Mehrgenerationswohnen: Pöstenhof Lemgo & Karmeliterkloster Bonn


cohousiThe medium-sized town of Lemgo with about 40,000 residents is seriously aging. Wohnbaugenossenschaft Lemgo (WBL) owns a large number of familyhouses, and has to deal with this problem. They took the initiative to explore a new way of living. On a vacant site they have worked with HSD architects on a ‘Mehrgenerations’ housing concept in the project Pöstenhof.

The idea of the project is to mix generations in a small scale courtyard building. Based on a first sketch a group of interested people has been selected to participate in de process of developing a cooperative housing project with rental apartments for mixed generations. The residents are very mixed, from young to old (0-81 years). There are 21 children in the project and multiple nationalities. The project includes a day care for the elderly, which is rented to a healthcare organization. This is used by residents from the project and from the neighborhood, who depend on the care of others, but still live at home.


The building consists of two buildings that are half open to the street. A raised gallery filters the access of the garden to a public entrance square. An important aspect of the project is the commonality. The wide corridors are orientated to the collective garden and function as important meeting places, along with the collective garden and a collective room on the ground floor.
The outside of the block is the private side. The architecture of the outer facade expresses the individuality of the inhabitants. The fragmented articulation of the volume also connects the building to the small scale of family houses in the surroundings.

The inhabitants of Pöstenhof commit themselves to contribute to a mixed-generations-living community. The residents have signed an agreement with the owner (WBL) to make it possible to regulate all new rentals themselves. They take care of maintenance in the collective areas and organize activities in the collective space. New candidates are selected by a committee of inhabitants. For the inhabitants it is important that new people choose for the concept , and not just for the house.

The project Karmeliterkloster in Bonn is a bit older and bigger. The project has been initiated by the architects: Fischer – von Kietzell Architekten on the site of an old convent. The project contains 70 housingunits in different types around a spacious garden to create an attractive mixed generations area. In contrast to  Pöstenhof there is less mixture within the different building parts. Famlies mainly live in the rowhouses, seniors mainly occupy the apartment blocks. In the renovated part a collective meeting room has been realized that is used for all kind of activities, also accessible for people from the neighborhood.


Karmeliterkloster garden

The inhabitants that have shown us the project tell us that it is particularly this bigger size that attracts them. It creates more privacy and distance then we have seen in Pöstenhof. But at the same time the enclosed garden, the orientation of the houses and the way the project is organized creates a collective atmosphere.


Karmeliterkloster garden

The future of single family housing


This winter it was too cold to go out camping with the ANA goes Europe camper. So, when we had the opportunity to visit Bavaria in the South of Germany in order to meet local stakeholders in housing and architecture at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag, we took the plane instead and gave a lecture on our ideas and experience on the theme of this day: The future of single family housing.

The single family home
In Germany as well as in the Netherlands, in the second part of the 20th century the family home has been considered to be the ideal way of living.
In the Netherlands we have single family homes in all sorts, varying from the very small workers homes in 19th century urban areas, to the wide and light ones from the early seventies, the cheap and narrow ones from the eighties and the technically better, but spatially similar ones from the nineties.
The last period of massive rowhouse production, the VINEX,  is just behind us. The economic crisis of 2008 has forced us to stop and rethink this ambition to produce as many as possible cheap houses in the outskirts of the city, for the better.
Also Germany has a lot of Einfamilienhäuser, especially from the period 1950-1970’s. Unlike  the dominant presence of the rowhouse in the Netherlands (60% of all households live in a rowhouse), in Germany the detached house is the most common typology for single family dwellings.

Lecture at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag


Smaller households
In both countries a lot has changed. Society today looks totally different compared to the fifties, sixties and seventies. The traditional family, of a couple with two kids, has become a rare minority in a very diverse population.
In the Netherlands the two-parents family forms only 28% of all households. In Germany this is even less: 26%. Clearly, part of this development is caused by the aging population. But apart from that there are many other developments that create smaller households. We have less kids and we have them later. Present day young generations are even worse in guaranteeing offspring. Forming long term relationships is more and more problematic for the very demanding, hedonistic and young generations. That is what Jan Latten, professor social demographics at the University of Amsterdam has stated at the Expeditie Begonia, an inspiration day on ‘living variations for the elderly’ organized by Actiz Aedes. This results in less children on the long term. Divorce also adds to the increase of small households. In 1970 20% of marriages ended in divorce within 20 years, in 1995 this percentage has risen to 25%. [i]
You can imagine the consequence: huge under occupied family homes inhabited by lonely singles in neighborhoods that are fully equipped for the young family but totally not suitable for the aging singles (and couples).

reprogramming the new familyhome

reprogramming the new familyhome

Microliving and /or collective living
We need smaller homes, less to maintain less to pay for, more practical, more affordable.Of course we can fill the cities with mini apartments, container homes, plugin towers etcetera, but this leaves us with two important questions. How do we organize social interaction and prevent loneliness? What are we going to do with the enormous amount of single family homes we have built in the recent decades?

German experiences
In Bavaria the Bayerisches Staatsministerium des Innen, für Bau und Verkehr has initiated a modellproject ‘Revitalisierung von Einfamilienhausgebieten’. In three towns in Bavaria strategies are being researched and tested. Manuela Skorka of planungsbüro Skorka works on these three pilot projects and presented her findings at the 13th Coburger Wohnbautag.The developed strategies are aimed at the aging population, taking away barriers, creating meeting points, adjusting the housing stock and develop new housingprojects more suitable for elderly.The results are not visible yet, since the project is still in the development stage.

Waterwijk Almere

Waterwijk Almere

Case Almere Waterwijk
With the research team ‘Grijstinten in de tussenmaat’ we have been working on this theme in Almere Waterwijk, one of the oldest neighborhoods of Almere.  Waterwijk is very homogenous: 70% of the houses is owner occupied, 83% is a rowhouse. Waterwijk is expected to age strongly in the coming years. A lot of the first inhabitants of Waterwijk are still living there. Their children have grown and moved out on their own, leaving the parents alone in their single family home. The municipality of Almere has turned Waterwijk into a pilotarea for seniorproof living. They have asked the team of Grijstinten to think of strategies to deal with the existing housing stock in a strongly aging neighborhood.

Waterwijk Almere- demographics

Waterwijk Almere- demographics

In several workshops with inhabitants over 55 we have been discussing possible strategies. Immediate problems can be solved with simple adjustments such as stair elevators, but this still leaves future generations with a big problem. The amount of families in all of Almere will decrease, there is very little supply for smaller households. So there is a need for a long term and top down transformation strategy. We have introduced the ‘Waterwijk Neigborhood Cooperative’. This Cooperative can provide loans to facilitate individual adjustments. The cooperative can gradually buy, transform and sell or let existing rowhouses. Banks, municipality, private investors and the house owners can become shareholders in this cooperative that will also facilitate where necessary the social infrastructure in Waterwijk.  In the coming period the project will be developed further.

Pilot cases have started on different sites as stated above.  Some municipalities feel already the urgency to think about the future of existing single family housing areas. Hopefully these pilots will deliver useful and workable strategies that can be used in the many older single family housing areas we have in the Netherlands that face aging and downsizing households in the near future. Apart from that, these pilots should also feed awareness in new building programs. It is awkward to see the municipality of Almere think about adjusting family housing in one neighborhood and facilitating the building of large amounts of these types in other areas.

[i] Veranderingen in samenlevingsvormen en consequenties voor de woonbehoefte, presentatie door Jan Latten op Expeditie Begonia, 24 maart 2015.


Senior co housing in Egebakken


We met Hanne, who lives with her dog in the senior cohousing project Egebakken in Nødebo. This project was initiated in 2000 by five elderly couples. They didn’t want to stay in their big villa’s and decided they wanted to be good neighbors and take a bit more care of each other.

In the project 29 individual houses and one community house were built on a site of 23.000 m2. The houses have three sizes:  small (105 m2) , medium (125m2) and large (150m2). To be able to live here one has to be over 55 years old and is not allowed to have kids living at home . Egebakken is a well-organized small society. An activity group, a technical group and  a care group organize a lot of things ranging from theater visits to snow cleaning the streets.

The houses were designed by Vandkunsten, an architectural firm that is very experienced in (co) housing projects. The house are very spacious. The living rooms have high ceilings and some high windows that bring in light into the living area. The inhabitants were able to design their own flour plan.

Hanne’s house is on the edge, she overlooks the woods. She is very happy in Egebakken. She moved in with her husband.  It took some time for her to get used to this way of living in which privacy is guaranteed, but in which she also feels a bit obliged to take part in communal life. Now her husband has died and she is much more involved.

The inhabitants of Egebakken are all well educated and prosperous. The interesting question is if a concept like this could also work for lower income groups or even mixed groups. Hanne thinks mixing social groups wouldn’t work. The difference in income would make it very hard to agree on the communal expenses and to organize activities that fit all inhabitants.

This project is part of our research ‘Grijstinten in de tussenmaat’.