Principles and project Examples

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In 1972 the book, Supports: An Alternative to Mass Housing, by N.J. Habraken, was published in English (1961 in Dutch). It is still relevant and extremely worthwhile. The author launched the following theorem:

A meaningful industrialization of housing development can only work if the individual resident has an equal say in the creation of his own home. No half participation and no reduction of the industrial production, but rather a new relationship between the producer and individual user in a new society: the end of mass housing development.

Four years after the book was published, a group of Dutch architects established the Foundation Stichting Architecten Research (SAR). They provided moral and financial support to the efforts to enable the development of base buildings. This led to two projects which resulted in the SAR 65 and SAR 73 publications, the new design methods for base buildings and urban fabrics respectively.

The work carried out by SAR was of fundamental importance. The SAR defined new concepts and useful rules for the design and realization of neighbourhoods and homes and assessed them in trials. The Foundation supervised some pilot projects and designs emerged for some products, for example for bathrooms. They were described in reports and in the international magazine Open House.

In 1984, the Foundation, Open Bouwen (Open Building), was launched with a resounding manifesto during the NWR Construction Fair in the RAI in Amsterdam. The time was ripe to have the SAR initiatives put into practice by an increasing number of participants: designers, contractors, building firms, producers, suppliers, consumers and government. The OBOM (Open Bouwen OntwikkelingsModel) or Open Building Development Model of the TU Delft, where practical research was being carried out, was closely connected with the Foundation Open Bouwen. The studies of pipes, utility construction and renovation are well known. Unfortunately, practical research on urban development was given very little attention.

Open Design as basis

These details make up the background of the Open Design Pocketbook. The first chapters of the book describ from level to level the experiences and insights on the basis of a number of projects. See them as examples of the first generation urban fabric, base building and fit-out projects. They belong to a build-up phase, a period of trial and development, a first large voyage of discovery based on a new vision.

The launch of the concepts base building and fit-out by Habraken is now over fifty years ago. Partly due to past experiences, it is now certain that Open Building is feasible. A great diversity of housing and a strong coherence seem to be possible for ordinary, low budgets. Building to meet actual demand in all its versatility was a success, due to the organization of the levels and the development of new projects. Where the Molenvliet­ housing project in Papendrecht in 1973 was still a ‘leap of faith’ on the basis of the theory, in latter projects experience led to further developments in processes and products. We now have an answer to most questions concerning technique, financial viability, the organization and legislation.

Projects reveal that, besides technical feasibility, there is also an economic basis for applications. In Keyenburg in Rotterdam and Berkenkamp in Enschede, the building costs did not exceed those of conventional housing development and the quality was good, the returns for the builder were normal and it was done without extra government subsidies. This gave Open Building a strong foundation for the future.

First examples mainly in The Netherlands

In the Netherlands, there are now tens of thousands of homes where ‘base building fit-out’ aspects are applied with the SAR methods and Open Ontwerpen (Open Designs), even though those homes are not all built consistently as ‘base building fit-out’ projects. The housing complexes have a large variety of layouts and have been realized in many municipalities.[i]

Some projects are designed as technical base building structures where the residents have not determined the layouts. Other projects, such as in Purmerend and Dordrecht are aimed at future changes with a Bruynzeel fit-out package. There, Open Building innovations were used in the flexible sleeve for vertical pipes. The development is progressing step by step. The supportive foundation, Open Bouwen, stopped at the end of the 90s in the belief that all its objectives had been achieved. Unfortunately, 25 years later, we see that the position of the resident who is not a home owner has not improved much when it comes to having an influence on daily living pleasure.

Many Dutch architects were working with the principles or are still applying the principles[ii]. Large construction companies[iii] are also playing a part in the development through research and applications. Recent projects in Collective Individual Commissions on the subject are in demand. In the Netherlands, primarily the series Solid-projects, carried out by the corporation ‘Het Oosten’ in Amsterdam, are known. Ultimately, the numbers 1 and 2 on IJburg and 11 in Oud-West were realized. Find more on these projects on the website of the BRIQS Foundation.

International expansion

In other countries they have also been busy. In 1979 in London (Adelaide Road) Nabeel Hamdi and Nick Wilkinson were the first to work with the distinction ‘base-building fit-out’. The principle was also applied in developing countries. In China too, Professor Bao Jia Sheng in Wuxi did something similar in the early 90s, as did Huang Hui and others in Peking, Changzhou and Taiwan. In Japan, Seiji Sawada has been working on the KEP (Kodan Experiment Project) with different groups since 1973. In 1994, the project NEXT21 started in Osaka. Eighteen houses were rebuilt in seven years, including facades, based on the wishes of the residents of the new era. The employees of the client and owner, Osaka Gas, lived there at that time so they could provide immediate feedback on their experiences. Japan went the farthest by far, introducing housing construction legislation that makes the distinction ‘base-building fit-out’ mandatory for government funded housing development. On that basis, more than a half million homes have been approved for realization since 2009. Find more on these projects on the website of the BRIQS Foundation.

In Belgium, Lucien Kroll applied the SAR methods to the construction of a student residence in Louvain la Neuve. The Keyenburg project served as the model for 87 homes from the Parisian architect Coutris: an official Open Building experiment that had a follow-up in 1992 in Cergy Pontoise with 105 homes. From the Miljöö 2000 contest in Helsinki in 1993 and 1994, four winning designs were realized on the basis of Open Design. Over the last 20 years, there have been major developments in neighbourhoods and buildings in Helsinki, like an entire city district that has been in progress since 2013. See more on these projects as free member of the Briqs website.

Numerous projects have been completed. Not only are meetings held in almost every country in the European Community to discuss Open Design but all over the world SAR and Open Building have become familiar concepts, more so than we realize in our own country! In the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Chili, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Australia etc.. Also, for several years, The Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) in Rotterdam has included the Open Building in its course material. In the European Commission the concept has been accepted, however it has not been put through legislation. In addition, the technical universities of Eindhoven and Delft have added Open Design to their programme and up to about 20 years ago, the ministries of VROM (Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations) and Economic affairs promoted the research.

[i]                 Such as Arnhem, Ridderkerk, Almere, Dronten, Vlaar­din­gen, Utrecht, Nieuwegein, Houten, Hoofddorp, Pijnacker, Rotterdam, Dordrecht and Enschede.

[ii]                De Jong and Van Olphen, Kapteijns, Benraad, Van Yseren, Reijenga and Postma, Wissing and Krabbedam, Vreedenburg, ARO, Treffers and Polgar, INBO, Patijn, Wauben, Van Randen, Van de Seyp, Rijnboutt, Groosman, Van Hezik and others.

[iii]               Elementum, Nevanco, Intervam (now BAM), Wilma (now BAM), Van Wijnen, Era (now TBI) and Dura.

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