Longing for physical, analogue and old-school: combine high-tech with no-tech

by Alexandra den Heijer

Personal loss during the corona crisis made me reflect on practical every aspect of life and work. My father’s death during the most restrictive period of NL’s lockdown (mid April 2020) confronted me with the loneliness and emptiness of the virtual reality.

While my regular work continued in the past three months, I did spend some time to recover… and rethink some of the balances in life, and on campus.

The more digital our daily activities become, the more we appreciate old-school, analogue alternatives… as counterweights. Not to replace them, but in binary combinations:

  • with all the online lectures, why not reintroduce some lectures without technology
  • after days filled with online meetings, looking your colleagues in the eyes without distracting screens should be reinvented as an old-school meeting format
  • after Skype coffee breaks, Webex pub quizes and Zoom drinks, any social gathering without smart phones would be very welcome

Summarized: the high-tech campus should be combined with the no-tech campus.

High-tech and no-tech could be combined by introducing high-tech and no-tech zones: this could be places or time slots. Libraries could have no-tech zones and employees could schedule no-tech time slots, to assure their focus and improve their mental health. As a counterbalance of our apps, the popularity of jigsaw puzzles, old-school board games and (Lego) bricks at home has also been observed at the (academic) office… 

Searching hybrid solutions for campuses …. “Hybrid environments for universities” … this is the title of a book that we wrote in March 2020, just before the lockdown of both Netherlands and Germany on the campus of TU Berlin. This book was written in 5 days, thanks to the lack of distractions of other obligations that week and the writing process taking place from 9am to 9pm in the Hybrid Lab. We did not even get out for meals… the only other place I visited in Berlin was my hotel room.

The book can be downloaded (for free) on the website of the publisher Waxmann; the official book launch is September 1, 2020.

Combining the buzz of the campus with the sound of silence was also subject of my “expert voice” that was published on the website of the European University Association (EUA), July 7, 2020.

my “expert voice” that was published on the EUA website

In the same spirit, I wish you a healthy, relaxed and no-tech Summer.

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2020 was the future

by Alexandra den Heijer

When I started studying campuses – in the nineties – 2020 was “the long term”. Many visions of the future were called “Campus 2020” … and even personally, I considered 2020 the long term, because it was the year that I would turn 50.

photo pages Delft Integraal (Alexandra den Heijer by Sam Rentmeester)

interview for Delft Integraal, given January 9, 2020, published March 31 – “The university needs to facilitate silence” – https://www.tudelft.nl/en/delft-outlook/articles/maart-2020-start-ups/the-university-needs-to-facilitate-silence/ – photos by Sam Rentmeester

In the first week of 2020 I was interviewed about the today’s challenges and – of course – the future. This interview was published a few days ago… I read it again in the current corona reality… Campus 2020 seemed more unpredictable than we ever imagined.

Nonetheless, “the much needed silence” that I emphasise might be found at workplaces at home, but probably only for the happy few. In my inaugural speech “Campus matters” I summed up the campus workplace qualities that matter most: silence, community for social needs and for discipline (peer pressure). At home, we struggle to stick to the 9-to-5 working day, with negative consequences for a healthy work-life balance.

In December 2019, the Dutch association of universities (VSNU) and I brainstormed about a possible new research project “Campus 2020”, which also marked the 25-year campus ownership status of Dutch universities. The title of that project has a whole new meaning now…

On this day with a beautiful date “04-04-2020” I will start a LinkedIn group “Campus 2020” – on behalf of our CAMPUS RESEARCH TEAM – which will share insights from three campus development stages that are relevant now:

  1. “From bricks to 100% clicks” – what is happening on (the virtual) campus now?
  2. “Back to campus” – what is going to happen, when the campus lockdowns are over?
  3. “What’s next?” – how will higher education (and research) be affected by the world-wide corona crisis? what does this mean for the campus of the future?

A higher education system change is inevitable: what will happen to international student mobility, networks, funding … not to mention the content of education and research? The first two development stages can also be recognised in my previous blog post: (1) from solid through liquid to gas, (2) from gas back to liquid and solid.

Campus 2020 was more unpredictable than anyone could have imagined… I celebrated my 50th birthday on campus, in the Espressobar, sharing the last cappuccinos that were served in a very long time. It was Friday the 13th of March. After that day, Delft campus became 100% virtual…


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Managing the virtual campus

by Alexandra den Heijer

While academic communities involuntarily test the virtual campus model on a world-wide scale in the coronavirus crisis, our urgent tasks are alternated with lingering thoughts about the future of practically everything. Ironically, I am in the process of finishing my book “Campus of the future – managing a matter of solid, liquid and gas” …

… which brings back memories of writing my dissertation “Managing the university campus”, when our own Architecture building went up in flames in 2008. It is hard to get another word on paper, when an extreme scenario becomes reality.

2019 - Campus of the future - solid liquid gas - Alexandra den Heijer inaugural speech

“The campus of the future is a combination of solid, liquid and gas” – from traditional campus model to virtual model (and back) – slide from my inaugural speech November 13, 2019, see DOWNLOADS for other slides and link to online speech

What we did in 2008 after the fire, was focusing on emergency management and at the same time on making notes about what we observed, which eventually led to publications and presentations about lessons learned (see case BK city). Health and safety first, but social needs are next in Maslov’s hierarchy of needs. Creating a place to meet was essential for a sense of belonging to a group after the fire. This needs to be a virtual place to meet now.

In the past days, our Campus Research Team also discussed our responsibility to study “what currently happens on campus” – or rather “off-campus” – and to report about this. My American colleague, Georgiatech professor Michael Haggans, has already invited people to send him experiences with the current state of the virtual campus – see his recent blog post “Campus closed”.

As a team of researchers, we will also keep track of the creative, inspiring, moving and unusual (or even unbelievable) examples we find of managing the university and the 100% virtual campus in these surreal times, including how universities are using the physical campus (empty student residences, laboratories and research equipment) for emergency matters. How flexible and adaptable we are to change.

But even though we cherish both the improvisation and creativity in our own academic communities, we share the strong feelings of uncertainty about the future, ranging from our individual worries & fears about health and our loved ones… to the stress about the long-term effects on all of our lives. We know there is a system change ahead, also in higher education, and there is time for contemplation now… with the hope that also this crisis brings opportunities.

Stay well – wishing you all the best in this surreal times…

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“Campus matters”: my inaugural speech

by Alexandra den Heijer

After months of preparation I was honoured to give my inaugural speech “Campus matters” at TU Delft’s Auditorium for an audience of professors, university colleagues, students, partners from practice, family and friends.

Cover AdH book COTF 2019

The CAMPUS RESEARCH TEAM supported me during this process. The link to the inaugural speech and the hand-out can be found under DOWNLOADS. The speech will be part of the new book “Campus of the Future – managing a matter of solid, liquid and gas” that will be published at the end of 2019. For pre-orders mail a.c.denheijer@tudelft.nl with c.c. to k.degroot@tudelft.nl


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Writing a new book… off-campus

by Alexandra den Heijer

In the past months I have been spending less time on social media and increasingly more time offline. I noticed that I actually seem to practice what I preach (…): moving somewhat back from virtual to traditional. Not only concerning the working environment, but also with respect to traditional working hours. Nonetheless, I still make exceptions. Otherwise I would not write and publish this blog post late at night…

PhD defence Savis Gohari - NTNU Norway

PhD defence Savis Gohari – April 5, 2019 at NTNU Norway – about governance in campus planning and decision making – more info: NTNU website (photo: NTNU, for social media use)

After recruiting new members of our Campus Research Team (more info will follow!) and being part of three PhD committees in Eindhoven (TU/e), Trondheim (NTNU, Norway – see photo above) and Delft, I will take some time to write a new book with the working title “Campus of the future”. Ironically, I had to take some distance from TU Delft’s campus to actually focus on the writing process… writing a book about the future of the campus “off-campus” … expect some conclusions and recommendations about that!

The new book will be published in the Fall of 2019.

Until then: other recent publications about smart campus tools, circular campus solutions and campus-city relations (mostly journal papers) can be found under PUBLICATIONS.

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Silence and buzz on the European campus

by Alexandra den Heijer

It has been a while, since I had time to share some news… in the past months we have been teaching 410 BSc students, 70 MSc students and 8 graduate students, writing research papers and network proposals and working at European campuses in Barcelona, Leuven and London. And 2018 is not over yet…

Silence and buzz are equally important on any of these campuses… how to safeguard them both is the challenge of many universities, for the well-being and mental health of students and staff and for the sense of belonging to an academic family. Next year, our new book will contain innovative solutions as well as classic examples. In December I will update the links to new publications and add the most recent presentations. In 2019 we will launch a knowledge platform for our international campus network of academics and professionals. We consider the Delft Blue porcelain house as a symbol of our (net)work, of which we are very proud!

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Interviews and papers published

by Alexandra den Heijer

While the Dutch academic year is reaching its very busy end – with many exams and new courses to prepare – I look back on a few months with many interviews and papers published. I write this blog post from Bonn, near the university’s impressive Hauptgebäude (where I gave a lecture).

Later this week, the (extended) Campus Research Team will present results of the most recent projects (3 papers) at the annual ERES conference (European Real Estate Society), at the University of Reading in the UK. After the conference I will upload (links to) new PUBLICATIONS – and interviews about PUBLIC REAL ESTATE. For now, a hand-out of my most recent presentation for Bonn Universität can be found under DOWNLOADS.

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10 years after the BK fire…

by Alexandra den Heijer

Ten years ago today, our Architecture building went up in flames… still, many colleagues and alumni know exactly where they were when they heard the news. Nonetheless, the current generation of students – and many new colleagues since 2008 – have only heard the stories and are very happy (…) with our beloved and world-famous BK CITY.

June 9, 2008 - old BK building after fire - photo Hans de Jonge

old BK building (address Berlageweg 1, Delft) after fire – photo: Hans de Jonge

Where was I on May 13, 2008? That morning of the fire I was at work, at the 12th floor of the Architecture building… I was earlier than on a “normal” day and I was warned that the elevators did not work, due to a water problem on the 6th floor… When the fire alarm went off, I assumed the water problem had caused it and I left the building calmly, only with a student’s MSc thesis to read outside “while waiting until we could go back in”. I left my laptop at my workplace… We all gathered in the parking area – it took a while until we saw smoke. When someone said that the flames were already visible on the other side, we gradually started to realise that we might never get in again… Firemen had completely evacuated the building – no one was physically hurt, but many were traumatised by the loss of the building, their workplaces, their archives, their current projects and their second home.

From that day I was member of the project team that had to find a “new” building for the faculty (about 3000 students and 800 employees in 2008). That was a fulltime job until we welcomed the new students in September 2008 and all employees in November 2008, in a refurbished heritage building that we called “BK city” (@ Julianalaan 134 in Delft). Since then I have given many presentations about the fire and what happened afterwards – together with other team members – often with facility manager Dennis Cruyen – see DOWNLOADS. All publications about “The Making of BK city after the fire” were summarised in a previous blog post and can be found under PUBLICATIONS.

Some news items (only in Dutch) that cover “10 years after the BK fire”:

At BK city’s library (Julianalaan 134, 1st floor) a small exhibition memorises the fire of May 13, 2008 – 10 years later.

In the next months, we will gather facts and figures about the current use of BK city, to publish an article about “10 years BK city”. Until then, my most recent publication with “Lessons from BK City – after the fire 
– for university buildings of the future” can be found as a chapter in a book “Dreams and seeds: the role of campuses in sustainable urban development”.

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Book release “Smart campus tools 2.0 – an international comparison”

by Bart Valks, Monique Arkesteijn and Alexandra den Heijer

Exciting news – this month we published the second book on Smart campus tools! We are very proud of the result, and that thanks to the support of the Dutch universities we were able to explore the application of smart campus tools at numerous universities and other organisations.

Proud authors of the book

The proud authors of the book “Smart Campus Tools 2.0 – an international comparison” (in front an areal view of our TU Delft campus!): Bart Valks, Monique Arkesteijn and Alexandra den Heijer

We marked this moment by organising a book launch and seminar for a group of 30 campus experts in IT, FM and corporate real estate of the Dutch universities in Utrecht on Wednesday April 11th, 2018. We presented our book Smart campus tools and discussed a number of topics with the attendees (see photos below). Since the content book is part of Bart Valks PhD research project – see page SMART CAMPUS TOOLS – he was asked (by many) to sign the book at the book launch!

The book ‘Smart campus tools 2.0 – an international comparison’ can be ordered (via b.valks@tudelft.nl) at 40 euros per copy. The book can also be accessed online via [link will follow through repository TU Delft].

In addition, a paper on the first phase of the Smart Campus Tools research project will be published in the next issue of the Journal of Corporate Real Estate (JCRE). In the meantime, the text can be accessed via https://doi.org/10.1108/JCRE-03-2017-0006.

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Appointed as TU Delft professor of Public Real Estate

by Alexandra den Heijer

I am proud and happy to announce that I am appointed as professor of Public Real Estate at TU Delft, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, Department MBE. My legacy and knowledge about university campuses are the foundation by which the expansion of the research field will be grounded, applying her knowledge to other owners of the built environment. I have made it my challenge to serve as a connector and interpreter in management and design processes.

The chair’s profile

The Chair of Public Real Estate focuses on the challenges of managing public real estate portfolios by building theory on improving decision-making processes and finding new concepts for the built environment.

managing public real estate

Managing Public Real Estate – like managing university campuses – is about connecting four variables in every decision: (public) goals, financial resources, people and buildings (image by Flavia Curvelo Magdaniel)

University campuses, hospitals, schools, and city halls are just some examples of built environments that support public goals and have a large impact on society. Managing these buildings – often heritage on iconic locations – is never the primary task of the institutions that use them. However, they need to set an example to society and have a responsibility to implement public policies, resulting in meaningful, functional, affordable, and sustainable built environments.

The chair Public Real Estate supports owners of the built environment in achieving public goals. The research field connects both theories and practical references from other scientific disciplines in the built environment ranging from design, technological innovation and transformation of heritage buildings to interior architecture and urban development.

The chair’s mission

Prof. dr. ir. Alexandra den Heijer: “My mission is to support organisations’ decisions about (managing) their public real estate portfolios, resulting in (more) inspiring, meaningful, functional, affordable, resource-efficient and sustainable built environments.”

The chair’s legacy

Soon the page PUBLIC REAL ESTATE will contain more background information about the Public Real Estate Management legacy of the MBE department, including a link to the book “Public Real Estate” (Evers et al.), the dissertations “Public Real Estate Management: challenges for governments” (Pity van der Schaaf, 2002) and “Building for a better hospital: value-adding management & design of healthcare real estate” (Van der Zwart, 2014) and research publications about schools, museums and other public buildings.

More links:
– March 15, 2018 press release
– Alexandra den Heijer’s professor page




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