Re-design strategies unmasked. Insights in the architectural design process of adaptive reuse projects.

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis


Current architectural discourse has entered into a growing debate about re-design, i.e. the process of designing a project to re-use an existing building. Consequently – or is it causally - architectural practice involves more and more re-design projects. This trend may be ascribed to the scarcity of open space, the abandonment of the modern idea of tabula rasa, the need for sustainability, and the strong present tendency towards preservation of the built heritage. The aim of this research is to create a more profound understanding of re-design and to make these insights accessible to design practice and education. This will be achieved by the development of a re-design tool which aims at helping students and novices (and even experienced architects) in understanding design decisions that have steered existing re-design projects. Furthermore the tool tries to support designers in using this understanding in their own design projects. By way of preparation, a literature study on design methods and the design process provided the knowledge needed to set up experiments and observe architects involved in re-design, using both protocol analysis and participatory observation. These preparatory studies unmasked re-design processes as extremely rich sources of (tacit) knowledge. Re-design processes do not only contain procedural knowledge on how to tackle a re-design problem, but also a considerable amount of content knowledge. They illustrate what values architects attach to aspects of the existing building, and show what qualities are connected to functional, spatial, formal or conceptual design ideas. Given the key role of tacit knowledge in re-design, an attempt is made to capture the knowledge involved in concrete re-design cases and make it available through comparison across cases or confrontation between various interpretations. To this end, cases are represented analytically by means of a computer tool that makes diverse aspects and fragments of the design searchable and comparable. This should result in an extendable matrix of re-design strategies to support student and professional architects involved in re-design. In a final stage of this research, a working prototype of the tool will be used and evaluated in an educational context. Based on the observations and the evaluation of this tryout, the tool can be further optimized. 'You cannot always start from scratch.' Herzog and de Meuron
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
  • Neuckermans, Herman, Co-Supervisor, External person
  • Mollaert, Marijke, Supervisor
Place of PublicationBrussels
Publication statusUnpublished - 2006


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