"Just because you're 80 years old, you don't automatically have different interests than your younger neighbor or only get excited about so-called 'senior issues'." ⸺ Copenhagen-based architects Dominique Hauderowicz and Kristian Ly Serena have been developing spatial responses at the intersection of architecture, art and politics through experimentation and critical thinking in their collaborative studio since 2013. Here they talk with Katharina Cichosch about their book Age-Inclusive Public Space.

Katharina Cichosch: Ms. Hauderowicz, Mr. Ly Serena, your projects are primarily dedicated to older people—a target group that otherwise tends to play a subordinate role in the design of public space. How did this come about?

Kristian Ly Serena: As architects, we have often come across how the design of modern cities frequently excludes older people from certain aspects of public life. Today, when we talk about age-appropriate urban planning, we are still mainly talking about stereotypes of what older people supposedly want or need. They are pigeonholed.

 Dominique Hauderowicz: Just because you're eighty years old doesn't automatically mean that you have different interests from your young neighbor or that you're only interested in so-called senior issues. First of all, we ask, "Who are the older people?" Many don't even ask this question, but start right away with planning and designing. In addition, aging is only seen as a disadvantage. Instead, we should look more at the positive effects of aging.

. . .

Cichosch: In your book Age-Inclusive Public Space you cite the example of Dutch seniors who do not want to participate in the senior activities offered to them, from sports to games. Instead, they prefer to meet in the chic bistros of the Hema department store chain, as many young people do. What can we learn from this for the design of public space?

Ly Serena: That older people prefer to find their own places! And not so much use what is specially designed for them. That's a great lesson in how to better design public space. Because it's still quite popular today to orchestrate the whole thing: "This is where you can meet; have a great time together."

Hauderowicz: In our opinion, it's now important to think about how to deal with an aging urban society in architecture and urban planning. Can't we think of anything better than senior citizens' playgrounds? . . . That is why it is now crucial to consider how we think about the process of ageing, and how this knowledge manifests itself architecturally. At the core is the idea is that more sensitive planning and building will ultimately mean a better city for everyone.

 Ly Serena: That's why we have devoted a section to the view from the window.

Cichosch: Are you alluding to the cliché of the older, curious-to-grim-looking neighbor glaring out of the window? 

Ly Serena: It's often about something else: for many people a balcony could be more important than a barrier-free apartment. It allows them to "go out on the street," even if it is physically or mentally difficult; with a balcony they can leave their own apartment without really having to go out. This is what we call elasticity—stretching life in several directions. Modern cities should offer something like this: gradations between one's own space and the common space. Lowering the threshold between private and public space, so that older people can easily cross it, is something architects and urban planners should think about.

Cichosch: And how would such an "elastic" public space look, beyond balconies?

 Hauderowicz: That can manifest itself in various ways, from urban planning to design. 

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An interview by Katharina Cichosch. Read the complete interview (German version) online at spiegel.

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