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DASH #10 – Housing the Student

Housing for young people, specifically aimed at students, is an extremely hot topic at the moment. Due to the growing influx of (international) students to Dutch universities, student housing has again become a large-scale job, and the supply of quality housing is important in the battle for students. In a stagnant housing market, developers and investors alike are flocking to this job en masse.

Constant themes in the design of student housing are temporality, modularity and transformation. A new development is the conversion of vacant buildings, originally intended for other programmes, into housing for students. DASH 10 describes the history and typological variety of student housing, and maps out the needs of a new generation of city dwellers in order to take a look ahead – along with architects, developers, and policymakers – to see what is needed today and what will be needed in the future.

Dick van Gameren contrasts the English college model with the model of the North American campus from the perspective of the city, while Paul Kuitenbrouwer explores the typology of the student room in terms of its historical development and its many variations. Harald Mooij reconstructs the Dutch job of building student housing after the Second World War, and illustrates the then-lively debate with several early projects. In a fascinating history of Madrid’s Residencia de Estudiantes and its simultaneous occupancy by Federico García Lorca, Salvador Dalí and Luis Buñuel, Sergio Martín Blas shows that student housing can do more than merely provide shelter. Interviews with Niek Verdonk and Marlies Rohmer about topics including youth housing in Groningen, and with André Snippe, who is developing existing office buildings into Campus Diemen Zuid, link theory to current practice.

The plan documentation for projects including Eero Saarinen’s Morse and Stiles Colleges at New Haven; Cripps Building as an extension of St John’s College in Cambridge, by Powell & Moya; Maison d’Iran in Paris by Claude Parent & Heydar Ghiaï; the patio homes at Enschede’s Campus Drienerlo by Herman Haan; the small but special Svartlamoen project in Trondheim, by Geir Brendeland and Olav Kristoffersen; and the construction of a new building for Leiden University College in The Hague by Wiel Arets show the development of the student dwelling in all of its aspects, and on all scales.


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Editorial DASH #10

Student housing is back on the agenda. At breathtaking speed, politicians, developers, architects and constructing parties are trying to reduce the serious shortage of residential space for young people and students that currently exists in almost all Dutch university towns. And in these times of malaise in the construction industry, new players are now also lining up to get a piece of the pie, alongside the traditional housing foundations and corporations…

The concept for this new architectural task is often simple: identical, independent units with their own mini-kitchen and minibathroom are the building blocks that are stacked and connected until the building envelope has been filled to the desired level. They feature a communal entrance, bicycle storage space, and perhaps a few facilities, and often a striking façade to assert a unique identity.

This is an efficient industry that allows large numbers of units to be built well and quickly. This architectural task is as topical as it is timeless. Ever since educational institutions began attracting young people from a wider environment, housing and education have gone hand in hand with a period of personal and intellectual growth. Through the centuries, various models have arisen for this purpose, in different countries and in different cultures: from students living with professors or in lodging houses, to the Anglo-Saxon college and campus, or the continental, urban residential buildings that were often under the auspices of religious institutions.

The twentieth century added a wealth of inventive solutions, after the explosive growth in the number of students made new construction a large-scale job for architects worldwide. The design of the individual rooms and the way they formed a communal residential environment for students have repeatedly led to solutions that are both culturally anchored and innovative. The result is an exciting and constantly growing variation in accommodation buildings for students, based on a multitude of ideas.

In this tenth issue of DASH, the editors want to draw attention to a sliver of this abundance. First of all, to once again study the selected plans and the ideas that go along with them, and to unlock these for a modern audience. Several recent plans and interviews with currently active players connect theory and history to today’s practice.

At the same time, seeing as there are once again so many opportunities, this publication is an appeal to continue considering the job of student housing in its full breadth, and also to contribute to the development of new models of student housing (beyond merely the required numbers) that have been expressly designed for today.


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The Room

An Exploration of Personal Space

Once upon a time, many years ago – just 20 years ago, in fact – I was living in a dormitory. I was 18 and a first-year student. I was new to Tokyo and new to living alone, and so my anxious parents found a private dorm for me to live in rather than the kind of single room that most students took. The dormitory provided meals and other facilities and would probably help their unworldly 18-year-old survive. . .

The paved path leading from the gate circumvented the tree and continued on long and straight across a broad quadrangle, two three-story concrete dorm buildings facing each other on either side of the path. They were large with lots of windows and gave the impression of being either flats that had been converted into jails or jails that had been converted into flats. However there was nothing dirty about them, nor did they feel dark. You could hear radios playing through open windows, all of which had the same cream-coloured curtains that the sun could not fade.

Beyond the two dormitories, the path led up to the entrance of a two-story common building, the first floor of which contained a dining hall and bathrooms, the second consisting of an auditorium, meeting rooms, and even guest rooms, whose use I could never fathom. Next to the common building stood a third dormitory, also three storeys high. Broad green lawns filled the quadrangle, and circulating sprinklers caught the sunlight as they turned. Behind the common building there was a field used for baseball and football, and six tennis courts. The complex had everything you could want.1

The Student Room

When you read this description through the eyes of Watanabe, the 18-year-old protagonist of Haruki Murakami’s novel Norwegian Wood, the student room – as the first (in)dependent residence after the first stage of life (namely as a child who is part of a protected family life) has been completed – can be seen as the starting point for the next phase: life as an independent, young adult scholar-in-training. The universe described by Murakami is the campus of a private university in Tokyo, where the main building, three residence halls, and sports fields form the main elements.


  • Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (London: Vintage, 2012), 16-17. Passages from the novel Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (original title: Noruuei no mori), which was first published in 1987, and in which the protagonist Watanabe describes how, as an 18-year-old, he wound up in his first student room on the campus of a private university in Tokyo in the late 1970s.
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College versus Campus

In the descriptions and names of many student housing projects that have been completed in the Netherlands over the past few years, the terms ‘college’ and ‘campus’ occur quite frequently. Examples include Campus Diemen-Zuid (on an industrial estate in Diemen), the Anna van Buren University College Leiden (sandwiched between Central Station in The Hague and the Royal Library), and the Amsterdam University College Campus (part of the Science Park campus in Amsterdam). The word ‘campus’ is no longer confined to the academic world.1 It seems as if every group of buildings that is used for a specific purpose is called a campus, varying from a single building to the entire city: the University of Amsterdam’s motto is ‘the City is our Campus’. And does ‘college’ stand for a form of housing, an educational building, or a combination of the two?

The concepts of campus and college seem to be used indiscriminately when it comes to student housing, rendering these terms meaningless. What distinguishes these two ideas? Do they represent a specific spatial model, a way that buildings and student residences are involved in the university and the city? By tracing the origins and developments of the college and the campus, we can examine whether these concepts still have any meaning for the commissioned student housing projects that are currently underway…


  1. Kerstin Hoeger and Kees Christiaanse (eds.), Campus and the City (Zurich: GTA Verlag ETH, 2007).
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Finding Form for a Free Spirit

Despite the economic crisis, the past few years have seen a surprising increase in the construction of new student housing in the Netherlands. This has been prompted, first and foremost, by demand from the National Campaign for Student Housing, which wants to realize 16,000 new living units for students in the period 2011-2016.1 And as a result of the ongoing internationalization of higher education, universities are competing to attract the best students and researchers with high-quality facilities and attractive housing. Finally, the crisis has stopped construction work in many other areas, so that even parties that were not previously involved are now turning towards the still lucrative market for student housing.
The completed developments look nice on the outside, with attention to material and detail – a huge departure from the often grey, concrete hulks built to combat the student housing shortage in the 1970s. The material luxury inside is equally conspicuous: instead of simple bedrooms with shared facilities, most of the units are independently equipped with individual kitchens, bathrooms and toilets. This ties in with the internationalization, with demand (and a corresponding budget) for independent and often furnished units. That these are also within most Dutch student budgets is facilitated by the system of housing allowance that subsidizes independent, but not shared accommodation. In short: by building more expensive accommodation more money can be made while students get more ‘luxury’.
This individualization of facilities also leads to the loss of the associated communal programme: as soon as the need for sharing disappears, there is no longer any economic incentive for building communal spaces, which are often difficult to manage. The result is a stack of galleries or corridors with a simple repetition of identical, single-cell living units. Any thoughts about the social life that might be cultivated in such a building are often conspicuously absent.
This may be the biggest difference with the earlier projects in the Dutch tradition, in which the concept of ‘student accommodation’ was synonymous with living in small communities, where rooms and facilities were shared with housemates. This essay traces the origins of student housing as a design brief in the Netherlands and explores the principles underlying some early projects, in order to throw light on today’s design briefs and output…


  • The Landelijk Actieplan Studentenhuisvesting 2011 tot 2016 is an agreement signed in 2011 by the national government, universities and colleges, knowledge-based cities, student housing bodies and students to reduce the existing student housing shortage during this period by 16,000 units.
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‘If… you can Dream and Not Make Dreams Your Master…’ 1

La Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid

‘The Residencia is an acropolis scattered with poplars, where Mr. and Mrs. Jimenez have created a centre for students, school of solidarity, sense of initiative, solid virtue. It’s like a monastery – quiet and happy – what luck for students!’2 It’s no surprise that Corbu would emphatically praise the monastic virtues – those associated with the well-known English college model – of a student residence such as the one built in Madrid between 1913 and 1918. Not for nothing had the committed first director of the Residencia, Alberto Jimenez Fraud, visited England in order to study the tutorial model between 1907 and 1909, and one of its tutors, Alfonso Reyes, would refer to the new complex as ‘Oxford and Cambridge in Madrid’.3 But appearances, as well as declarations, may in this case be deceiving. Planned by architect Antonio Florez Urdapilleta and later completed by Francisco Javier de Luque, the Residencia de Estudiantes, if undoubtedly sharing grounds with the concept of the English college, also embodied a larger number of features in frank opposition to the latter… 4


  • From Rudyard Kipling’s poem If . . . , first published in 1910 and the source of the title of Lindsay Anderson’s film (1968).
  • Quote from the conferences delivered by Le Corbusier in the Residencia de Estudiantes, 8 and 11 May 1928. From the exh. cat. Le Corbusier, Madrid 1928. Una casa, un palacio (Madrid, 2010).
  • Alfonso Reyes, ‘La Residencia de Estudiantes’, ResidenciaI, vol. 1 (1926) no. 2, (quoted in the dossier ‘Una habitacion historica de la Residencia de Estudiantes’). See also: Ian Gibson, Luis Buñuel (Madrid: Aguilar, 2013), 111 (quote from: John Brande Trend, A Picture of Modern Spain [1921])
  • The main source for Florez’s biography and the history of the Residencia de Estudiantes is the work of Salvador Guerrero, curator of the exhibition about Florez held in 2002 in the Residencia. See: Salvador Guerrero (ed.), Antonio Flórez, arquitecto (1877- 1941) (Madrid: Residencia de Estudiantes, 2002).
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‘On to the Generic Assignment’

Double Interview with Niek Verdonk and Marlies Rohmer

A number of cities in the Netherlands are struggling with a shortage of housing for students. As a result, student housing is one of the few residential building assignments still being taken on in the present economic climate. This is also the case with Groningen, where in 2010 an ambitious programme was started for the development of 4,500 student units by the year 2015. Called bouwjong!, the programme has been underway for some years now and it offers insight into the possibilities and impossibilities of carrying out such an assignment at the present juncture. In a compilation of two separate interviews, one with Groningen City Architect Niek Verdonk, initiator of bouwjong!, and one with architect Marlies Rohmer, who is both a curator and an inspirational guide for the project, Verdonk and Rohmer shed light on the strong points of the assignment, the importance of young people’s housing for the city and the effect that the present crisis has on the issue of housing for young people…1


  • In 2010, on commission from the Department of City Planning and Economic Affairs (dienst RO/EZ) of the City of Groningen, Marlies Rohmer and the Chair of Architecture and Dwelling at the Faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology, made an inspirational book within the framework of bouwjong! for architects, clients and initiators. After the manifestation was over, the contents of this book and the results of bouwjong! Were combined in the publication bouwjong! woningbouw voor jongeren (bouwjong! Housing for Young People), René Asschert, Erik Dorsman, Dick van Gameren, Paul Kuitenbrouwer, Marlies Rohmer, Peter Michiel Schaap and Niek Verdonk (Groningen: Platform G.R.A.S., 2012)
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‘A Campus is: a Place Where Everything You Need is at Hand’

Interview with André Snippe, Developer of Campus Diemen Zuid

Before 2011, anyone walking from the Diemen-Zuid station into the Bergwijkpark district, just outside the ring road in the south-eastern section of the greater metropolis area of Amsterdam, could clearly see the impact of the economic crisis: office buildings no older than 10 to 40 years that were over 45 per cent vacant, drearily surrounded by barriers and empty parking lots. In September 2013, Campus Diemen Zuid opened here, a student campus in American fashion with 936 apartments and facilities of its own, the success of which is already having a positive influence on the rest of the district.

Its initiator is André Snippe, whose office is a stone’s throw away. As we speak, some 500 students are already living here on campus and new facilities are being completed every week…

Plan Documentation

Plan Documentation Housing the Student

The plan documentation for this tenth edition of DASH includes ten examples of student housing projects that have actually been built. Spread across Europe and North America, the projects give a panoramic overview of models for student housing that have been developed over the past 500 years. The architecture of the student dwelling has a rich and dynamic history, and the selection shows a number of projects that illustrate the most important traditions and innovations.

St John’s College in Cambridge exemplifies the college, developed in the Middle Ages: a collective residential building for teachers and students. The residents share a set of communal facilities, the most important of which are the dining room, library and chapel. This type of construction is known from the old British university cities, but can also be found on the continent. In the 500 years since its founding, St John’s College has been expanded again and again; it demonstrates how the residential units in the college have developed over the course of time.

The Residencia de Estudiantes in Madrid exemplifies the student house of the twentieth-century: a rationally designed accommodation building with a linear repetition of identical rooms, without any extensive collective programme. The first Dutch example of housing built specifically for students is the Collège néerlandais in Paris. The design harkens back to the past: with its courtyard shape and community facilities, the building follows the college model rather literally.

The explosive growth of universities in Europe and North America after the Second World War led to many student housing projects, and several special experiments can be found in this abundance. In the patio student residences on the first Dutch campus in Twente, units are clustered around collective patios, forming a unique ‘mat-building’ in terms of landscape. In the Maison d’Iran in Paris, the expression of the construction is the crucial starting point. Box-shaped volumes that contain the simple main design of corridors with repeating units are hung on colossal and visible steel portals. The space that remains under and between the volumes is used for collective functions.

Interesting experiments have also taken place in traditional university towns, where distinctly modernist architecture has been embedded in the historical buildings. The Cripps Building, an extension of St John’s College in Cambridge, and the Morse and Stiles Colleges for Yale University in New Haven are virtuoso examples of this. Meandering and curved volumes, built up of rooms that are clustered around portico stairwells, attempt to fit into the existing spatial structures.

Much like in the regular housing industry, the large-scale approach dominated over the smaller-scale, individual approach to student housing in the 1970s. The large student housing complex called Hoogveldt, in Nijmegen, is a typical example of the large and often anonymous complexes that arose in the Dutch university towns, in which repeating clusters of student rooms shared a communal bathroom and kitchen with dining area.

From the new boom in student housing projects that were built during the last two decades, two examples have been chosen that show the new forms of housing. The Svartlamoen project in Trondheim introduces a striking informality in a small residential building for students and young people. The collective housing programme dominates, and the student rooms have been minimized almost to the point of being closets in a large communal space. A greater contrast between this building and the Anna van Bueren Toren in The Hague is almost unthinkable. In a single building, this latter example in the plan documentation combines the classrooms of Leiden University’s bachelor-degree programme with the residences of the students who study there. In terms of appearance, the building fits into the anonymous office and apartment complexes that surround it, and only reveals its special function after being entered.

To make the plans transparent and comparable, the projects have been redrawn in a uniform drawing style. First, the urban-planning design of the project has been drawn in a broader context. In a more detailed site plan of the ground level, the connection between the living space, the collective indoor and outdoor spaces, and the public space has been visualized (in the typical way that DASH does this). For each plan, the most characteristic floors have been drawn in their entirety, with one or more cross sections. The exception here is St John’s College, for which only the complex of courtyards at ground level has been drawn.

The drawings are based on archival and published material taken from the time when the project was built. For St John’s College, the drawings were based on the drawings in the Inventory of the Historical Monuments in the City of Cambridge, published by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England.

For the majority of these projects, new DASH photo reportages have been created. For the College néerlandais, which is currently being renovated, we used photographs that were taken several years before the start of the renovation. The project in Trondheim is illustrated using photographs provided by the architect.


With contributions by:
Sergio Martín Blas, Piet Vollaard & Jurjen Zeinstra

Guido Greijdanus, Cederick Ingen-Housz, Carlyn Simoen


St John’s College

Cambridgemultiple contractors and architects

St John’s College is one of the largest colleges in Cambridge. Founded in 1511 by the mother of Henry VII, the original layout was extended further and further over the course of five centuries until it ultimately became a complex entity of buildings and courts. The compound as a whole provides illustrative insight into the development of the colleges in Cambridge…

Residencia de Estudiantes

MadridAntonio Flórez Urdapilleta and Francisco Javier de Luque

The project was deeply influenced by the Institución Libre de Enseñanza (Free Institute for Education), a pedagogical mission based on nineteenth-century liberalism and laicism. Flórez himself had been educated by the Institute, and translated its ideals of freedom, openness, health and austerity into architectural forms. Furthermore, Flórez’s Residencia anticipated the ambiguous reception of international modernity in Madrid, its influence and continuity to the present, defined by a ‘realist’ approach and the rational rework of traditional techniques like brick masonry…

Collège néerlandais

ParisWillem Marinus Dudok

In 1921, the French Minister of Education André Honorat launched the initiative for an ‘international city’ for students, in the green band around the old city ramparts of Paris. Good housing for a growing student population also served the more ideological goal of preventing new wars through international cooperation. France made the land available free of cost, and participating countries could build a fondation in line with their own ideas and budget, to be transferred on delivery to the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris