• "Sustainable human settlements development
    is one of the biggest challenges of our times."

    Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, World Sustainable Building Conference, Tokyo 2005
    Slideshow Image 1

    © Team

  • Slideshow Image 1

    © Katharina Doblinger

  • Slideshow Image 1

    © Katharina Doblinger

  • Slideshow Image 1

    © Katharina Doblinger

Our name, BASEhabitat, expresses the self-defined demands that our organisation places on teaching and research. We try to understand the subject of this study and research — the space — in a correspondingly independent and basic way. By doing this, we want to make people the focal point. They are the creatures that surround themselves with the space to give themselves a home, to be protected from hostile environmental influences, to create a place that supports and enriches their existence, and a place where they can imagine their future.

 

We also look for the challenges to our architecture in places where even these most basic demands on built living space are not met. That is why we set up BASEhabitat as a project studio that combines theory and practice in projects that use building engineering and the art of space to contribute to sustainably improving and maintaining the quality of life in developing countries. We do not see ourselves as development workers but as mediators in a mutual exchange of knowledge and technology, cultural qualities and skills.

 

 

INTEGRATION

BASEhabitat projects always take place in sensitive social environments that require special attention. You need the local people to accept and understand the project in order to be successful. We intend to provide houses as prototypes that can be copied. This also requires careful integration into the community in advance. We achieve this by involving as many people as possible in the building process: these are first and foremost the people who will live in the buildings and who should help to co-design the buildings according to their needs; the local craftspeople who provide valuable skills and can pass on the knowledge that they gain; the men and women from the neighbourhood who we employ for a short time; and also the businesses and traders from the area who supply us.

 

We want to get everyone involved in the project to exchange information around our common objective in a fun way full of creative energy.

 


CLIMATE

Passive house technology and the use of solar energy are core elements of the curriculum at our university. In regions with limited access to public infrastructure, where the means of providing adequate heating or cooling are lacking, this know-how is particularly useful. We think that knowing how to exploit alternative energy sources — an achievement of highly industrialised countries such as Austria — is a particularly valuable export for communities in which the problems of climate change and shortage of resources are generally ignored in the pursuit of greater prosperity and a higher standard of living.

 

Therefore, we have worked with specialists to create concepts for the passive use of solar energy for all the BASEhabitat projects. The effectiveness of these concepts has also been tested using computer simulations. We can achieve a comfortable indoor climate that needs neither air conditioning in summer nor heating in winter by using intelligent roof constructions and thermally insulating wall materials, as well as by carefully considering how we position windows and shade.

 


MATERIAL

The rediscovery and use of endogenous potential is a prerequisite for sustainable development. We therefore make sure that local materials, and to a large extent unprocessed materials, are used in all BASEhabitat projects. Building using locally available materials elevates them to a new level. Using building materials from the immediate surroundings gives the people involved greater independence while also strengthening the local economy. In addition, traditional building forms and techniques are used when building with these materials that activates and increases the existing latent knowledge.

 

Together with experts and skilled workers on the ground, BASEhabitat seeks out methods of construction that suit local materials and techniques, and also meet our high demands regarding comfort and aesthetics.

 

 

BEAUTY

People don't talk about beauty. At least not if you want to arouse suspicion in the field of development politics. You can address social commitment, self-help and education, economy, ecology and sustainability: but not beauty. Beauty seems to be ‘blasphemous’ in the face of hardship, poverty and need.

The ludicrous formula looks like this: beauty is vanity, beauty is luxury and waste, and beauty equals decadence and decline. Does this mean that there must always be ugliness where poverty and need prevail? As if beauty has not always existed throughout the world, even in the simplest barns and stables and in the most modest huts and houses.

 

Absence of beauty is poverty! Beauty is a right as fundamental as food. Architecture is not a luxury. Hollywood is ‘rich and beautiful’. Beauty doesn't cost anything except intelligence and spirit, care and (affectionate) attention. Culture and beauty don't cost anything. Culture and beauty can enter into a relationship with simplicity and modest use of resources, as well as with plenty and abundance. Building without art lacks spirit. It is destructive, cynical, and often brutal.

 

Concern with beauty distinguishes BASEhabitat from many other development projects. Beauty is that aspect that gives our projects dignity and helps to anchor the work among different people and in the different cultural areas.