Ton Venhoeven: A City Is Not A Factory

“Multifunction home is not a new concept”, architect Ton Venhoeven said during his lecture at Aalto University as he gave a strong punch to urban planning tradition where different functions are separated to separate areas of the city. As Dutch government´s advisor on infrastructure, Venhoeven is one of today´s leading authorities in sustainable architecture.

Ton Venhoeven

In his lecture he described how the Ancient Greek design of a home was a miniature village. “A lot of the functions of a good life could be carried out in the home. But that design got lost with industrialisation and we started thinking of cities as conveyor belts”, Venhoeven said.

He illustrated his point by describing how we think of homes today. “We build a house, stuff comes in and we pay for it. From the other end, waste goes out.”

But the way Venhoeven thinks about houses and cities changes the nature of the home. “We can become producers”, he explains. “With our actions we and our houses improve the metabolism of the city.” This means for instance solar panels feeding excess energy back into the grid, our waste producing heat or us growing part of our food in our home. “Already Dutch home owners are getting messages saying ´Do you want to earn with your roof´. At its best, energy becomes a sport. It´s very likely that we will soon see neighbourhoods competing with each other on sustainability and energy production.”

But the good news do not end here. Thinking of cities as metabolisms has also happiness effects. “Now the conveyor belt thinking drives us to earn a lot of money and work extremely hard. And as energy prices go up, we are driven to earn more”, Venhoeven explains.

“But if our home is self-sustaining or even earning us money through energy production, maybe we can work less. And that means we can spend our time on something a lot more meaningful.”

See Venhoeven´s entire presentation on Slideshare here.