HouseEurope!: The Transformation Issue

A citizens’ initiative for an EU-legislation that boosts the renovation of existing buildings and stops their demolition driven by speculation. 

Every building is up for demolition, you just don’t know yet! Today, buildings are treated as investments rather than spaces for people to live. Due to financial speculation, millions of square meters sit empty and ruin, are being demolished and replaced: from abandoned industrial and office spaces to functioning family homes. This practice creates social and environmental problems. 

From this semester on, the design studios at station+ will be dedicated to a political initiative with the goal of implementing a legislation on a European level. HouseEurope! addresses the challenges of the existing building stock, which currently contributes to financial speculation and neglects its potential to support the social-ecological transformation. The goal of the initiative is to achieve a cultural and legislative shift of the building sector by promoting the adaptive reuse and renovation of existing buildings. 

We believe that by now preservation is no longer a retroactive activity but becomes a prefigurative act. We have to preserve the normal, the worthless, the ugly, just as we preserve listed buildings. Research studies, like “Obsolete Stadt” have identified various typologies that are likely to fall out of use due to social, economic or ecological changes and cultural shifts. These typologies include amongst others: offices, shopping malls, store fronts, banks, parking garages. We will build on these obsolete typologies to create design prototypes and legal precedents, how to adapt and transform an existing structure in order to reuse it for living. Therefore, every group of students will focus on one building (typology), look into local legislation as well as European legislation, to then compare these standards and norms. We will explore the national differences of legislative texts that incentivize speculation-driven demolition and new construction (Ersatzneubau). By doing so, we are trying to find the legal levers that, at present, are not recognized as opportunities to reuse and renovate these buildings.