Open Building and User Agency: Early and Contemporary Experiments in the Netherlands

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This chapter discusses the notion of ‘Open Building’ through its conceptualisations and implementations in the Netherlands since the 1960s until today. It focuses on the place of dwellers’ agency in the development of residential open buildings to investigate the potential of users’ empowerment.

The ‘Open Building’ approach synthesises the principles of Habraken’s theory of ‘Support’ and ‘Infill’ developed as an alternative to post-war mass housing. Through innovations in decision-making and construction technology it promotes user participation and enables flexibility and change. The chapter discusses and compares the cases of Molenvliet, an early Open Building project for the social rental sector, and Superlofts, a series of contemporary ones where the architect and the residents have also become developers. It emphasises the political, and socio-economic context of the Open Building movement and how it has impacted the ability to meet its aims. Although its capacity to disrupt the housing system has remained limited it has expanded housing possibilities in the Netherlands.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHousing and the City
EditorsKatharina Borsi, Didem Ekici, Jonathan Hale, Nick Haynes
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRoutledge - Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages15
Edition1st Edition
ISBN (Electronic)9781003245216
ISBN (Print)9781032156583, 9781032156569
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameCritiques: Critical Studies in Architectural Humanities

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository 'You share, we take care!' - Taverne project Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Open Building
  • Housing
  • Supports and Infill
  • Habraken
  • Molenvliet
  • Superlofts
  • SAR
  • Agency
  • Participation

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