Self-organised housing: a change of perspective on the role of the architect

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Many people dream of one day designing their own home. For some it seems like a far-away dream, and for some it is the reality of their lives. When my parents set out to make their own home with their own hands 30 years ago, they probably had no idea what they were getting into. And even worse, they were not only building their future home, it would have to stay afloat too; that’s right, they were building a yacht. With my dad taking 6 months off work to complete the boat at the end of a 4-year process and my mom working 2 jobs to support the both of them, you might say they were crazy. Yet, in the present day they are at it again, renovating the largest home they ever lived in to make it their absolute dream home.

For a long time, I did not realise how this upbringing would affect the view I had on my profession. I had a similar urge to build, to create, and in the educational system I was in that soon translated into pursuing a career in architecture. Studying at TU Delft, I was taught all the right methods and approaches to analyse a brief and to come up with an interesting concept. I slowly learned how to suppress any doubts or insecurities I had about my designs in order to give a convincing presentation and present myself as the master architect.

However, during my master studies I got an itch to look into self-organised housing for a paper. I researched the emergence of bottom-up housing development in the twentieth century and became increasingly convinced of this movement. This caused a major identity crisis for me: I was trained to think for my clients, my future residents, for society. And now they had a will on their own. Looking at graduation topics I could not find meaning in the assignments presented, because they were all directed towards the architect looking at a situation, often even unfamiliar to him or her, analyzing it and coming up with a magic solution. I realised I had to come up with my own assignment.

While looking for a mentor to supervise my graduation project, which focussed on self-organised housing in cities and affordability, I came in contact with prof. Darinka Czischke. She was willing to guide me in my process, and put me in contact with amazing professionals and academics around Europe to feed my research. Even though I graduated with an Architecture degree (https://repository.tudelft.nl/islandora/object/uuid%3A76a43029-69e1-4d4f-a569-e343e4144b86), by doing this research in the department of Management of the Built Environment, I had also learned how to look at the built environment from a non-architect point of view.

I was lucky to be able to continue this dual involvement in the built environment and collaborative housing specifically, by combining practicing as a trainee architect at Inbo (www.inbo.com) and working with Darinka, Vincent, Carla and Sara on the “Samen Wonen, Samen Onderzoeken” project (https://co-lab-research.net/samen-wonen-samen-onderzoeken/). My intention with combining these jobs was that it would give new perspectives and create synergy, and it seems to do that more and more. At the TU Delft I can give insights into projects I have worked on or people I know that worked on it, and at the architecture office I have become known as the “collaborative housing specialist”. Both these jobs give me opportunities to contribute to projects that – in my opinion – make a better world. Through self-organisation by residents I can create my own dream world while they create their dream homes together. I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree…

 

Stephanie Zeulevoet
research assistant at Co-Lab Research

November 2018

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