Opportunity Building Gap: Gaps are there to be closed.

3 min read

This fact actually applies to all areas - and thus also to architecture. One speaks of gaps between buildings when there is no development within a certain section of the construction as there is in the surrounding areas. This is the case both when a plot of land is still completely undeveloped or when there is a large difference in the number of stories between adjacent buildings. In both cases, it is possible to add a building structure which can then lead to a homogeneous house formation with a uniform facade. In this way, redensification with real added value can be achieved in an uncomplicated way, especially in cities.

Room for potential

This is also the reason why redensification with the help of subsequent development of vacant lots is becoming increasingly popular and is also being promoted accordingly by many cities. In urban programs such as the building gap program in Cologne, which was set up as early as 1990, there is a vigorous attempt to uncover the potential of building gaps for the creation of new living space. The aim is not to arbitrarily build on every vacant lot, as is often the case in mega-metropolises in the Far East. Rather, many plots of land in the city, some of them hidden, offer the opportunity to generate an additional increase in the quality of life. In addition, the government's limitation of a certain number of floor areas in the building code ensures that high-rise colossi cannot grow upwards on every corner without further ado.

Rethought: Little space – a lot of room

The fact that existing and, especially affordable living space in cities is becoming scarcer has been increasingly clear for several years. However, redensification does not mean that open space has to be reduced or sealed. Generally, even the existing infrastructure can be used in an uncomplicated manner and without major extensions. Another positive side effect is the reduction of urban traffic. Retail, office and residential space is concentrated in the city, which means that many distances can be covered on foot or by bicycle. For these reasons, people are increasingly talking about "inner development" rather than just redensification since the word "density" still has a negative connotation for many people in this context. This has its roots in the early 1900s, when a large number of dark, cramped apartments in cities and the resulting rapid transmission of disease were part of everyday life. Whereas in other countries and cultures people sometimes live together in much more confined spaces, space and the need for space are still very important in Germany.

Urban structures for a good climate

In addition to the creation of pure living space, a trend can also be seen towards additions with open spaces, public spaces, roof gardens and extensive green areas on roofs. "Urban gardening" is the keyword here. This type of urban horticulture is establishing itself due to the increase in urban structures, the desire to produce their own food, and a simultaneous reduction in agricultural land. This also helps with reducing sealed surfaces in cities and promoting the biodiversity of flora and fauna. There are almost no limits to creativity: simply grow and let grow.

Creativity for the future

However, a high degree of creativity is also required if one decides to build on such a gap with living space. In addition to the advantages already mentioned and the important aspect of a lesser expensive plot of land, as there are usually no additional development costs, a gap between buildings usually does not provide ideal conditions. In most cases, these are narrow, elongated building areas. On these, good lighting of the interior spaces can become a challenge. Compromises to neighboring properties are also not insignificant and must be considered in detail in advance. But at the same time, this also offers the opportunity to question familiar forms of living anew and more intensively, as well as to plan with new approaches. How much space do you really need for living and where should the individual rooms be located within the house? This is less about reinventing the wheel and more about exploring new possibilities. The Dutch, with their well-known gap houses or canal houses, are an outstanding example. Here, very diverse and impressive interiors are created on very narrow footprints. Creative diversity meets homogeneity without appearing boring. An approach that can also promote qualitative living space in German cities.

However, since in many cities building gaps that can be used as building plots are not always easy to spot, it is important to walk through the city with open eyes if you should be on the lookout. In this way, the saying "courage to fill a gap" takes on a completely different meaning - a challenge for new opportunities.


All photos © Ricardo Gomez Angel via unsplash.

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