The Ahrtal Project & the Power of Community During Times of Crisis.
As we begin the construction of our latest project this September, we want to introduce some background on the mission behind our project.
Why are we building a centre in Ahrtal?
The inception of our construction system dates back to 10 years ago, when our CEO Dr. Gerd Dust questioned how to help communities rebuild after the earthquake in Haiti. So, he and his partner Gunter Plötner came up with a building system that can empower people to rebuild with ease and local materials after natural or man-made disasters that rattle life as we know it.
The floods in Ahrtal and wider Central Europe in summer of 2021 reminded us how vulnerable we all are to these kinds of tragedies — even in our own country, we are sobered to the thought that the hand of a crisis can touch us all. The event provided us with hard evidence that life can become even more unpredictable and erratic with the growing number of cases of extreme weather across the globe.
Extreme weather events are becoming a more frequent occurrence.
The magnitude and intensity of the floods in Central Europe in 2021 shocked climate scientists, who had long predicted more frequent extreme weather cases - the true scale of destruction still surprised us all.
Just under 200 people lost their lives in the Ahr Valley when nature unleashed its almost unimaginable forces, and countless are still battling daily struggles with its after-affects. Still recovering and dealing with the scars that it leaves on families, mental health, homes and personal belongings.
Following up just a year later, we are constantly inundated with news about widespread heatwaves, record-breaking temperatures melting glaciers, country wide floods, forest fires and severe droughts. Once again, with some of it happening right outside on our own doorstep.
The ripple effects on our well-being
With our seemingly inescapable connection to media outlets, social platforms and the realities of the climate crisis, the phenomenon ‘climate burnout’ has been coined. The term burnout is commonly used to explain the feeling of being exhausted due to excessive and prolonged levels of stress. Climate burnout or eco-anxiety surrounding the climate crisis is becoming more common, and impacting us all on some level. This feeling stems mostly from coming to terms with the urgency and severity of our worlds problems, and the comparison of how small and powerless we may feel against them.
The importance of community
In trying times, community plays a big role in how we tackle problems, remain positive and find comfort and stability again after big life-changing events. Our idea with this project is to provide a beautiful new shared space to restore hope and a little normality to the affected individuals of one specific crisis. Shifting the focus on the solutions that we can create rather than the problems that may find ourselves stuck in. Community helps us to tap into borrowed motivation, collective wisdom, find support and belief during times when it feels like it is nowhere to be found.
To realise this project, Polycare has teamed up with the local municipality Grafschaft and Mayor Achim Juchem, local architects Kohlbecker Gesamtplan GmbH, and manufacturers Tjiko, Salzgitter, Baseforce and Interface. Together we intend to create a ‘Best Practice Building’ resembling Circular Building and Construction by focusing the design aspects on flexibility, sustainability and the ability for reuse and disassembly.
Throughout the time of the construction, we will be hosting different groups to take part in practical workshops as an invite for learning and collaboration. Building professionals, representatives from municipalities and members of the community — essentially anyone interested to discover and create new ways of building — are invited to Ahrtal.
The centre is meant to serve the community as a multipurpose building for co-working/co-living, a place for children to play, for adults to find social support or just a space to breathe. As a collective we can rebuild our lives block by block back to normality, and find better ways to restore our world even when it feels like it is caving in.