Summertown (Tennessee), 1971. Stephen Gaskin, a professor from San Francisco, founded The Farm, the world’s first ecovillage: an ecological and sociological experiment which, for a long time, was considered utopian as it was born from an ideal aspiration that was difficult to implement.
Many years on, technology has evolved, and the situation on the planet poses new social and environmental challenges: population growth, increasing urbanisation, scarcity of resources, and climate change.
ReGen is a project presented in the Danish Pavilion at the 2016 Venice Biennale of Architecture which is aimed at eliminating the word “utopia” from the concept of ecovillage. It is a new type of “regenerative” and self-sufficient community that represents a model of sustainability that is capable of producing its own clean energy, water, and organic food; reducing CO2 emissions; reducing consumption; and transforming waste into a resource. The first of these villages is being built in the Netherlands and will be inaugurated this year: residential houses; vertical farms with hydroponic crops (with 98% less land use, 90% less water consumption, increased biodiversity and less pollution due to food transport); fish farms; waste recycling areas; and water collection.
The project does not sacrifice beauty in any way; in fact, ReGen Village is an ingenious, functional, and above all beautiful project. The houses are encased in transparent glass greenhouses that confer lightness to the entire structure, and the vertical gardens used for food production also serve as decorative elements for the village.
The experiment also has a positive social impact: the families who live in ReGen Village will be part of a local ecosystem with common areas where concepts such as sustainability and recycling form the philosophical pillars of a small integrated world, and where there is a desire to recreate the links among people lost in the chaos of modern cities.
“We want to make choosing a sustainable lifestyle easy, convenient, and affordable,” say the founders. Indeed, the plans for expansion of the model envisage ReGen Villages spreading throughout Northern Europe with their design entrusted to local architectural firms. This could then be extended to the Middle East and Asia, where urbanisation poses the most difficult challenges and where this kind of village could provide a genuine new economic, ecological, and social response.
Energy produced on site from renewable sources, food grown by the residents for the residents, and waste disposal and recycling through low environmental impact methods are no longer utopia. The future is here.
All pictures, EFFEKT, courtesy Regen Village / effekt.dk – regenvillages.com