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Relaxed Private Commissioning

Interview with Frank van Beek and Frank Veen, Lingotto

Until a few years ago, it was common practice in the Netherlands for developers to deliver generic products and give most of their attention to production. Of course, there was also a market that accepted this. It made little difference what was produced, for everything sold. Although architects had been expressing an interest in increasing residents’ input in the design of housing with a certain degree of regularity ever since the 1970s, there was little enthusiasm among developers. Helped by the crisis, but also as the consequence of a process of increasing consumer articulation that had begun prior to that, the end-user’s position has grown stronger. In the past years, developers have also shown an increased interest in taking the end-users’ wishes as the starting point, instead of as finishing touches to the work.

Lingotto is an example of a developer that has explored new possibilities in various projects over the last ten years. Since its beginnings in 2000, Lingotto has realized diverse housing projects, primarily new-build. As of five years ago, the company began focusing more expressly on converting school buildings and offices into residential buildings. Because of the crisis, this is increasingly coming into vogue, and it is becoming more and more important to develop distinctive concepts in this regard. The input of the end-user is essential here…


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‘A Generation is Growing up That Can’t Even Share a Single Facility’

Interview with Hein de Haan, CASA

Since the 1980s, architect Hein de Haan (b. 1943) has been involved in countless housing projects based on collective private commissioning, or CPC. ‘People often ask me how to go about it, and I hand them all sorts of information.’ De Haan is a missionary for CPC. Working out of CASA (Coöperatief Architectenbureau voor de Stadsvernieuwing in Amsterdam), a cooperative architecture firm specialized in urban development, he earned national recognition with Het Kameel (1984-1986), a new building complex comprised of 28 residential/work units in Vlaardingen realized within the sphere of the housing act. ‘This is one of the most true-to-form CPC projects because the initiative came entirely from the future residents. They didn’t start looking for a housing corporation until it was being put out to tender. The corporation was not amused at being called in at such a late stage,’ smiles De Haan.

Visiting the Vrijburcht, his most recent CPC project in Amsterdam’s IJburg district, where he also lives and works himself, we spoke with the doyen of collective building in the Netherlands about collective commissioning, Dutch regulations and current limitations…

Plan Documentation

Plan Documentation Building Together

The plan documentation of this eighth edition of DASH includes 11 projects that were realized on the basis of collective private commissions. Spread over Europe and North America, the projects provide a panoramic overview of the last 100 years. It shows the results of people’s private initiatives to build their own homes together with associates. The projects often avoid standard housing production in a number of different ways. The motives of the initiators are extremely diverse and never straightforward. Romantic ideals of a life in the countryside can go hand-in-hand with the notion of achieving financial advantage by working as partners.

In chronological order of completion, the documentation encompasses the following projects:

  • Harmoniehof, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 1919-1922 – J.C. van Epen (in collaboration with M.J.E. Lippits)
  • Usonia, Pleasantville, NY, USA, 1947-1952 – Frank Lloyd Wright and others
  • Thalmatt 1, Herrenschwanden, Switzerland, 1967-1974 – Atelier 5 (Erwin Fritz, Samuel Gerber, Rolf Hesterberg, Hans Hostettler and Alfredo Pini)
  • Calle de Arturo Soria, Madrid, Spain, 1976-1978 – Bayon, Aroca, Bisquert y Martin
  • Egelwier, Leusden, the Netherlands, 1975-1982 – Hans Ruijssenaars
  • WindSong Cohousing, Langley, Canada, 1998 – Davidson, Yuen, Simpson architecture (dys architecture)
  • Miss Sargfabrik, Vienna, Austria, 1998-2000 – BKK-3
  • Egebakken, Nødebo, Denmark, 2002-2004 – Tegnestuen Vandkunsten
  • Vrijburcht, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2005-2007 – CASA architecten
  • Zelterstrasse, Berlijn-Prenzlauerberg, Germany, 2008-2010 – Zanderroth Architekten
  • Elandshof, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2004-2012 – Bastiaan Jongerius architecten

The selection was largely determined by the question whether collective private commissioning also leads to new housing typologies. These could relate to the floor plans of the houses themselves, but also to the inclusion of communal facilities or unusual collective external and internal spaces. In order to realize the best-matched house for the future occupants, various strategies are apparently possible: 1) significant variation in types of houses, designed in advance; 2) a structure that makes it possible to elaborate each house individually; and 3) the development of types that can be adapted afterwards by the residents.

For the first variant, the Harmoniehof and the Vrijburcht, both in Amsterdam, are exemplary. The Harmoniehof came into being as a result of the opportunity provided to private individuals in the National Housing Act of 1902 to establish their own cooperatives. The initiative taken by a few senior civil servants to provide better houses for themselves and other kindred spirits turned out to be so successful in the 1910s and 1920s that it led to follow-up projects. The Harmoniehof represents a milestone in this development in housing architecture in the Netherlands. Some 100 years on, the established housing corporations are the ones that facilitate initiatives like this. The Vrijburcht in IJburg in Amsterdam is a good example of this.

Plans that allow the members of the collective each to realize their own interpretation of the individual dwelling (variant 2), differ more significantly from standard housing than those in the first category. Examples are Thalmatt 1 near Bern, where Atelier 5 elaborated on a number of principles from its famous design for the nearby Siedlung Halen to create an even more compact, extremely differentiated complex of terrace houses, and the residential complex Arturo Soria in Madrid, which is a fine demonstration of Habraken’s concept of support and infill. A remarkable Dutch example of this strategy are the 11 houses in the Egelwier in Leusden.

An example of variant 3 is provided by Egebakken in Nødebo, where each house was made to measure during the design, but where adaptations and extensions could be realized at a later stage.

Miss Sargfabrik in Vienna, Zelterstrasse in Berlin and the Elandshof in Amsterdam provide housing types in centrally located urban areas, types that are hardly to be found at all or are lacking altogether. The two projects from North America are perhaps the most driven by ideals. WindSong in Canada places a great deal of collectivity in the housing block and the residential setting compared to the traditional and apparently unavoidable reality of the detached, individual house. In contrast, Pleasantville in the state of New York is based on the ideal of one’s own, detached house, and can be seen as a reaction to the forced communality of living in apartment buildings in the city.

In order to provide insight into the plans and make comparison possible, the projects have been redrawn in a uniform style. To begin with, the urban design of the project has been sketched in a wider context. The difference between living space, private exterior space, communal interior and exterior space and public space is portrayed in the usual DASH way. For each plan, all the building levels have been drawn in their entirety, with one or more cross sections, apart from the relatively large Harmoniehof; here, the most common house types are illustrated separately.

Axonometric projections show the three-dimensional composition of the project, with the position of the communal areas and facilities. Where relevant, the communal space has been drawn in a second projection as a connecting exterior or interior space.

The drawings of the Harmoniehof are based on the drawings in the municipal archives of the City of Amsterdam. The houses in Usonia Pleasantville are drawn as the realized situation, which deviates from the floor plans drawn by Wright himself and shown in virtually every publication. The other projects are based on the drawings by the architecture firms in question.

For this edition of DASH, photo reportages have been made of several older projects: Harmoniehof, Pleasantville, Thalmatt, Egelwier and Miss Sargfabrik. For Arturo Soria, WindSong, Egebakken, Vrijburcht, Zelterstrasse and Elands-hof, photography by residents and designers has been used.


With contributions by: Frederique van Andel, Olv Klijn, Vincent Kompier, Eva Storgaard & Karin Theunissen

Drawings: Guido Greijdanus, Robbert Guis, Cederick Ingen-Housz & Carlyn Simoen


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DASH #05 – The Urban Enclave

The idea of the pluriform city seems more current than ever. Society was still homogeneous 50 years ago; today highly divergent modes of life and culture are all seeking a place within our cities. This calls for a city with differences of its own, distinctive parts in which like-minded people can find one another, connected to the greater whole, but without imposing anything on others. The recent focus on regeneration within the existing city – especially on a mass scale – offers perspectives in this regard. In many cities in the Netherlands (and elsewhere) abandoned industrial and commercial premises or outmoded residential areas are being redeveloped. The usually sizable scale of these areas creates a (housing) construction challenge that can contribute to the needed differentiation within the city.

DASH 5 – The Urban Enclave is the product of an investigation into large-scale housing projects in the inner city, both historical and contemporary. Essays by Dirk van
den Heuvel and Lara Schrijver examine divergent ideas related to large scales and the city, based on the work of Piet Blom and Oswald Matthias Ungers, respectively.
Dick van Gameren and Pierijn van der Putt look into the underlying typologies of the urban enclave. Elain Harwood analyses the evolution of the notorious Barbican in London, and Christopher Woodward charts the creation, in the same city 200 years previously, of the Adelphi, often cited as the inspiration for the Barbican. In an interview, architect and urban designer Rob Krier expounds on the historical models he uses for his urban renewal projects. The planning documentation contains a selection of urban enclaves old and new, extensively analysed and documented with drawings and photographs.

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DASH #04 – The Residential Floor Plan

Standard and Ideal

Although mass customization has for some time been the magic charm for banishing the spectre of twentiethcentury mass production, ‘standard’ solutions still prove the rule in everyday building practice. Strict regulations, a conservative construction industry and limited budgets have forced architects to obtain ideal designs by making the most of existing resources.

The Residential Floor Plan, Standard and Ideal, the theme of DASH 4 (Delft Architectural Studies on Housing), addresses this dilemma facing architects of housing. It considers two approaches: on the one hand, the search for new typologies, familiar from modern architecture and the welfare state, and on the other typological invention, which takes existing house-building conventions as its starting point.

Essays by Dirk van den Heuvel, Dorine van Hoogstraten and Bart Goldhoorn examine the scenographing of differences through typological recombinations in Dutch architecture in the late twentieth century, Habraken’s advocacy, in the 1960s, of viewing support and infill independently of each other, and the phenomenon of totally standardized, Soviet Russian mass housing, which offers points of departure for a reconsideration of standardization in a climate of free-market thinking. Interviews with Frits van Dongen and Edwin Oostmeijer
provide insights into the issue of standardization from the perspective of architect and developer respectively.

The plan documentation comprises a series of classic and lesser-known projects from inside and outside the Netherlands, by architects such as Diener & Diener, Frits van Dongen, Dick Apon, Kenneth Frampton, Hans Scharoun, Van den Broek & Bakema, Willem van Tijen, Erik Sigfrid Persson and Adolf Rading.