Forest bathing on your doorstep
Dutch architectural firm Gaaga has designed a residential building in Eindhoven that is distinctly people- and environment-friendly. Surrounded by trees, it is situated in the middle of a park.
Shinrin-yoku arrived in Europe several years ago. It first emerged in Japan and roughly translates into English as “forest bathing”. Anybody who lives near woods or even a park can consider themselves lucky: as its name suggests, this relaxing pastime is enjoyed in woodland. The residents of “Het Bosbad” in Eindhoven are especially fortunate because their homes are actually amongst trees, so to speak. You could almost say that forest bathing is included in the rent.
Eindhoven in the Netherlands is usually associated with two different things: on the one hand, this city in the province of North Brabant in the south of the country is famous for being a design and technology centre. After all, this was the birthplace of electronics group Philips. On the other hand – and football fans are sure to know this already – it is home to the PSV Eindhoven football club, whose stadium also bears the name Philips. For those who aren’t familiar with Dutch football: besides Ajax Amsterdam and Feyenoord Rotterdam, the “Eindhovense Voetbalvereniging Philips’ Sport Vereniging” is one of the most successful football clubs in the Netherlands.
Bosbad as a residential haven
However, in future Eindhoven may well also be associated with the project designed by Dutch architecture studio Gaaga known as “Het Bosbad”. Or in actual fact, the entire district of Bosrijk. Formerly used by the army, the area was preserved and designed as a green haven under the direction of developers karres+brands, who were responsible for the master plan. The Dutch are pioneers in the design of entire districts as sustainable residential havens, such as this one in Groningen.
Substantial tree population
Bosrijk is one of the zones set aside by the Dutch Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment for the housing programme known as Vinex, which is similar to an urban development plan. It is aimed at creating a “compact city”.
The former army grounds in the district of Meerhoven are located on the Beatrix Canal and will border on the new districts of Zandrijk and Grasrijk. Over the years, Bosrijk has developed into an area that is much like a park, with a substantial tree population. After the military moved out, karres+brands were handed responsibility for urban planning and designed a public space.
Diverse residential models
The area provided an ideal place to build a diverse range of residential models and road structures on the grassland. As a result, many of the building plots are one of a kind. Calculations during planning also incorporated the changing status of the woods. These changes can be natural or as a result of human intervention in the “green structure”.
But let’s return to the matter in hand, which is “Het Bosbad” designed by Gaaga for Kikx Development. The timber facade gives the building a friendly quality that fits in well with the surrounding area. A leafy walkway leads through the building like a forest path. The use of tree trunks in this walkway creates a link with the trees in the park.
City detox in your own home
The experts at Gaaga focused on the sustainable use of energy and raw materials during the building’s construction, utilization, maintenance and end-of-life deconstruction. Cooling and heating requirements are reduced to a minimum by the cool walkway, roof greenery, triple glazing and good insulation. The footpaths through the park lead up to the walkway, whose floor area is partially covered with ferns. Depending on the amount of rainfall, water collects here to form a “wadi”.
Inside the apartments, the open space in the living room leads out to the balcony and extends over the timber decking into the outside world. This fluid transition literally invites you to wander out barefoot. Immerse yourself in the woodland atmosphere. The space is framed by timber tree trunks that create a feeling of intimacy.
In Japan, forest bathing is a recognized form of (natural) therapy. Doctors often prescribe their patients a trip to the forest for several days. The experience involves all the senses. It involves immersion in a beautiful setting, breathing in the good air, hearing the rustling of leaves, digging your hands into the forest soil and leaning against a tree.
Research at the US National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) has found that spending time in forests does actually reduce stress and boost your mood. This is due to phytoncides, which are substances emitted by plants to ward off bacteria, fungi and insects. Humans are known to feel calm when they come into contact with these volatile organic compounds. The blood pressure falls, activity in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is reduced, and there is a decrease in the amount of the stress hormone cortisol being released. The heart rate variability improves as well. And the NCBI has discovered that phytoncides also enhance the activity of natural killer cells and therefore boost the immune system.
Text: Linda Benkö
Translation: Rosemary Bridger-Lippe
Photos/Renderings: Karres en Brands, Wendel de Joode, Gaaga, MAAK, YuconVR