Spatial Design

Becoming Part of a Whole

Angelien van der Snel
Practice Autonomous Practices
Project Public and Private
Major Spatial Design
Year Fourth Year

Nomination: Drempelprijs 2018

Our current western society has become strongly individualised and distant from its environment. Alienated from neighbour and habitat, we are no longer certain of our connection with this earth.

In my search for the values of the culture of my mother, I have rediscovered a society that is based on harmony among people and between people and their environment. At the core is the Bornean longhouse with the values of its tribal culture woven through the entire structure.

One of the core values of Bornean culture is that there is a natural flow from life (upstream) to death (downstream) present in all things on earth that should not be obstructed. Building a longhouse is to be done parallel to this natural flow, including the placement of the interior spaces and the building materials used. This ultimate form of respect for the natural surroundings determines the shape of the longhouse and makes it one with the environment. The majority of space in the house is shared by the community with daily life happening there amid neighbours. The concept of privacy is not something physical but rather mental. People watch over each other and are interdependent, with every individual functioning as part of a larger whole.

By designing a contemporary longhouse and placing it in a Dutch landscape I aimed to make a statement: It is time that our individualistic society turns back to a more adaptive attitude towards one another, with the other. We should not try to copy the Bornean indigenous culture but learn from her how to regain the lost connection to earth and habitat and to one’s neighbour.