Sunday

4th Dec 2016

Focus

Student villages on the water

  • Students will soon be able to move into converted shipping containers in Gothenburg. (Photo: Urban Rigger)

With a projected deficit in Europe of more than 4 million student beds by 2025, governments across Europe are scrambling for a solution.

The Urban Rigger project in a former industrial port in Gothenburg, Sweden's second-largest city, might be an inspiration.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Danish architect Bjarke Ingels oversees building projects around the world, including new Google and Lego headquarters and Barcelona football club's Camp Nou. (Photo: Lisbeth Kirk)

The first students will soon be able to move into old shipping containers that have been converted into homes. They are heated by solar power and cooled using sea water. They offer a central location, a village-type community, and low cost.

"We have won our first big project in Gothenburg, in Sweden, where we are going to build 24 of these [riggers] to form sort of a student village," explains Danish architect Bjarke Ingels.

“We can actually use these containers as building blocks to create incredibly affordable apartments that have almost all the luxuries of waterfront high-end real-estate," he tells EUobserver, while showcasing the first prototype, anchored in Copenhagen's harbour.

Creating new housing areas

Ingels' Copenhagen and New York based company, BIG, dreamt up the idea together with Urban Rigger founder Kim Loudrup.

Their idea could potentially turn thousands of kilometres of untapped harbours, rivers and canals into new housing areas.

By stacking nine container units in a circle, 15 studios are created that frame a centralised common green courtyard. There is a kayak landing, bathing platform, barbecue area and a roof terrace.

The housing is also buoyant like a boat, so that can be replicated in other harbour cities where affordable housing is needed but space is limited.

Below water, there are storage rooms, a utility room and a laundry. The whole thing weighs 6 tonnes and sits 2.5m deep in the water, making it stable even when a storm passes over.

So far seven countries have been singled out as having a potential market for the riggers: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

"With the right partners we can build between 200 and 300 platforms yearly, securing 2,000 to 3,000 students an affordable place to live," Loudrup tells EUobserver.

The price for students would be between €500 and €800 each month, depending on the wharf rent and whether internet, furniture, bikes and other equipment is included.

"We have had 3,000 requests in just a few days," says Loudrup.

Co-operation with universities

Urban Rigger operates with two business models: One for private investors, who are interested in student housing with an estimated 7-8 percent return on their investment. The other model is to let the universities be in charge of the rent.

"The trend is certainly that many university cities are port cities,” says Bjarke Ingels.

As ports modernise and consolidate, smaller ports sites closer to the centres of cities are closing down.

“The new container plants are often located outside the city, leaving the old sites empty," he says.

Ingels, 41, was recently described as a kind of rockstar of the architecture world in Wired Magazine.

He is currently overseeing building projects around the world, including new Google and Lego headquarters, and renovations of Manhattan's waterfront.

In 2005, he formed BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group) from his tiny apartment in Copenhagen.

He wanted to be a cartoonist, but there was no cartoon academy. So he enrolled in the Royal Danish Art Academy School of Architecture instead and got smitten by architecture, he once revealed in an interview.

Social infrastructure

Why is Ingels spending his time on low-cost student housing when he could presumably do more profitable and prestigious projects?

"We have an idea of ​​something we call social infrastructure for the time, it's about past infrastructures that can be used for something else when going out of service," Ingels explains.

He gives examples such as the Danish Maritime Museum, which was converted from an old shipyard, and London's Tate Modern which was originally an old power plant.

But he also highlights another of his projects, the Amager Bakke power station, which incorporates this dual function from the start. It is a new power plant with a roof that doubles as a ski slope.

Waterfront ownerships

But why build it for students only, when presumably many other would be interested in living in an Urban Rigger?

"Our estimates show that there is a shortfall of 4 million student residences in Western Europe - it's certainly plenty to focus on. Right now that's our focus. What we offer is a community good as an alternative to privatising the waterfront to expensive apartments," says Ingels.

And it does not necessarily have to be university students.

"We work a little with Noma [Michelin-star restaurant] and its chef Rene Redzepi, who once said he'd like to know if we knew anything about housing opportunities. He has a number of trainee chefs from near and far who want to work with him - we even have a lot of trainees ourselves who come and stay for a year or two. It would be brilliant for us - it would be brilliant for Noma, having an Urban Rigger," he says.

"It's a housing form that could be great to live in - at least for five years."

This story was originally published in EUobserver's 2016 Regions and Cities Magazine. You can download a free PDF version of the magazine here.

Focus

Dieselgate casts doubt over low emission zones

Many European cities use low emission zones, and some are considering to ban dirty cars. But there are limits to how well the EU standards can be used to determine which cars are clean.

News in Brief

  1. Talks on wholesale roaming rules to start
  2. Lead MEP Dieselgate committee: Italy and Slovakia will cooperate
  3. Transparency NGO sues EU commission on Turkey deal
  4. Pro-EU liberal wins UK by-election
  5. Finnish support for Nato drops, Russia-scepticism grows
  6. Cyprus talks to resume in January
  7. Documents from German NSA inquiry released
  8. Transport commissioner 'not aware' of legal action on emissions

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. CESIElects Leaders and Sets Safety & Health at Work and Gender Equality Among the Guidelines For Next Term
  2. European Gaming & Betting AssociationContinues to Grow its Membership and Welcomes its Newest Member Association
  3. ACCASupports the Women of Europe Awards, Celebrating the Women who are Building Europe
  4. European Heart NetworkWhat About our Kids? Protect Children From Unhealthy Food and Drink Marketing
  5. ECR GroupRestoring Trust and Confidence in the European Parliament
  6. UNICEFChild Rights Agencies Call on EU to put Refugee and Migrant Children First
  7. MIRAIA New Vision on Clean Tech: Balancing Energy Efficiency, Climate Change and Costs
  8. World VisionChildren Cannot Wait! 7 Priority Actions to Protect all Refugee and Migrant Children
  9. ANCI LazioRegio-Mob Project Delivers Analysis of Trasport and Mobility in Rome
  10. SDG Watch EuropeCivil Society Disappointed by the Commission's Plans for Sustainable Development Goals
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhD Positions Open – The Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU (PLATO)
  12. Access NowTell the EU Council: Protect our Rights to Privacy and Security

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCAThe Future of Audit Means Adaption to Today’s Global and Digital World
  2. Swedish EnterprisesNew Rules for EU Anti-dumping Measures
  3. European Jewish CongressTakes Part in Building Resilient Communities
  4. UNICEFUniversal Children’s Day: UNICEF Calls for Global Action on Child Rights Violations
  5. Counter BalanceThe EU Bank Cannot be a Key Player in Europe's Response to the Plight of Refugees
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsProvides Evidence of Human Rights Violations and International Crimes in Crimea
  7. Dialogue PlatformThe Failed Military Coup in Turkey & The Mass Purges
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Climate Solutions at COP22 in Marrakech
  9. Counter BalanceNGOs Call on Development Finance Institutions to Act Against Tax Avoidance
  10. European Free AllianceTrump Victory and Brexit Show Urgent Need of Improving Democracy
  11. Martens CentreOur Transatlantic 9-11: Europe After Trump
  12. Dialogue PlatformTimmermans Points to Gülen Movement as Coup Plotter But Lacks Proof