Open Building is a strategy, based on the vision that all housholds could - especially in affordable social housing - decide on the lay-out, called infill, of their own dwelling, that is located in a base-building, or 'support'.
Likewise, Open Building offers builders the freedom to develope their desired architecture within a thematic urban fabric, the 'urban tissue'.
For that purpose Open Building distinguishes the following three levels of design c.q. intervention, each of a different scale:
1. 'Urban Tissue' is the urban design level of interwoven public spaces - for instance streets, courtyardsand squares - shaped by built volumes. It has a spatial pattern or theme that structures the morphology of a city district and makes that district recognizableas a whole.
2. 'Support' is the architectural design level of solid base-buildings with space to parcel and - if needed - including access spaces like stairwells and corridors. A support allows the allocation of different sized dwellings and the free lay-out of them. Other functions might be added, like shops, ateliers, restaurants and offices.
3. 'Infill' is theparticular interior design level, the free lay-out of a unit by the assemblage of changeable components like partitions, doors, windows, piping and wiring.
The three design levels of Open Building operate independent but are deeply related. Bottom up the distiction applied offers each resident the freedom to get a particular layout of his private home, within a collective base building. It offers a developer the freedom to build a specific architecture within an urban fabric of public outdoor spaces. It offers on each level of scalecitizens a rich spatial diversity within a larger, coherent environment.
Dwellers have a special appreciaton of the city: a private sphere at home; a collective sphere within small-scale neighborhoods formed by supports and a public sphere within the urban tissue of their own district. The private sphere of an individual home enables any household to follow an individual life style; since any household is unique, all infills may be different. Groups of clustered households collaborate and collective buildings flourish. In the final analysis, multiple local neighborhoods feel attached to the pattern of public spaces, thus forming a recognizable city district with its own identity.
Open Building has been initiated in the 1960's by the Dutch architect Prof. John Habraken. His inspiring research, teaching and publications resulted in many applications and in a global network of experts who meet yearly during the CIB Congress W104 ‘Open Building Implementation’, coördinated by Dr. Beisi Jia (HK) and Prof. Amira Osman (SA).
Architect Frans van der Werf, who has been instrumental in the development of Open Building is more than happy to share his practice in lectures, excursions, workshops and consultations. Based on his project experience he likes also to present his latest Open Building proposition: "The Transformation of Slums into Urban Districts".