Perhaps it is the corona pandemic that is providing the decisive impetus for US inventor James Ehrlich's idea. After all, who wants to sit in a city office in the future when the threat of contagion is looming? In that case, surely it's better to be in a house outside the city centre, a green island as a place of retreat, a house in “ReGen Village”, the regenerative village.
With 203 houses, ReGen Village is to be built on a 25-hectare site near Amsterdam by the end of 2020. There, people will be able to provide themselves with water, electricity and healthy food. “We want permaculture architecture,” says Ehrlich, who used to work as an environmental consultant for US President Barack Obama, “Before we build the houses, we will install underground water cisterns - and plant old varieties of fruit trees as well as berry bushes and spices.” Each home has a greenhouse. The electricity comes from solar power and those who want to can raise farm animals. The dung is later used as fertiliser. In a sense, it marks a return to central European cultural landscapes of old. With the small difference that the modern natural houses are supposed to cost more than 200,000 euros.
Criticism is raging even before the construction work is completed, from, for example, J. Alexander Schmidt, a professor of urban planning and urban design at the University of Duisburg-Essen. “De-urbanisation is of course a topic,” Schmidt says, “Everyone knows how unhealthy and psychologically stressful cities can be.” But it's questionable whether such elitist villages really help.
Still, so far, Ehrlich's project seems to be getting a lot of traction. Already today, there are declarations of intent in The Netherlands to build further colonies, which will later be connected, forming a “green band”. And ReGen Villages are also already being planned in Denmark near the city of Lund.
Should these villages really gain new residents in the coming years, then they could, despite all the doubts, pave the way to a greener future - even if they fail. Because even the critic Schmidt admits: “Model villages have always been attractive in the past to test what works and whether it works at all.”
Translated by Jess Smee