Marc Koehler is the founder of Marc Koehler Architects (MKA) and the creator of the fabulous Superlofts project. The studio is located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While his firm works on many architectural projects, with Superlofts, Marc is stretching his role as an architect.
For 15 years, MKA has developed an analytically innovative, research-by-doing approach to ambitious, original ideas directed at the future of sustainable urban living.
The Superlofts project pursues the idea of community first, building second. Rather than design and build a condominium project in the hope that the market will follow, MKA are creating curated living experiences and providing highly-flexible living spaces set in urban sites, all the while building with carbon neutrality in the foreground. Superlofts accomplishes this through a customizable co-living and development model which allows people to design their own living spaces from scratch and lets new homeowners co-create their shared spaces, all in service of building a sustainable co-living community. Every aspect of each project is thoughtfully designed – from the exterior facade, to the number of families in each “pod”, to the shared amenities that will encourage community, to the extreme flexibility of the living arrangements.
Having started as a local project, Superlofts is growing into an international movement. Five Superlofts have been completed in Amsterdam and Utrecht, and projects in Groningen, Amsterdam and Delft are under construction. Sites in other international cities are also being researched.
Marc’s studio, MKA, practices a full range of design disciplines from start to finish: concept, architecture & urban design. with a team that includes four core associates and 29 architects, designers and engineers. Their work has been recognized with the World Architecture Festival Housing Award (Completed Buildings) and Director’s Special Award in 2017, World Architecture News Award for Best Housing Project in Europe 2017, Best Dutch Building of the Year (Housing) in 2018, architectenweb award in 2018 and Dutch Building Award in 2015. Recently, MKA won design bids for ambitious new developments such as Poppies, Bosrijk, KBF-Dock, Peak and commissions such as Republica Circular City and MARK that promote the transition towards a circular economy and inclusively built environment.
Marc Koehler (1977) grew up in a Dutch Portuguese family in the northern Dutch town of Naarden. He holds a Masters in Architecture from the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft). Since 2017 he has an advisory role at the municipality of Amsterdam as a member of the Spatial Quality Committee. The committee reviews planning permits in light of the city’s urban design ambitions across themes such as densification, urban renewal, sustainability and cooperative developments.
I can’t wait to visit a Superloft.
Insights and Inspirations
- We already live in the future if successful urban housing can be modular, co-living villages, co-created by their inhabitants.
- Building community should be the primary goal of any urban design process.
- Sustainability is just as much about people as it is about resources.
Information and Links
- On the Superlofts website you can explore the tools that MKA uses to help home owners, real estate pioneers and architectural partners create buildings for the future.
- MKA has also launched the Superliving community. Here you can see residents in their dream home and meet MKA’s interior design partners.
- Open Building is an emerging group of Dutch architects and engineers who are devoted to radically changing the building industry and the built environment to enable a sustainable and personalized way of living.
Read the podcast transcript here
Eve Picker: [00:00:00] Hi there. Thanks so much for joining me today for the latest episode of Impact Real Estate Investing.
My guest today is Marc Koehler, the founder of Marc Koehler Architects and the fabulous Superlofts. His studio is located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. While the studio works on many architectural projects, Superlofts is perhaps the most exciting project that you will want to hear more about. With Superlofts, Marc is tapping the desire for city living and combining it artfully with flexible living opportunities, carbon-neutral living and community consciousness.
Be sure to go to EvePicker.com to find out more about Marc Koehler on the show notes page for this episode, and be sure to sign up for my newsletter so you can access information about impact real estate investing and get the latest news about the exciting projects on my crowdfunding platform, Small Change.
Marc Koehler: [00:01:09] Hi, Eve.
Eve: [00:01:10] Hi, Mark. Thank you very much for joining me today.
Marc: [00:01:13] Yeah. Nice to be here. Thank you.
Eve: [00:01:15] Yes. So, you know, I wanted to talk to you today about the very fascinating work that you’re doing in your studio, Marc Koehler Architects. And, you know, I was especially fascinated by a statement on your web site that says you are in the business of bringing people together and that you build the new ways that people want to live. And that’s a pretty unusual set of statements for an architect. Architects usually focus on buildings, not people. So, I’d love you to tell me what you mean by “the business of bringing people together.”
Marc: [00:01:51] Yeah. Well, our company started 15 years ago. Small architects, boutique design agency, doing private houses, transformations of apartments and so on. And we really had to listen to what people wanted, and how they would like to live. So, what we developed is a methodology which we called ‘The Ideal Day,’ in which we ask people to write down their ideal dream day in their ideal future home … as a film script, starting in the morning, ending in the evening. And then, it’s about how do you want to wake up, or how do you want to come home after work? So, it’s not about how big is this? How many square meters do you need in your bedroom, or in your entrance hallway, but what is coming home for you? What do, what is the routine, the ritual of coming home or going to bed or waking up or cooking or showering? And by describing this as scenes, as, let’s say, scripted scenes of a movie of your ideal future life, people start to imagine the power of change, of possibility. And that’s the real quality of architecture and interior design, is that it can really change your life if you take the opportunity and really think of what you want to achieve with your new space.
Marc: [00:03:13] This is something that grew out into several projects, beautiful houses we did for different people. And then in the middle of the financial crisis, when nobody wanted to invest into, let’s say, apartment buildings in the Netherlands, the only sector of the building industry that continued was private housing. So, townhouses, family houses in the suburbs. And there was a lot of land available around the city center of Amsterdam that wasn’t developed. Banks wouldn’t give anyone a loan because it was a very, very deep financial and real estate crisis, from 2008 to 2015. We, though, had this network of private individuals that did want to develop their dream home. They didn’t want to live in the suburbs, though. So what we created was a framework. Basically an apartment building existing out of concrete frame, with double-high spaces of five or six meters tall, and invited people to design their dream house within that framework. And this is what became Superlofts.
Marc: [00:04:22] And Superlofts basically allows private individuals to design with us their dream home in a vertical kind of village, in the sense that we have multiple floors on top of each other, with collective facilities and a strong community that actually then is the result of this. Because people become engaged, in the process of design and also in the process of, let’s say, co-owning a project with other neighbors. And we manage this whole process. And this is when we discovered that the sense of community, something that was really missing in the city. So, we started to also select people for these projects that actually match with each other, and organized, let’s say … co-creation sessions, in which these future homeowners decided together upon what kind of parking situation they wanted for their cars? Did they want electrical charging points? Did they want a shared car? Or maybe they wanted a roof terrace with a barbecue pit or a shared garden for the kids to play. And we really became real estate developers focusing on how people want to live together in the future. And this is what made us stand out to other real estate and architectural concepts in housing. Superloft is really based on individual freedom and, let’s say, the power of doing things together with your co-owners in the building, and developing shared spaces. And it creates very successful building complexes with a lot of happy people that have a very strong social cohesion, do things together, take care of each other, like in a village, but then in the middle of the city.
Eve: [00:06:21] Wow, so that’s a pretty powerful concept, and it must be very different from, you know, where you started 15 years ago. I’m wondering what sort of shifts in lifestyle you’re responding to.
Marc: [00:06:36] Ah, well, there’s many global trends that also resonate in the Netherlands, which is the shift from suburbs towards living in the city centers, or around the city centers, so people are moving back into town. People are moving closer to the facilities that the city offers. They don’t want to sit in their cars, in traffic jams, bringing their children to horse-riding classes and ballet classes and football class the whole day. So, they choose to move back into the areas where they can have everything close by. So, they don’t lose valuable time in the car.
Marc: [00:07:14] So, that’s one thing. So, in Holland, you see that, all this in … also in London and many other cities. Also in the U.S., you see that former industrial areas are gentrificating into mixed-use residential zones close to the city hubs. And this is kind of, let’s say, a potential area for a new kind of mixed and diverse city where working and living and leisure and mobility – all these aspects are kind of like combined in a new way, a lot of potential for new experiments. The old city centers are, of course, overprotected and with all kind of building codes and historic preservation codes, but especially these zones in this transition zones like called old harbor districts and light industrial areas. They are potentially the new cities where the middle class moves too. And, yeah, Superlofts is often used as a catalyst in these kind of areas. So, we are hired to bring an area that is now underused and mono-functional into movement with maybe 20- to 100-apartment building with shared facilities. This attracts pioneers that … often creators, designers, makers, thinkers and marketers, real estate developers that think, hey, I have an idea of how I want to live, and I think I can develop my ideal home within this Superlofts framework.
Eve: [00:08:49] Well, I want to move in.
Marc: [00:08:52] And then you see that these pioneers are often rewarded with a very strong increase of value of the property over the years, and then surrounding properties profit from that Superlofts has had … let’s say, a function of putting the area on the map, showing as a proven concept that it’s a nice place to live. And this is then where more commercial housing projects are being developed around it. So that’s one an important trend.
Marc: [00:09:22] But I think the second one is that we are moving towards more compact and smart living so that the apartments are becoming smaller but more smartly designed with less space for owning things, more for sharing space, collective sharing services. So, we don’t need our CD collection anymore in the house. We have it on our phone. So, we don’t need all this space to own things. And you see that also in Superlofts. They are becoming more and more compact and therefore also more affordable to broader groups of people.
Marc: [00:09:57] And the third trend, I would say, is sustainability. Climate, positive approach in which we use all these different aspects from water retention to natural cooling in nature, inclusive façades, smart energy and heating concepts to make a real circular approach to how we deal with energy and materials. In the sense that we tried to create closed cycles and loops in which energy is not being used for … spoiled, or wasted. And the same in terms of net nature and water. And yeah, that’s how … we achieve, to make, let’s say, projects with this positive climate, positive footprint in which we we store CO2 in the buildings rather than that the buildings produce CO2.
Marc: [00:10:48] And yeah, and the fourth trend is the one that I described in the beginning, the search for community. People are looking for a sense of belonging, of social interaction.
Eve: [00:11:02] You know what I’m hearing is that you must have a lot of people who are interested in what you’re doing. I’m hearing first you curate the people that are going to live in the next building, whether it’s 20 or 30 or 40 people. And you essentially address the way they want to live rather than create an apartment building with two bedrooms and two bathrooms and some of them with a den, and hoping that you can find people who want to live like that.
Marc: [00:11:26] Exactly.
Eve: [00:11:28] Wow.
Marc: [00:11:28] Yeah. So, what we do is we propose through social media and a website, a proposition for a building that is still very open in terms of offer. So we provide a menu of housing types, very diverse, from apartments on one level to duplex apartments, to work/home combinations, to apartments for seniors with everything on one level with all kinds of facilities or with a little elevator connecting two floors. And then we see how the market responds. So, we do market research and see how, what people’s interests are. And then we make the, based on that, the ideal mix of apartments. And allow people to get an option, like, to take an option, or, how to call that, to reserve an apartment for an amount of money so that we are sure that they are serious in wanting to join the community. And then we kind of puzzle with these people so that everyone gets their ideal type of apartment on the floor they want. And then we’ll have a second round to fill up, let’s say, the empty spaces within the building. And we do this all based on online communication, but as well through interactive meetings, live meetings, let’s say, group meetings in … we rent a place where we invite future homeowners to come together so they can get to know each other and see if they really like each other. And then you still see that people are still moving to the building, because they see, oh, there are these other two families with kids. Well, that would be nice to live together on one floor and share this large roof terrace together, for instance. So, you … meetups create all kinds of social interaction that leads then to a strong community.
Eve: [00:13:34] How fascinating. And then how long does this whole process take from when you sort of make the offer online and start to organize people until when they move in?
Marc: [00:13:45] Well, I mean, the last project we’re now doing … within Hoorn, in the north of the Netherlands. It has 45 apartments, large ones, a tower of 50 meters. And we started six months ago. Now we are offering the website of going live within a month and we will start construction in one year. And then it’s about a year to build it.
Eve: [00:14:12] About two and a half years.
Marc: [00:14:13] So, let’s see. That is one, two and a half years. Yeah, it’s about two and a half years from beginning to end.
Eve: [00:14:20] And do you find that a lot of people drop out if they commit like the half year point and they have to wait two years. Are they happy to wait?
Marc: [00:14:29] No, because this is almost common in The Netherlands, because the difference between how we built in the Netherlands or develop in the U.S., is that people … we don’t we don’t start to build before the apartments are sold. So, the project first needs to be designed. Then it’s, 70 percent needs to be sold before the developer and construction company will actually start constructing the building. So, people are used to have, to wait two years before they are actually moving in. If they are first buyers, in the beginning of the process, of course, you start later. The last 30 percent of the project is always sold in the latest stage.
Eve: [00:15:15] Right. It’s not that different because for condominium projects, which this would be in the States, you would have to have pre-sales in order to get financing. For an apartment rental building, you would build it before …
Marc: [00:15:31] Ah.
Eve: [00:15:31] … but if, yeah, but condominiums are a little bit riskier and I think banks on the whole want to see pre-sales. I am not sure they want to see 70 percent, but it’s a similar process.
Marc: [00:15:42] Ok. And that will also then take about two and a half years?
Eve: [00:15:46] Well, I don’t know. It depends on the project. You know, it depends on what sort of permits you get. It could take a lot longer in a place like San Francisco with, where permitting is really, really slow …
Marc: [00:15:55] Yeah.
Eve: [00:15:55] … versus a smaller place where permitting is faster. So, it depends.
Marc: [00:16:01] Right.
Eve: [00:16:03] So, yeah.
Marc: [00:16:04] Here, by the way, we had our buildings also can be larger than just 20 to 40 apartments. We are now also working on, like, complexes with hundreds of apartments. I don’t think that this way of developing is just possible only in a niche market, tailor-made situation. I think it actually can be done better, when you have a larger scale and more apartments. So, we are, in this sense, also talking to developers abroad, like in London and in Bremen, in Germany, for really large-scale projects. Because the return on the investment is more interesting in terms of software development that is tailor-made for this project. And you can make a much more smooth process really working on, let’s say, online customer journey that done with an interface that is really allowing the future homeowners to customize their homes on their iPad. But the investment of this is so large that it actually pays back only on a larger scale.
Eve: [00:17:11] But how do you keep community in a very big scale project? I know I talked to Jeremy in Australia about, sort of, the ideal size of a community. And I think when you have hundreds of units …
Marc: [00:17:23] I think ideal would be 20 people. 20 apartments, for me, is an ideal size of, let’s say, a basic cell. And then if you do hundreds of houses, you build it up with several cells. So, every entrance and elevator is then one unit of about 20 apartments. And it has its own homeowner association, so they can make decisions with a small, trusted group of people. They share their roof terrace and they make their choices together. It can also be 30 apartments. It’s not, or even more. But, ideally, let’s say, between 20 and 30. And then in a neighborhood development, you just built several of these blocks and then they again communicate on a higher level about how do we deal with the street?What do we want the municipality to offer in terms of bicycle parking in the street, garbage and waste recycling facilities? What do we do in terms of architectural co-ordination so that different blocks actually create a nice ensemble? How do we deal with sun and shading and wind and sound issues that … we can discuss that on a larger neighborhood scale with different communities.
Eve: [00:18:49] Right. So what does a Superloft actually look like?
Marc: [00:18:53] Well, that is very diverse, but we like to see it in the basis as a stripped down core and cell building in which we expose the concrete structure that has a very beautiful, deep facade made out of timber on the inside. I think it’s important that this is something that is very beautifully designed, like we are using like a very deep 40 centimeter, deep timber frame on the inside that allows you to sit in it and to put books or plants in it. And then the rest of the space is very stripped to concrete. And then people are able to customize that space with interior design elements. It can be a mezzanine floor, can be staircases, kitchens, bathrooms, walls, etc. And, in that way, can give their own expression to the space. The facade zone is something we like to control because it’s very important how the building looks to the outside. The building should stand there for hundreds of years and we don’t want to make something that looks cheap or unattractive over time. So we spend a lot of quality time on how the facades are designed.
Eve: [00:20:15] And the building facade is, you know, the wall of an open space that’s shared by everyone. So that’s really appropriate.
Marc: [00:20:22] Each unit, its apartment is then sold as as an open space, but then filled in … with a specific layout of the inner walls, and so on, by each client. They can then choose to do this themselves as a do-it-yourself project. But most of them, they choose from a palette of standard options that we are offering, and we still offer them all kind of finishing options that to customize the space in the way that they really like. Everyone has the feeling that they are part of a creative process, even if you don’t have much time for it. And you choose a basic layout. There is still a lot of nice decisions you can make about how to give expression to your space, and not everyone has time and the creativity to do so. So we offer a whole spectrum of, let’s say, paths, routes more or less intense to make your ideal home. Then, in terms of rental apartments, which we also do, we give these choices to the developer and the real estate agent to together customize the building in the way they think would work best. And then we still try to make the layouts in a way that people have several options in how to place their furniture in this space so that they can decide to put the sofa in at least three positions. So that there is really a choice to make even if you cannot design the layout of the apartment, you can design the layout in a way that you can customize the seating area, and even the kitchen that we’re designing now – a hotel co-living brand with a kitchen that is kitchen island on wheels, so that you can really customize the space to your taste, even if you don’t own the space.
Eve: [00:22:12] Very nice. So, you know, the world has a huge affordable housing crisis. And I’m wondering, I don’t know if the Netherlands has an affordable housing crisis.
Marc: [00:22:23] Yes. Yes.
Eve: [00:22:24] What … who is addressing that in any way?
Marc: [00:22:27] Definitely. And Dezeen maand Business Insider and The Independent newspaper have written all about Superlofts in the light of housing crisis and affordability. And basically what they were analyzing is that Superlofts allows starters, first buyers, an affordable home, because, let’s say, 20 to 30 percent of the value or price of an apartment is in the finishing of the apartment. And often this is too expensive for first-time buyers. And this is what makes them move to rental. However, if you buy the apartment in a core/shell way and it’s already attractive to start living there just with minimum investments, which is basically what Superlofts does, because the basic quality of the empty, open space is already does, so nice that you can just put a bed, kitchen and a bathtub and you can live there in a very nice way. And then in that way, phase your investment over time. So, then you don’t need to invest that 30 percent upfront. But you can wait until you find a better job or your fixed contract. So, it allows younger people to enter the housing market and save their investment in the apartment.
Eve: [00:23:53] And shared amenities also must reduce the cost. I mean, do you have shared laundry rooms? Are you able to limit parking areas?
Marc: [00:24:02] Exactly. And then also the larger apartments are actually a solution to the housing crisis, because what happens is that they are built in a way that they have multiple front doors, they have two front doors. So, you can split each larger apartment into two smaller ones, which results in, people rent out part of their house as a unit, as a rental unit. So, they buy an apartment and rent out part of it to two young people that need a 30 square meter studio, or something. And so it also, in this way, contributes to at least a diversity of housing types in an area, and also affordable rental apartments within a condominium.
Eve: [00:24:47] Interesting. So how Superlofts evolving, then? What do you see in five or 10 years?
Marc: [00:24:53] Well, I think that, several things. One is that we are really moving to timber construction and we are developing our first timber project at the moment in the Netherlands, which is six stories, mass timber. Still, there are smaller units that you can connect into larger ones on top of each other or next to each other. That creates kind of infinite possibilities to make floorplans and adapt them over time to changing lifestyles or market demands. So, when this mid-segment rental project, in 20 years, is released by the government, because there is a 20-year, let’s say, deal on the land-lease that needs to be respected before you can alter the configuration. In 20 years, the owner of the building can reconfigure it without, with minimal costs, because it’s already built in a very flexible, adaptable way. The timber construction is helping a lot. If you make things in concrete, it is more hard to connect units on top or next to each other. You have flexibility within the unit, but not between them. When we move to timber we can make this kind of Tetris game much more flexible and allow in 20 years from now a much higher, let’s say, rest value or repurpose value for the owner of the building. And he can then or she can then transform it into another second market segment. Maybe make smaller units, maybe sell part of it without having to demolish anything. So it actually allows a much more healthy and sustainable way of building if you build in a flexible, adaptable way in timber, because you don’t produce waste. And secondly, you store CO2 in the building because each tree that you, let’s say, take out of the forest and put into your building is a lot of CO2 that you take out of the air and store in the building – as long as you replant the tree, of course …
Eve: [00:24:53] Yes.
Marc: [00:27:09] … which is the case in Europe, in all the forests that you are allowed to take wood from. So, we are really believing that this is going to be a huge solution, or help, a contribution to solving climate crisis, is to mass build, massively in timber. Secondly, we are moving into diversifying our products, into rental, into co-living. And we’d like to partner with developers and real estate pioneers to, let’s say, create a global brand for Superlofts that connects all these different projects both in condominiums and rental into one strong brand that the Superloft members identify with, that activates the community, that offers all kinds of services, such as if you want to rent or sell your apartment, you can do that through our platform. If you want to share services or start a community event, we will allow that. And we offer all kinds of inspiration, creative inspiration on how to decorate your home or a platform of preferred suppliers where you can get design advice or buy really cool stuff for your house. So, there’s a lot of opportunity still to activate a community and to develop Superlofts further into a global brand. And we are looking for partners in different countries at the moment to produce to do so.
Eve: [00:28:42] Fabulous. That’s pretty exciting.
Marc: [00:28:44] Yeah … I don’t know if it’s gonna work, but it isn’t really … my dream already for five years is to actually connect now to different buildings. We have built eight in the Netherlands. I know these people are super-excited to tell about what they are, about their lives and how they are using the building and how they decorated their homes. And we have photographed twenty five of them, interviewed to them, and we are now starting to post that on the website, on what’s called Superlofts.co with ‘co.’ And then there is the Superliving page. And that’s the blog where we are kind of like starting to share this inspiration.
Eve: [00:29:27] That’s wonderful. Are real estate investors in the Netherlands interested in your work?
[00:29:32] Yeah, in general. Well, it’s … In MKA, definitely, in our architect firm, for sure. So, there’s a lot of spin-off for my architect firm because of Superlofts. So, we being hired, as I said, to to design a new co-living hospitality brand that is going to operate globally. So, these kind of people see that energy and creativity that we put in Superlofts can also be put into new housing concepts, that we are being approached by different investors and developers to start new specific concepts for their own properties or investments. And about Superlofts to find partners. It is. Yeah. Actually, when I am thinking, yeah, actually it is going quite well.
Marc: [00:30:19] So, there are there is different developers in both the Netherlands and abroad that would like to do Superlofts projects with us, and I think that in a couple of years from now we will we have projects in London and Germany and maybe the U.S.
Eve: [00:30:37] That’s pretty fabulous. Do you know where in the U.S.?
Marc: [00:30:41] Well, we’ve been looking in Newark. We’ve been looking in Brooklyn, in San Francisco. And the thing is that all these developments, they kind of stalled because of the complexity of legal issues in condominiums. So, this kind of development of Superlofts in the States that, where we were like one and a half years ago, which was really still focusing on condominiums, not so much on rental and co-living, but in that phase when we were in the U.S., we discovered that there was a lot of fear of people suing each other in condominiums …
Eve: [00:31:25] Yes.
[00:31:28] … and that this is what stalled the developments and what made it more difficult to pull it off. But I think that in terms of rental, when we customize the building, not with the end users, but just with the developer and the local design team, that this is actually going to be a much more interesting approach for the U.S., which means we’ll make rental buildings with shared facilities with a lot of diversity and types of lofts, in which the people can actually still belong, become a member of the Superlofts community, and enjoy the creative energy that that we are spreading. But then not in co-designing their building, but more in, let’s say, customizing their apartment decoration or, let’s say, configuring their, the furniture settings of their apartments, the types of furnishings that they choose. This is something we are now looking into, but our focus is really now in London and Germany.
Eve: [00:32:41] Okay, cool. So, I have some final questions for you. And I want to know whether you think socially responsible real estate is necessary in today’s development landscape. Because not everyone thinks about it the way you do, right?
Marc: [00:32:56] Yeah, I think it’s it’s just it’s crucial for two reasons. One, is that we are having a climate crisis that really demands for people that have power to change things, to really step up. And I think real estate pioneers are having a great responsibility and potential to show that we can do things in a radically different way. It doesn’t cost much more. It’s not so much more complicated. It just needs a little bit more time to do the right thing. You need more attention. Slow down a little bit the process so that we have time to really think things through in a more original and sustainable way than just choosing for the standard options. But I think we all know that the world deserves this attention. Right? This is just there would be a kind of crazy not to take the time to really do the right thing at the moment. And secondly, I think in terms of social sustainability, we see that our societies are polarizing a lot. Societies are falling apart in different groups that are standing more and more opposite to each other, even within families. Well, this is partly the result of that we have created cities with a huge segregation between different groups and that we allow ourselves to just go from place to place with our car or on public transport with our headphones on, not talking to the so-called other. We’re not meeting others really anymore. And we’re meeting the same kind of people in this, in the gym as in the offices and in the members club. And that’s, and so on.
[00:34:45] So what is really important is that we create communities around the home so that the home sphere, let’s say that what we in Germany called the meinschaft sphere is, let’s say, a local area network around your home includes maybe the school for your children, your local shops, but also places where you meet your neighbors, that we really start to revalue the neighborhood and the street and the building block as a social structure that allows you to get to know people from your own kind and tribe, but also from others. And that your children, our children aren’t that they become used to the fact that the world is very diverse and that there is diverse ideas and diverse kind of people, and that that is actually enriching our lives and our potential as open societies to survive in this competitive world against other continents in which there is much less freedom and much less diversity. I think the strong potential of the United States, of Europe, is that we can be proud of having these open societies that are diverse and inclusive, and that we really need to revalue the position of the home and the neighborhood in this city as important social catalysts. And I think that community-based residential developments that are not gated communities, but that are designed to interact with their surroundings and that are diverse socially and economically. Small and large, rich and poor apartments, everything mixed. That is the responsibility we have as real estate pioneers to create, let’s say, a better world.
Eve: [00:36:40] So, in a sense, I think, I feel like we’re going backwards. When I first moved to Pittsburgh, I lived in a neighborhood of houses built around 1900 and they all had front porches, and that’s where people congregated in the evening …
Marc: [00:36:55] Exactly.
Eve: [00:36:56] … talked to their neighbors. And then, you know, TV came along and everyone went inside. And the front porch was no longer used in that way. And I think it was sort of replaced all the time in apartment buildings with individual small balconies, but without really sort of understanding the …
Marc: [00:37:14] Yeah.
Eve: [00:37:14] … the loss of that place. Right?
[00:37:16] I so agree. And, you know, it’s so simple to solve this. If you look at an entrance lobby of an apartment building or a condominium, maybe it’s three meters wide. That’s 30 feet wide, a hundred feet long and you just have mailboxes. But if you would make it a little bit bigger and you put a large table there for where you can sit with 10 people, you put the newspaper, you put some flowers. You have Internet. Then suddenly you have an office space or flex-office place in your apartment building. People will start to use it as a place to work. Of course, you need to have a little bit nice design of the space and of the facade and good light and a nice carpet and so on. But it’s a little bit of effort, and then suddenly people that have that are independent workers that work from their home or their apartment can use that space as their meeting room as their, you know? It doesn’t cost anything extra and you have a fantastic social interaction space where you meet your neighbors, where you talk to each other. The same for children. You can they can do their homework with one parent together in that space rather than that every parent has to do their homework with their children separately in their homes. What we see in our buildings is that parents share this responsibility, and say, ok, one of us stays at home every afternoon to take care of the kids coming home after school, because they’re playing in the street around the house. And then at least one parent is there working in the space for something when something happens or if they need some guidance with their homework. This is what my ideal world looks like. Basically, you know, where people choose to live together because they see the advantage of sharing things.
Eve: [00:39:08] What wonderful ideals. Thank you very, very much for joining me. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation. And I want to come and look at your Superlofts sometime very soon.
Marc: [00:39:17] You’re very welcome. And let’s find a nice spot in the U.S. to do a Superlofts U.S. prototype with a very nice lobby space where people can work on the ground floor. And with all these dreams that we have just discussed, maybe we all we can find an interesting opportunity in the future. I’m sure that there is a lot of interesting developments in American cities at the moment, like in Europe, that really are very interesting to work within. And when you come to the Netherlands, I would love to show you around. We have another website that I would like to tell you about, which has an audio tour along all these kind of community buildings in Amsterdam. So it’s nice for you and for any of the listeners. It’s called the Open Building Audio Tour. And you’ll find it on openbuilding.co, ‘co’ again, which is a platform that I’ve created with 15 Dutch architects with all kind of, everyone showcasing buildings similar to Superlofts which the architect has created, let’s say, community buildings, flexible and adaptable over time, often very sustainably built and, that’s really worth doing when you come to visit Amsterdam.
Eve: [00:40:47] Absolutely. I’m going to, I’m going to get there. Thank you very much, Marc, and enjoy the rest of the day.
Marc: [00:40:53] Thank you. Bye bye.
Eve: [00:40:55] That was Marc Koehler of Marc Koehler Architects and Superlofts. This architect is thoughtfully pursuing the idea of community first, building second, rather than design and build a project and hope the market will come. Instead, his team design their Superlofts around a curated community of people. Every aspect of each Superloft project is thoughtfully designed, from the exterior facades to the number of families in each pod, to the shared amenities to encourage community, to the extreme flexibility of the housing units. I can’t wait to visit a Superloft. You can find out more about impact real estate investing and access the show notes for today’s episode at my web site, EvePicker.com. While you’re there, sign up for my newsletter to find out more about how to make money in real estate while building better cities. Thank you so much for spending your time with me today. And thank you, Marc, for sharing your thoughts with me. We’ll talk again soon. But for now, this is Eve Picker signing off to go make some change.
Image of Marc Koehler by Jordi Huisman.