apartment buildings Ismaning © Benedict Esche

Each year Munich is home to more and more people. Hence, the city is in dire need of more living-space – and more apartments are being built along the Isar – but will they be enough? A recent study conducted by Allianz shows that each year too little additional infrastructure is being built – in total 9.300 apartments less than needed. The common housing construction is reaching its limits. It is time to look into new solution concepts in the area of smart cities. The 28 year old architect Benedict Esche and his team of creative heads have a few ideas in mind and are arguing that “there is still a lot of space in Munich”.

You say that there is still room in Munich – but where?

Benedict Esche: It’s everywhere. First of all there is the real space, which is not being used to its full potential. For example I could imagine that the old factory for sleeping cars or the signal boxes could be reconstructed and furnished effectively. And then there is also space, which we could use if we begin to think outside the box and start to grow together. This concerns both city centers as well as vacant places. For example, let’s take an average office: The employees are roughly working from 9am until 6pm. During the rest of the day the offices will be empty. What if someone could spend the night in these offices? The employees wouldn’t notice, seeing as they have their own timeframe of hours spent in the office. All we have to do is think in terms of community value.

Office-space is not for private use – I can see this idea working in practice. But I wouldn’t be open to constantly sharing my private flat.

Esche: And that is exactly why we have to start thinking about our need for space. We are currently looking at an average of 45 square meters per person. Ten years ago this number would have been substantially smaller. I don’t think that we need more than seven to ten square meters. The key is to use this space most effectively and that’s how you generate more space.

That sounds cramped. How will this work?

Esche: One of our projects in the Baumstraße will serve as an example. The room is only 7.3 square meters big and is currently housing a person who would like to sleep, eat and preferably work in the given space. The question was: How will everything fit and how can everything function and interact most effectively? The inhabitant likes to cook – so it was clear to us, that the room had to be furnished according to a professional cook. And in the next instant it had to convey the feeling of a cosy sleeping area. We solved this through implementing adjustable ceilings, walls and floors. These would house elements which could fold out, so that the room can alter as required.

What role does design play in your work?

Esche: Design plays an insanely huge role. Design doesn’t only stand for a pretty appearance, but also for functionality, that every flick of the wrist has the right angle, that everything is haptic. The automotive industry also has to cope with only a small amount space. Let’s take modern caravans as an example. They are also designed to fit even the smallest needs. The architecturecannot spare design. I also believe that design and architecture can’t be separated.

How do you start your work? Do you look into functionality first or do you also consider aesthetics?

Esche: Of course it has to function and look good. However the first step is to agree on what the user wants and what his position is. This is a point, which describes him. Following this point, I can start creating the idea for the interior design – which in turn describes the object. For example: In the room which was only seven square meters – this was the kitchen.

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