Design & History




The basis of the Design & History research programme is a shared vision: the interaction and integration of all relevant aspects pertaining to the reconstruction, restoration, preservation, revitalization and transformation of the built heritage as well as to the building technologies of the past and newly developed methods used in restoration work. The programme encompasses all scale levels, namely building materials, individual buildings and urban ensemble.

The research carried out by the Design & History group focuses on the built heritage. Various mutually interconnected fields can be distinguished: Architectural history, Policy, Process & Heritage Theory, Mapping history, Interventions: Reflections & Design.

The programme promotes a scientifically sound approach to the built heritage, inspiring all stakeholders to carefully examine the full range of possibilities inherent in the modification (the scale of the material), intervention (the scale of the building) and transformation (the urban scale). History, critical historiography, the analysis of historical building materials and the exploration of ways to prevent these from decaying, the design of interventions ranging from material preservation to radical transformation, all these aspects require a precise assessment in order to facilitate useful and responsible interventions.

Societal/scientific relevance of the research programme

Finding the best ways to deal with the built heritage will be the main challenge for architectural and urban designers for the foreseeable future. The built environment incorporates a myriad of values (historical, cultural, authenticity, economic aspects, functional qualities). Reconciling them requires that they are assessed in their mutual relationships, and that is the essence of the Design & History programme.

The conservation and transformation of the architectural and urban heritage in a broad sense have become important aspects of the practice of architecture. However, the approach, attitude and toolbox of architects, planners and decision makers are not keeping pace with this reality. To improve and innovate the spatial quality and process quality of interventions in the built environment, it is necessary to reflect on the history of architectural ideas and how they have materialized, on conservation, and on current and previous practice of restoration and conservation. The Design & History group provides such instruments to architects, historians and actors involved in restoration, concentrating particularly on the legacy of the twentieth century.

The future

The transformation of the built heritage has become the principal design challenge, and this will remain the case for the foreseeable future. Knowledge of the qualities that are intrinsic to the existing building stock and of the stock’s technical state of conservation will become vital for realizing the full potential inherent in the built heritage.
Value assessment is of the essence to distinguish those aspects that should be kept or enhanced from less vital features. What are these qualities and which among them can be seen as most relevant? Did the buildings and urban ensembles play a role in the evolution of architectural and urban typologies? What changes have occurred since their original conception? Which qualities can be seen as vital? How do the existing qualities of the built environment and the cultural values they represent relate to future interventions?

More about this programme

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