As people throughout the world move towards a sustainable system, countries and their governments are trying their best to incorporate sustainable designs across all sectors. MVRDV’s self-sufficient valley in Armenia aims to be a hub for ecotourism and sustainable agriculture. Named the Gagarin valley – after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin – this valley is planned out to be the ideal sustainable agricultural community. It consists of around 10,000 existing plots and around 11,000 inhabitants. The master layout, however, plans for 12,000 additional housing units in this 34-hectare land. The valley’s potential is enhanced by enlarging the Hrazdan river route which also aids in preserving water. 

Vision for a Self-Sufficient Valley in Armenia unveiled by MVRDV - Sheet1
The Gagarin Valley_©MVRDV

Commissioned by the DAR Foundation for Regional Development and Competitiveness, MVRDV was to develop a master plan that incorporates the existing structures while adding diverse flora. The Armenian government aims to increase the tourism of the country and provide financial support for this project. The Gagarin valley is located near Lake Sevan, which is the largest lake in Caucus. It is located just 50 kilometres from the capital Yerevan. The local community of around 11,000 inhabitants owns one-third of the total land. 

Existing buildings dating back to the Soviet era were also to be taken into consideration. These existing buildings will be adapted to minimize the use of excessive building materials and services while the new housing units will be based on traditional Armenian farmhouses. The proposed housing units will also use green roofs. Vertical villages are proposed which make more space for agriculture. MVRDV has planned such units at the heart of the valley making it a place of higher density. 

Vision for a Self-Sufficient Valley in Armenia unveiled by MVRDV - Sheet2
Housing Units_©MVRDV

The master plan includes an agricultural education centre, a sunken stadium for 4,500 visitors, a market hall, a commercial centre and a centre for the arts. It is designed to be a more attractive place to live in and be able to attract various target groups and the younger Armenian populace. The existing roads connecting different villages will be retained and enhanced with facilities such as pathways and cycling tracks. 

The 10,000 plant species added to the valley will make it an ecologically diverse land. MVRDV plans to use different species on every different plot. This will make it easier to monitor and test the adaptability of various species in the valley. All these units are to be connected with canals and pathways for walking as well as cycling. Having different species on different plots will create an aesthetically pleasing patchwork. It will also be easy to optimize the lands such that water evaporation and water consumption is minimized. 

A challenge presented was an effective water provision system. The dry region accounted for water loss due to evaporation making it a requirement to have suitable biodiversity and water buffers. The restoration of the Hrazdan river along with a new sustainable canal system is proposed. Apart from these, water from the reservoirs in the mountains and other such sources can also be optimized and used to irrigate the farmlands. 

MVRDV has also designed a sphere like a mini planet at the heart of the valley. It consists of classrooms around a spherical void where all the plant species introduced in the valley will be displayed. A central park around the sphere will also contain all the species in the valley which will reflect in the mirrored sphere. MVRDV aims to make this valley a future-proof sustainable landscape

The Agro Centre Sphere_©MVRDV

“The area is named after Yuri Gagarin, who was the first human to orbit the earth; he saw the planet’s vulnerability, a house in need of extra care, as many other astronauts have since stressed. I share that concern: stimulating biodiversity, improving water management and the ecosystem is of great importance for the future of the Gagarin Valley and the world,” says MVRDV’s founding partner Winy Maas. He also says that the valley can be seen as a series of test fields for the 10,000 species that flourish there giving an appearance of the garden of Eden. The valley had to be suitable for sustainable agriculture and also to be planned in such a way that it could attract a younger Armenian population. The valley is designed to be a place for people to walk, hike, cycle and ride horses and be a welcome break from city life.

References:

  1. Dima Stouhi; ArchDaily. (2022). MVRDV Unveils its Vision for a Self-Sufficient Valley in Armenia. [Online]. (Last updated 12 Jan 2022). Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/975008/mvrdv-unveils-its-vision-for-a-self-sufficient-valley-in-armenia [Accessed on 23 January 2022].
  2. MVRDV (2022). A base for sustainable agriculture and ecotourism: MVRDV launches vision for self-sufficient valley in Armenia. [Online]. (Last updated 12 January 2022). Available at: https://www.mvrdv.nl/news/4054/gagarin-valley-sustainable-agriculture-ecotourism [Accessed on 23 January 2022].
  3. Tim Gibson (2022). Armenian valley to be “future-proofed” with 12,000 new homes and a stadium. [Online]. (Last updated 20 January 2022). Available at: https://www.theb1m.com/article/mvrdv-armenia-Gagarin-Valley [Accessed on 23 January 2022].
Author

Sanika Palnitkar is an architect who loves to read. She finds science fiction fascinating and one of the reasons for joining architecture. Other than that, she prefers reading or watching thrillers, mysteries, adventures or fantasies (nerd stuff). Learning new software is another one of her hobbies.

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