New holiday architecture: Andrea Gebhard in conversation

What role can holiday homes play in times of crisis and what could a “new” holiday architecture possibly look like? We talked about this with Andrea Gebhard, President of the Federal Chamber of Architects in Germany. And we also found out what true holiday happiness means to her.

Ms Gebhard, in times of energy transition and climate change, architects are faced with massive challenges and bear a great social responsibility. In your view, can the holiday home “as a laboratory of architecture” play a significant role in further development and adaptation in these contexts?

Andrea Gebhard: Whether holiday architecture can play a noteworthy role in coping with the climate catastrophe is not obvious at first glance.
Certainly, new ideas can be tried out in holiday homes, and second-hand materials in particular can be put to excellent use.

Trying out a wide variety of floor plans and the combination of various apartment sizes is also often a great way to experience new compact forms of living. If these experiences can then be scaled up and implemented on a broad scale, that would certainly be a contribution.

And, if so, where exactly do you see opportunities for owners and architects of holiday properties to make an increased contribution to crisis management in the future?

Andrea Gebhard: In addition to the aspects mentioned above, the contribution to crisis management is the breaking of habits. I am always amazed at how little comfort people have when they spend their holidays on campsites and in mobile homes, but how much comfort they demand in their own homes, so that we have to observe more and more standards in housing construction.
I see great opportunities in the straightforward simplicity that holiday architecture can convey.

Wouldn’t the holiday home sector be the perfect “playground” for testing the planned, new building type E*?  More leeway and innovation in planning and building through a reduced number of standards, guidelines and requirements definitely sounds fundamentally promising to us…

Andrea Gebhard: Of course, I would very much welcome it if holiday architecture developed good examples here and if the “new holiday architecture” were based on the conversion of existing structures wherever possible and could thus also upgrade existing buildings.

Building is currently not only expensive and complex, and there is often simply a lack of tradespeople. According to our observations, the situation is aggravated by the fact that there is a shortage of real estate and the prices are horrendous, especially in metropolitan regions – while in many rural areas, vacancies are still one of the major issues. Do urban planning and architecture have to readjust in order to stem the flight to the countryside in the medium term? Or is this perhaps even more of a social opportunity?

Andrea Gebhard: Our opportunity as a society lies in the necessary to understand city and country as a spatial continuum. Only if we understand that both the city and the countryside and vice versa can only function in an interlocked way can we overcome the crises we are facing. This also includes using smart mobility offers and effective digitalisation to lift the existing treasures of housing stock in rural areas and thus make it possible for people to live and work in rural communities as well.
At present, I would not speak of a flight to the countryside, but of the opportunity to offer people different places to live.

Last but not least: When you go on holiday yourself – what do you attach importance to and what is explicitly a “no go” in accommodation from your point of view?

Andrea Gebhard: For me, the beauty of both the surroundings and the hotel or holiday apartment is extremely important. I’d rather have a short holiday, but the accommodation, landscape and city must be beautiful.
Comfort in terms of service is also very important to me.

The absolute dream was a house in Italy that we could rent with eleven people and where a cook from the neighbourhood always prepared a wonderful, very simple meal for us.
It was like childhood: holidays at grandmother’s… swimming in the river all day and then enjoying the most delicious food at home. And above all, you didn’t have to worry about anything – pure relaxation!

A no-go is an ugly holiday home or a hotel with unfriendly staff or on a noisy street. In that case, I immediately move.

* E for “simple building” or “experimental building”.

Andrea Gebhard has been President of the Federal Chamber of Architects since May 2021. The landscape architect and urban planner has already been politically involved in her professional for many years and in many ways.

The interview was conducted by Ulrich Stefan Knoll in October 2022.

Teaser Image: © Laurence Chaperon

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