Amsterdam Academy of Architecture: A Circular Workshop (January – May 2023)

Tutors: Michael Spaan, Jeroen van Mechelen & Catherine van Andel

A circular workplace for Amsterdam

“For centuries, building materials have been reused as much as possible. Amsterdam monuments show how it was once a matter of course to use precious raw materials wisely,” writes Gabri van Tussenbroek, professor of Urban Identity and Monuments at the University of Amsterdam. Not only building materials such as bricks and wooden beams were frequently reused, complete wooden trusses and bell gables from demolished or dilapidated structures were also preserved and reused on new buildings. The city had an infrastructure in which these building parts were stored and issued again. Second-hand hardware stores and workshops 'avans la letre'. Craftsmen were present at these workshops to repair the acquired building parts and to reassemble them in a new way. A circular craftsmanship.

Amsterdam is full of buildings built with recycled materials, such as the Zuiderkerk or the building of the Academy of Architecture. Monuments are valued for their cultural- historical value, architectural value, ensemble value, recognizability and rarity. Whether it is a richly decorated canal house from the Golden Age or a post-war industrial warehouse, they are buildings that tell something about history. The choice of location, design, construction and materials all originated in the past and tell something about how architecture was thought about at the time. Materials of these monuments are more than just matter, they tell a story about architecture and people's daily life.

We can learn a lot about circularity by examining historical buildings. The reuse of materials is not only sustainable, it also offers handles to give the story of your design more depth. What can we learn from the historical examples and how can we use this in a new way in the present? Which materials can you reuse in a new building and with which construction techniques? Are there features of the historical narrative that provide inspiration for the future? The craft of circular construction is central to all these themes.In the O4, together with architectural historian and heritage advisor Cathelijne van Andel, we investigate a number of historical examples of circular material use in Amsterdam. Cathelijne studied Urban and Architectural History at the University of Amsterdam and has been working as an independent architectural historian for the past 2 years. She conducts research into the history of a place or building and advises on the possibilities for the future. In the O4 we depict the circular construction processes, materials and details with models and drawings. We also look for the aesthetic aspects. Why and how were techniques and resources used? Which aspects determine whether something has beauty?

In the design project P4 we are designing a contemporary variant for the circular workplace. A building where, in the middle of the city, discarded building elements are collected, categorized, repaired and issued again. The circular craft is also reinvented in this workshop. The building is mainly aimed at reuse in the historic city center of Amsterdam. The new building facilitates reuse, is built from harvested materials from the city and shows the aesthetics of a circular structure.

The new circular workshop on the concrete piers at the head of the Stenen Hoofd is also being built from recycled building materials. We harvest this building material (trusses, façade elements, columns, window frames, etc.) from the materials library of the Academy of Architecture, compiled by the students in the first few weeks.

University of Antwerp: Spaces of Transition (September 2022 - June 2023)

Tutors: Mario Rinke & Robbe Pacquée

Spaces of Transition - Designing buildings for change 

If buildings are elements of a city, what are they in the city’s permanent transformation process? Today we expect houses to be sustainable, both architecturally and technically, because they are an identity-forming foundation of our environment. However, the lifespan of a building is often left out of the sustainability discussion, neglecting the strong link between the building's design and its use as well as to its surrounding neighborhood. In times of increasingly scarce resources, we now have a need for new construction alongside a simultaneous vacancy rate, often locally close to each other. The globally absurd problem, the increasingly shorter lifespan of many buildings, in most cases falls back on the very limited sustainability of the architecture itself, not that of its building materials. The history of old and beloved buildings is necessarily also a history of their appropriation, conversion, and continued development. For robust architecture to establish itself in a sustainable building, its relationship with its users must change, and it must be able to demand more from the structure. The structure, as the most permanent component of the building, will stand for the interconnection of space and time, with cycles of different use and changing layers of permanence as well as rearranging ties with its neighboring buildings. The studio consists of two phases. In the research-focused first semester, we will explore basic concepts of adaptability and theories of change, study historical and contemporary examples of successful and failed adaptations, and will test design principles in experimental case studies. In the design-focused second semester, we will develop building designs conceptualised based on the findings, showcasing strategies for adaptable buildings.