In order to implement Open Building as a design strategy some fundamentals need to be understood. A series of two hour lectures are offered here as an introduction to the fundamentals, illustrated by projects to hit the ground running!


1. Intro Open Building Design


2. Urban Tissues


3. Supports


4. Infill


The following lectures present two new propositions of Open Building Design.


5. Transformations of Slums into Urban Districts


6. A Linear City






1. Introduction to Open Building Design  


A good theory is most practical! On the basis of executed projects this lecture offers an overview of the principles of Open Building Design. It discusses the distinction of levels of intervention in the built environment: Urban Tissues, Supports and Infills.  It names on each of the levels the kind of components, the domains, the designers, the deciders and the scale of documents. It shows the difference compared to the conventional way of designing and the advantages in economy, timespan and satisfation.


Urban tissue design differ from conventional zoning, as they are based on interwoven public space patterns and built volumes potentially with a large variety of architectural expressions.

This lecture explores the design of architect-free urban tissues. The audience examens guiding questions in related case studies, such as:

• How to employ urban tissue components, for example built and open spaces, thematic and non-thematic spaces and their relationships to improve human experiences? 
• How to align design and decision processes across stakeholders, for example by defining buildings so that they determine the freedom of developers and their architects?

• How to optimize programming, costs, financing, regulations and control? 


Supports are not just carcasses or skeletons, but architectural base-buildings that can be subdivided into different domains such as private units only limited by its capacity. This lecture explores how to define the options of end-users, owners as well as tenants now and in the  future; participants examine questions based on experienced projects, such as:

• How to design the basic characteristics and key components of supports, accomodating different sized units.
• How to design access and circulation spaces in order to improve the human experience? 
• How to determine the balance between support and infill? Plumbing, piping and cabling are contious systems that can easely create unwanted dependencies between support and infill, if not designed from the outset.


Open Building style infills are taylor made and can change over time independently from a support, thus differing from conventionally finished dwelling units, mostly being the same. 

Participants examine guiding questions such as:

• How to subdivide a given collective support structure into individual private units of various sizes and shapes in order to maximize choices and opportunities of end-users?
• How can infill systems best respond to specific given limitations and desired opportunities?
• How can layouts be made flexible, for example through mouvable inner separations, wiring, piping, ducts and canals for heating and façade systems?
• How can occupants be best supported through inspiring counseling sessions, using furniture cards, scale one to one models, 3D computer generated drawings and interactive infill cost calculation?





2. Urban Tissues


Most people like to experience their residential district as a whole, despite of variable architecture. The harmonious wholeness of a district is mainly recognized by public outdoor spaces such as streets, squares, courtyards, canals, boulevards. Those spaces have their own degree of enclosure and character. Buildings shape spaces. Many towns show great examples of beloved spaces. However not all city extensions contain those ‘positive’ spaces: the buildings remain self-contained and fail to define urban space. 


A district is all the better recognized as a whole when specific types of open spaces and building zones repeat and intertwine in a unique way. This gives the district its character by a morphological structure in which people stay, move, meet, interact and collaborate. It sets the conditions for human behavior as well as material and equipment to make it work. These conditions  need to be assured in the design of an urban tissue and can not be left to the detail level of buildings. We have to design urban spaces to accommodate unknown buildings afterwards. Architects confirmed they feel inspired to design their buildings in a given structure of outdor spaces. That is why Open Building includes a special design method for urban tissues, the SAR73.


This lecture introduces the SAR73 method. A typology of outdoor spaces and their relationships are discussed as well as ‘thematic’ and ‘non-thematic’ spaces and buildings, and then the evolution from idea to model and plan.

Participants of this lecture examine case studies of executed projects and guiding questions such as:

• What are the components of an urban tissue and how do they relate to human experiences in the long term? 
• How to discuss and decide on them by who and with whom?
• How to document an urban tissue while leaving consistent design flexibility open to architects and their clients? 
• How to program built volumes, calculate costs, design traffic routing, landscaping and infrastructure of ducts and services? How to rule the runing, maintaining and changing in the long run?


(A workshop ‘How to Design an Urban Tissue’ complements this lecture by giving hands-on exercises applied to a given site.)





3. Supports 


Dwellers love to put their marks on the dwelling they live in. Households are different, have different needs, demands, priorities and budgets. And their wishes also change over time.

In most affordable social housing however occupants have no say about the lay-out of their homes: Developers decide on a building and its dwellings.

That is why Open Building introduces 'supports' separated from 'infills', as an answer to the very desirable diversity and changeability of dwelling lay-outs, while maintaining the affordability of mass produced  building structures.


A support is a solid base-building with spaces to parcel in different sized dwellings and units with a different use: storage, shops, ateliers, restaurants or small offices. It accomodates the free lay-out of each unit and allows a re-arrangement in the future.   


Due to the separation of support and infill a support structure could last much longer - ages - than fixed residential buildings, thus reducing annual depreciation, thus cost. A well designed support structure accomodates a wide range of individual variation on the smaller scale, the infill level and could therefore be very simple in its composition. It allows a large repetition and the use of modular parts, possibly made off site of high durable quality,  feeding an efficient just in time construction process. 


In the final analyses, a modular support structure, due to its built-in re-arrangeability and flexible infills, maintains as an infrastructure a long lasting contribution to a built environment, along the principles of circular economy. 


This lecture gives a short introduction to the SAR65 design method for support structures, discussed through examples of support components and patterns, thus contributing to a larger urban tissue and accomodating infills of a lower level of intervention; participants examine guiding questions and related issues, such as:

• How to design support structures that enable the desired flexibility, for unknown dwellers and their household types, the dwelling sizes, layouts and fit-outs. We learn about support types, capacities and functional dimensions, alpha- and beta-zoning and margins, sectors and fontanels.
• How to design a model and to transform it into a plan? 
• How to ensure access, safety, comfort, private outdoor spaces and neighborhood life?
• How to employ the pattern language, as tool to agree on a building structure and its influence on the occupants’ daily life? 


(A workshop ‘How to Design a Support Structure’ complements this lecture by giving hands-on exercises applied to a given site.)





4. Infill


The noun Infill refers to the individualized lay-out of units such as dwellings, workplaces, shops or similar – designed to cater for to the user's needs and priorities. In Open Building projects this particular infill is made possible by a clear separation of the infill from the base-building or support. The support offers capacity to contain the infill. 

The Infill represent the dweller's level of intervention. The dweller has the say over the infill whereas on the higher support level the dweller, if known can be heard. 


Infill and support are different levels of decision making.  It therefore makes sense to keep these levels separated although co-ordinated. They have their own domain of decision, their own type of components,  designer, decider, financing and rules. Infill components are changed much more often and have a shorer lifespan than support parts, by their nature solid and durable.

The distinction of support and infill is a key idea of Open Building!


This lecture deals with the design practice of infill practice and is illustrated by real projects. Lecture participants examine guiding questions, such as:

• How to organize the parcellation of a support. 
• How to structure the private user participation? How to consult users in interior design? 
• What are appropriate tools for user participation? Think of furniture cards, scale one-to-one models, 3D drawings with attached cost and rent calculation? 
• How to ensure accesses, fire safety, heating comfort, and privacy of the units? 
• How to coordinate the dwelling layouts, facades, piping and wiring and so on?
• How to organize the production and assemblage of infill parts in a large project? 

(The workshop ‘Infill Practice' complements the lecture. It is an exercise in designing infill lay-outs for users.)





5. Transformation of Slums into Urban Districts


Megacities attract many people, including the very poor. More than one billion dwellers live in illegally built dangerous and unhealthy slums without infrastructure. And those dense settlements keep growing. Some governments try to solve this problem by moving slum dwellers into proper newly built high-rises, walk-ups or prefab cabins. Those top-down initiatives tent to disrupt established social and economical structures or fail to meet the needed high density, but eviction is not an answer.


The Open Building concept could offer an welcome alternative, because it combines top-down and bottom-up activities.

Top-down an urban tissue could be designed to accomodate access through streets, and public squares (with main piping and wiring), shaped by simple base-buildings.

Bottom-up affordable base-buildings (supports) could be changeably subdivided into units of different sizes such as dwellings, shops and spaces for small and medium enterprises, all to be finished by the users.

This hybrid approach, bridging the gap between formal public top-down and community-drive bottom-up activities, combines the entrepreneurial and proactive approach of the informal sector within a publicly controlled and organized environment.


The lecture proposes a pilot project of low-rise high-density base-buildings for safe and livable communities. A solid three-floor support structure around courtyards and streets allows residents to develop their own homes, workplaces, small commercial and cultural activities – and could even accommodate schools, clinics or other public services. Roofs may be utilized for urban agriculture, solar energy and collecting rainwater. Courtyards could be used for economic and social activities as well as for environmental gains, for example through the reuse of grey water.


The transformation of a poor housing area into this high density urban settlement will create an environment that triggers local economic development, provides a platform for social organization and self-help, and offers employment for the urban poor. This is in line with the challenges captured in the Sustainable Development Goals.


(See also: Consultation and Projects)





6. A Linear City


Untill now we discussed the Open Building strategy on three levels of design: Urban Tissue, Support and Infill.  This lecture focuses the design level of a larger scale, the structure of a city. On that level different urban tissues and  for instance main roads, boulevards and public transport lines could form a thematic composition: de City Structure. 

The Linear City idea in this lecture is composed by a new chain of residential districts along a spine of public transport, that has stops in district centers on walking distance to housing, local facilities like shops, primary schools and social-cultural centers. The chain of districts opens on both sides to a landscape of fields, ranches, hills, woods, ponds, canals and brooks, as parts of larger ecosystems and is accompanied by half sunken motorways with simple exits to the districts.


Each district has its own urban tissue of spaces shaped by several base-buildings, the supports, with habitable floors that are completed with access corridors, loggias, terraces or gardens. The supports could serve different types of households, such as singles, couples, families, students, of different ages and with different budgets. Each support can be subdivided in units of different sizes and functions, as there are dwellings, offices, shops, workshops, storages and parkings. The units will be fitted out with infill for or by each of the users.


In the proposition a district will not only get its identity from its own urban tissue, but also from one or more large scale activities to serve the whole city: a university, a large sport center, a regional shopping center, a congress hall, or an offices-complexThose facilities attract people from elsewere stimulating real city-life exchanges and work in the districts. In the actual study a chain relates two old city centers plus its industrial areas, but the idea might be extended to a much wider network of chains and linking nodes. 


Why a Linear City?

For different reasons more and more people want to live in cities. This movement opens an interesting way to stave off the mass extinction of species, including our and to preserve biodiversity. Pulitzer Price-winning author biologist Edward O. Wilson in 'Half Earth':  "The only solution is to increase the area of inviolable natural reserves to half of the earth or greater". Thus, urbanisation could be a serous contribution.

Concentrically growing cities however involve traffic jams, inefficacious public transport, deadly suburbs and more and more pollution of air, water and earth, let alone the lack of silence and nature.


The Linear City could be a healthy and economic alternative. It could not only house a high density, but it offers also an efficient mobility, integrated mega activities, assures frais air and nature nearby housing, and it facilitates the transport of water, energy and goods in the (linear !) pipes, wires and ducts, possibly to combine in subterranean corridors.