3rd Price – Sarah Pens – Cooperative Hinterland

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The third prize is awarded to Sarah Pens, Cooperative Hinterland

Sarah Pens (1997, Hannover), studies at Leipniz University in Hannover. Her realistic and concrete proposal is integrated into the environment of Usedom, an island in the Baltic Sea that is socio-economically deficient and deprived in the face of ecological and demographic challenges. Sarah Pens imagines reusing the “Plattenbauen” (large-scale housing estates) as a communal place for living and intergenerational support. In addition, she advocates a place for winter storage and provision, to be anticipated as early as the summer harvest season. In this way, the project shows how the advantages of the city lifestyle can be easily integrated into the rural and island world.

Cooperative Hinterland

A growing longing for deceleration and access to nature is intensifying the migration of city dwellers to suburban areas. In the process, cities and their immediate surroundings are growing ever closer while in structurally weak rural areas, exodus and overaging of the population are permanent issues. To preserve diverse living spaces these are precisely the places that need to be focused.

Exemplary for a very rural and social-economically deficient region the project Cooperative Hinterland is focusing on the hinterland of the island of Usedom in north-eastern Germany. The region is characterised by a splattered settlement structure, long distances, and lacking infrastructure. The small communities are hardly able to tackle the upcoming ecological and demographical challenges and stay attractive to their current and future inhabitants.

Therefore, the project proposes a cooperative network that connects and strengthens the communities. While doing so, the architectural visualization and collective implementation in form of new to be established commons is of particular importance. Embedded into a supervisory region- wide network there are several constellations of communities that are working together as village cooperatives, which are carrying out projects that are oriented towards the common good. They react to the needs, challenges, and already existing potentials of the communities.

Exemplary, the proposal examines four communities that are going to be stronger connected through their intercommunal work and a new bike path network. To preserve the specific character and rural cultural landscape it is important to consider the already existing. Therefore, the actions of the village cooperative focus on two formative attributes of the area:

The Plattenbauten are prefabricated apartment buildings that stand isolated and sometimes unwanted in many rural villages. Their unexploited potential could be used to address a wide range of inhabitants. One existing Plattenbau in the region is converted into a multigenerational house offering collective housing for younger and elderly people, whose needs are not served by the predominant single-family homes. The newly added common rooms can be used as workspaces, for movie or game nights to bring together the house community as well as the whole village.

Another formative attribute is the strong influence of seasons due to the touristic island of Usedom. While the communities benefit from this in the summer months, they dive into a winter sleep during the cold season. That counts for activities as well as for social interaction due to a lack of small informal meeting spaces. To activate existing spaces for the whole year, the so-called Winter Reservoir is introduced. During summer the space is vivid and the storage can be filled with the yields of the orchard. In the winter months, small groups can meet up in the kitchen and draw on the summerly reserves.

The proposal focuses on small and simple interventions that are possible to realize within the village cooperative. It represents how even little changes can provoke new impulses and activates new dynamics in peripheral regions.