Midas van Boekel
SEMANTICS OF THE RURAL SOCIAL LIFE
Types of housing for the rural senior citizen
As the Dutch population is ageing, a growing share of senior citizens will eventually end up living alone. The existing housing stock in the Netherlands will need to undergo a transformation. Attention is often paid to the urban districts, while the more significant housing needs in places without population growth or even declining population numbers — the Dutch countryside — is overlooked. Suitable senior citizens’ accommodation often results in the lifeless typology of the large-scale, barrier-free apartment complexes, where senior citizens are stacked, while being detached from their immediate surroundings.
This design-based research offers an alternative and advocates small-scale housing for our senior citizens at the heart of our and their familiar living environment. At the same time, the interventions that are made with the proposal serve as the starting shot for the revitalisation of the early postwar residential districts, which are so typical of many municipalities. The district Bakelgeert-Noord in rural Boxmeer forms the case for this research. As I grew up in this village, I was able to incorporate the nuances and the semantics of communal life into the design from within.
It soon became clear that the delicately balanced village life clashed with the monofunctional straitjacket of the early post-war residential district. Three interventions in the design proposal change this. They not only lead to more variety in general, but more specifically to the realisation of different residential environments. The fact is that the senior citizen actually does not exist. Each of us wants to grow old in our own way in our own home, and must have the freedom to be able to arrange that ourselves. There will be the home for the loner in the collective, the residential community for the solo bon vivant and the hamlet for the sovereign senior citizen.
Senior citizens’ accommodation in Boxmeer thus becomes more varied. This proposal is a call to all rural municipalities to revise similar residential districts and the existing typology for senior citizens’ accommodation. It is vital to design inspiring housing and residential districts for the future of the social life in the countryside. The importance of rural thinking in the urbanising Netherlands should not be underestimated.
Graduation committee: Jeroen Atteveld (mentor), Peter Defesche and Elsbeth Ronner. Additional members for the exam: Miguel Loos and Mariette Adriaanssen.