Living labs : the need to explore new possibilities


Rural estates may well be rooted in the past through their heritage assets, but they can never be museum artifacts. To deal with the integration of new functions and features, to cope with the challenges that society faces, changes are needed. New 'layers of time' need to be added on rural estates. If it was not for the inventiveness of former generations to make ‘new’ interventions, there would be no heritage to preserve in the first place. Yet there is a surprising lack of critical discourses on how new interventions are adequately integrated within historical settings. Our research, therefore, deliberately focuses on the field of tension between preservation and innovation. In which cases should more attention be given to the preservation of the natural and cultural heritage? How can we reconcile the preservation of the past with meeting current and future demands? How can new inventions add to the overall quality of an estate?

The term 'living labs' refers to 'living laboratories' — a platform for open innovation in which new possibilities are explored that haven't been tested in a similar context. This achieved through a participatory process of research-through-design. In this, a broad arsenal of experts is involved from different disciplinary backgrounds. Along with these living labs, we also take in-depth interviews regarding innovative best practices that offer promising new perspectives on how rural estates might be developed into the future. Below you may find two examples of the successful integration of new features into a historic context which contribute to the overall quality and the vitality of these rural estates.



The integration of new features may lead to new sources of revenue, which, in their turn, may be reinvested in the preservation of cultural heritage.
(image on the left by Iwan Baan, image on right by Steven Heyde)