New life forms for our changing society


The urge to enter the cities is increasing. In view of this, we should ask ourselves how we will live and work in the future. Demographic change, rising real estate prices in conurbations, stricter environmental regulations and new family structures are forcing architects and urban planners, buyers and manufacturers to rethink. 

Globally, the population will continue to grow until 2030 and one billion new residential units will be needed. According to UN-Habitat, 400 million city dwellers in South Asia live in critically overcrowded apartments. According to the study “The power of long-term trends – demography, globalization, climate change”, 35.7 million people with a population density of 14,400 inhabitants per square kilometer live in the Tokyo metropolitan region alone. But if we look at the situation in Japan, this pressure to condense does not lead to a collapse. The situation is perceived as an opportunity to develop new contemporary architecture and thus new forms of living. This creates completely new markets for new products.

But as well in the Western world, the European and American suburban model is coming to an end due to dwindling resources. Phenomena that affect our cities and society are on the one hand, an aging society with different spatial and financial resources and on the other, the development of a society in which the classic family is no longer the majority.


The old interpretations of our life model … 

… are the two basic types of architecture: apartment and house. The first phase begins with being single in a one-room apartment. This is followed by the phase of study or education, followed by the foundation of a classic small family with a house in the countryside, in the city or in a city apartment. Then a further phase follows, when the children have moved out, house and garden have become too big and an obstacle. At the very end there is then often the singular life again, often in this phase also a personal care is necessary.


Houses for an obsolete life model

The classic German house still reflects the idea of a small family. Quite in contrast to the new Japanese architecture of the post-familiar community. This community is already exemplary in its handling of the changed social conditions. Instead of separate rooms with walls and doors, it forms flowing living landscapes. Thus, the social zones of the house are redefined. The house becomes a social place for eating, playing, telling stories and discussing together. A further quality of living is the possibility of retreat. For these conflicting needs, the home must offer solutions – not least appropriately flexible furnishing products.

What we can learn from this …

… is that we literally have to reinvent living spaces. They must be more changeable, protect a core area of intimacy and privacy, and at the same time enable a new form of hospitality. Because many singles and older people want forms of living in which they can be private. Their wish is to be able to live in an ideal larger, family-like community.


Sustainability …

… in this context means that the property grows with the needs of the people in their different life situations and cycles. These social, economic and creative challenges are so fundamental, complex and multi-layered that we cannot leave them to the individual disciplines. What is required, is an interdisciplinary approach with which we seize the opportunity to create real innovations without neglecting people. Only when we learn to understand people in their individual phases of life with their changing needs, we will be able to create and design appropriate products for people.


Author: Prof. Elmar Schüller, Initiator and founder of the Innovative Living Institute