Guestblog by Niels Baljet, TU Delft

That’s the number of things I own. An obsession of stuff is what kick-started my graduation project at the Faculty of Architecture at the TU Delft. Several bloggers, photographers and artist, such as Peter Menzel and Judith de Leeuw, are questioning whether we are living in a material world. Inspired by them, I decided to count everything I own. With mathematical precision I transformed my home into a photo studio, capturing and counting everything I have. Well, 881 is the answer. It sure seems like a lot. If I would display everything on the floor, it would occupy an area of 120 square meters. The combined volume of these items would be 52 cubic meters. That’s the volume of two vans. Is it really necessary to own so many things? And why do I even want to own more things? At the moment I finished this experiment it was already out-dated, since I bought more stuff. And I want to own even more. In extend to the sheer amount of stuff in our households, it seems we are all having more or less the same things. Could sharing be the solution to this redundancy of things? Can we promote a shared habitat where you live with less while having access to more? 

In todays world sharing is becoming a bigger part of our society. Many companies are already actively involved in these sharing processes. Successful concepts like AirBnB, SnapCar and Peerby stimulate this sharing movement. But what does this mean for our everyday lives? Every single one of us is still living with maximum ownership, everyone owns his own kitchen, washing machine, dining table, television and so on. In that sense we could state that it is not efficient to have these functions used only by a single household. We just own too much stuff. This led me to dedicate my graduation project to sharing. For a year I am now researching the opportunities of sharing in the built environment. I believe that there is a strong demand for a physical sharing platform within the built environment. The possibilities of sharing in architecture are endless. ‘Share City, when do we need to share?’ is a research that tries to unlock the potential of sharing within the city. Imagining an extreme situation, I will try to find out when you want to share and when you don’t.

Share City
Share City is an experimental project trying to unveil the potential of sharing, whilst acknowledging that we are not willing to share everything. The research question ‘When do we need to share’ is not to be answered in a single statement or conclusion. In the end, the designed block will showcase when the added value of sharing is so great that its inhabitants are willing to abandon the current standards of possession to dwell in this shared habitat.

From quantity to quality
With my counting-experiment I calculated exactly how much I own. By combining this with the literature and data gathered in my research, I estimated the volume of stuff my future dwellers would bring to the building. I divided these possessions into different categories. Then I listed the added value of sharing these categories. For example the category ‘books’ starts with a small private book shelve. Sharing with two persons leads to having a bookcase. Sharing with 18 persons would give access to a reading room. Ultimately, sharing with the entire block would give access to a full-scale library. Other categories include a spa, park, campsite, restaurant, food court, laundry room, clothes library, office, archive, maker space, car-share hub, cinema, museum, music theatre, running track and a theme park; all within the block. All this could be achieved by living with a minimum of private space, whilst having a maximum of collective space adversely. 

The Block
To test the ultimate sharing scenario I will design a 50x50x50 meter block for 260 people. This block will juxtapose a maximum situation of shared space, with a minimum of private space. The transition area between private and public is extremely important, since we do not want to share everything at any time. The block will have a public access route connecting the shared spaces. The route is public but the shared spaces are collective and are only accessible to those who are sharing the space. Thus; the more you choose to share, the more access you will have. The block will therefore become an adaptable network of private, collective and public atmospheres. 

The graduation project nears its completion in January 2017, if you have any thoughts or ideas feel free to contact me. 

Niels Baljet

View the slides of Niels's presentation here