up the leasehold system. All parts with a long lifespan become part of this: from the ground and the building structure to the building envelope. Technical installations, furnishing and finishing – those parts that usually have a shorter lifespan – are managed cooperatively, the alternative between renting and buying,” the agency continues.
“The combination of broad leasehold and cooperative management contributes to sustainability, flexibility and affordability in the longer term. More efficient installations, smart use of space and sustainable, maintenance-friendly choices also ensure stable low housing costs,” concludes B-architecten.