Tag Archives: TU Delft

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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Campus combi: solid, liquid & gas (2)

by Alexandra den Heijer

Last week I gave four lectures – in Breda (NHTV), Amsterdam (AMC) and Liverpool (AUDE) – in which I presented my “solid, liquid & gas” metaphor for both the university and the campus. I started to refer to these physical states during our Campus NL research, in 2016. In a recent interview, published in “Portraits of Science” early January, I explain more about this metaphor, see online link and photo below for PDF publication.

2018 Alexandra den Heijer - PoS - quote and portrait2018 Alexandra den Heijer - PoS - photo and text

Pages above from TU Delft’s 2018 “Portraits of Science” – published at TU Delft’s 176th Dies Natalis in January 2018 – see PDF or link to intro for short or long interview.

Hand-outs of presentations in Breda and Liverpool can be found under DOWNLOADS. An earlier post about the Solid-Liquid-Gas metaphor can be found by clicking this link or even a 2013 post called “No clicks without bricks”. Our Campus Research Team will publish practical guidelines to translate the metaphor to a campus brief in 2018. To be continued!

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Launching our European campus book in Tallinn, Estonia (CESAER seminar)

by Alexandra den Heijer

Today George Tzovlas and I have launched our book “The European campus – heritage and challenges” in Tallinn, Estonia (see cover below).

book "The European campus - heritage and challenges" is available from October 16, 2014

book “The European campus – heritage and challenges” is available from October 16, 2014

About the book and research

The full-colour book (200 pages) contains data of all 28 European Union member states and draws conclusions about the current state of the European campus, highlighting both the heritage and challenges on campus. The target group of our book is decision makers about the campus, from the European Commission and national governments (setting higher education and innovation goals, allocating resources) to policy makers at European universities. The hand-out of our CESAER presentation can be found under DOWNLOADS.

To order the book (price: 29 euro excluding shipping costs), please send a mail to me (a.c.denheijer@tudelft.nl) and provide the following information: (1) name company / person, (2) full address – including (3) reference number customer if applicable and (4) VAT number for companies. We will send you the book and the invoice separately (invoice as PDF by mail).

About the CESAER seminar

We present our research at CESAER’s annual seminar, by invitation of Tallinn University of Technology / Tallinna Tehnikaülikool (TTÜ) and CESAER: the Conference of European Schools for Advanced Engineering Education and Research. Every participant (policy makers or board members of European universities of technology) received a book with compliments of CESAER and our university TU Delft. In total 120 copies will be distributed to CESAER members.

impressions of CESAER's annual seminar - CESAER's president Karel Luyben in the upper-left corner, authors Den Heijer + Tzovlas in the bottom-right corner - photographer: Sten-Ander Ojakallas for Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia

impressions of CESAER’s annual seminar – from CESAER’s president Karel Luyben in the upper-left corner to authors Den Heijer + Tzovlas in the bottom-right corner – photographer: Sten-Ander Ojakallas for Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia

Early responses to the book

Many participants welcomed the book with enthusiasm (and wanted a second copy): they are currently rethinking their campus or reinvesting in their facilities and they mentioned that the book is “just in time to support their decisions”. Some offered us to use their campuses as case studies for the next research step or to help with the data collection within their countries (like Lithuania, Belgium and Hungary). Others were proud to recognize their heritage (on the many photos in the book) or their management challenges (coping with underutilization of space, territorial culture, high costs of the campus and energy-inefficiency of buildings). One remarkable fact was that George and I showed a photo of an obsolete lecture hall – without revealing the name of the university – and that more than four (!) universities claimed that it was taken on their campus. The hand-out of our CESAER presentation can be found under DOWNLOADS.

Apart from the management challenges European universities recognized, many are also proud that the book highlights the heritage of European universities and is an invitation to study in Europe, and to enjoy both top-class education and quality of life in European “univer-cities”.

the book "The European campus - heritage and challenges" is available for all participants of the CESAER seminar (board members and policy makers of Europe's universities of technology)

the book “The European campus – heritage and challenges” is available for all participants of the CESAER seminar (board members and policy makers of Europe’s universities of technology) – photographer: Sten-Ander Ojakallas for Tallinn University of Technology in Estonia

Impressed by the TTÜ campus

It is always a privilege to give presentations about university campus at university campuses. In this case we got an opportunity to experience the campus of Tallinn University of Technology / Tallinna Tehnikaülikool (TTÜ). I was impressed by the quality of the facilities, the way this university supports social interaction and how it highlights the academic achievements in the corridors. On top of that, the new innovation and business center “Mektory” (“Modern Estonian Knowledge Transfer Organization for you”) already seems to be successful in connecting starts-ups with industry, investors, the academic community and the many visitors. The building provides many different working environments, including a range of meeting rooms with country themes – each sponsored by the country’s embassy – and aligning with the university’s multinational student population.


the best alumni of TTÜ in the corridors of the main university building


group of students working at Mektory, TTÜ’s innovation and business centre


country-themed meeting rooms at Mektory, sponsored by the country’s embassy


keeping track of who visited TTÜ’s Mektory – accommodating start-ups – on a world map

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Back in academic business

by Alexandra den Heijer

As always I am happy that the start of the academic year (Monday September 1st for Dutch universities) brings back life to the campus. On the Delft campus two new developments align with our “preferred strategy” for European campuses: more pop-up retail & leisure in public space and bringing new life to an old inner-city building (Legermuseum – see TU Delft website).

At this moment I am enjoying another European univer-city: Heidelberg. Not my first visit to Germany’s oldest university, but certainly my most academic. Our symposium will add another book to the series Knowledge & Space (website).

My lecture in Heidelberg, Germany about "the (future of the) campus & the city in Europe" - see DOWNLOADS for PDF

My lecture* in Heidelberg, Germany about “the (future of the) campus & the city in Europe” – see DOWNLOADS for PDF – *at this stage no group photos were available for blog publishing – when they are, I will add them to this post

The subject “Geographies of the university” also aligns with Flavia’s PhD research – see blog link and her assessment of 39 campuses, which will most likely be published in 2015 – the flyer: Summary Exploratory Research.

book "The European campus - heritage and challenges" is available from October 16, 2014

book “The European campus – heritage and challenges” is available from October 16, 2014

Speaking of books: George Tzovlas – who was promoted from researcher to PhD researcher last month – and I will launch our book “The European campus – heritage and challenges” (cover) next month – October 16 in Tallinn, Estonia – at the annual conference of CESAER, the network of European Universities of Technology. All participants will receive a copy. After that conference the book will be available. First responses to the draft copy: “A tour guide for studying in Europe”, referring to the many photos that highlight the beauty of Europe. However, the book also covers the “headaches” of the European campus, of which fewer photos are published online.

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No clicks without bricks

by Alexandra den Heijer

Last week our president Dirk Jan van den Berg gave a speech in Milan that created a buzz – for the 32nd Conference of Rectors and Presidents of European Universities of Technology. One of his quotes can be found below.

“I would argue that the university system in Europe is at least as determining for Europe’s future as the banking system. We too are too important to fail. So why not conduct a university campus stress test to assess the robustness of Europe’s higher education and research infrastructure. I fear the outcomes will be rather chilling and will call for an extensive overhaul of the existing facilities.”

TU Delft president Dirk Jan van den Berg

He pleads for a university campus stress test to assess both the state of current campuses and the campus strategies, to make sure that the (scarce) resources for higher education are spent in the most effective way. More about this tool and our research “European campus” can be found on the page RESEARCH: EUROPEAN CAMPUS (2014). His speech can be downloaded as a PDF file: 2013-09-28 Milan, Italy – speech TU Delft president DJvdB. A reflection on his speech (in Dutch) can be found on the ScienceGuide website: http://www.scienceguide.nl/201310/te-groot-om-om-te-vallen.aspx

Dirk Jan van den Berg also gave interviews (in Dutch) about the university campus stress test for newspaper De Volkskrant and for radio station BNR – 4-minute interview.

BK city's population is back after summer

BK city’s population is back after summer – working in teams, emphasizing the importance of a physical learning environment, next to all the online learning and online communities

Dirk Jan van den Berg also stated that there will be “no clicks without bricks”, highlighting the importance of a physical place to meet, interact and work. By definition, the university is a market place for knowledge exchange. We can replace some bricks with clicks, but we can’t and won’t replace them all. Without bricks universities are footloose and will neither be rooted in cities nor add value to the regional economy. I would even defend the proposition: without bricks a university can not be world-class (like the proposition: “a relationship can not be very good, when it is only virtual”). The need to physically interact is at the basis of both – see previous blog: “Students become tourists”.

This also became obvious when a combination of TU Delft, Wageningen UR and MIT won the competition for a new Technology Institute in Amsterdam: AMS (Advanced Metropolitan Solutions, but AMS is also Amsterdam’s airport code): see press release website TU Delft. One of the first questions that journalists asked was: “Where in Amsterdam?”. Innovation very much benefits from serendipity and physical interaction between ‘academic acquantainces’, scientists that inspire each other with different perspectives on the same subject (source: research Bentinck 2013 – s.a.bentinck@tudelft.nl) – the success of thinking ‘out of the box’ also reflect this.

In the past weeks – inside our own BK city building – we experienced the importance of physical interaction (next to virtual interaction) in our own curriculum. Physical interaction leads to a higher priority in (the sometimes endless) ‘to do lists’ and to more focus when interacting: non-verbal behaviour is hard(er) to hide and the distraction that a smart phone brings, is easier to suppress when everybody notices.

It has been a very busy period – the end of the summer and the start of a brand new BSc curriculum at our faculty. Nonetheless, the energy of new students is contagious. Certainly when they have a group assignment like making a bridge, demonstrated in the 4-minute movie below. This movie not only makes you want to go back to school – in this case: our own school – it also shows our building BK city at its best.

All of the above made me very proud of my university, my faculty (department) and my colleagues. Yes, our new academic year had a very good start…

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Where to study? Students become tourists

by Alexandra den Heijer

If students could study anywhere, where would they go? My theory: they would select their learning environment the same way as tourists do: places with unique qualities – usually cultural heritage – and attractive public space, densely populated areas that encourage social encounters or at least give a sense of place. At the same time many universities in the world are adding new buildings to ‘could be anywhere’ locations – usually isolated campuses – with not much attention for public space or public transport to the city. Of course, researchers that need specialized labs that are only available on specific locations will still come, but more and more university activities become place-independent and flexible to accommodate. Paradoxically, more place independency makes (quality of) place more important. If students can go anywhere, why would they go to your campus or univer-city? Or why would they stay in your univer-city after graduation?

These questions were asked (and answered) in three sessions in the past week:
– June 14, 2013 – 3-hour session about Univer-city Bochum in Germany (see previous post Univer-city Bochum, Germany);
– June 18, 2013 – 2-hour meeting about a common agenda for Delft “Univer-City” with TU Delft’s executive board (College van Bestuur) and the mayor and aldermen of Delft (Burgemeester & Wethouders)
– June 21, 2013 – two 1-hour sessions about the importance of the city for universities at a VSNU retreat for executive boards of all 14 Dutch (research) universities

All three presentations of the past week can be found under DOWNLOADS.

Univer-city checklist, based on TU Delft research (Den Heijer, Curvelo Magdaniel, Bentinck, Tzovlas)

Univer-city checklist, based on TU Delft research (Den Heijer, Curvelo Magdaniel, Bentinck, Tzovlas)

Since the goals of cities (regions) and universities are increasingly similar – attracting and retaining knowledge workers for economic growth or (keeping/improving) their position in the global rankings – the strategic agendas are more and more alike. All the more reason to align them. The lack of resources to plan independently and ‘the brain drain already taking place’ are two more reasons to collaborate – before it is too late (and knowledge workers and their economic value have moved elsewhere).

During these discussions (after my lecture or introduction) the following comments were remarkable:

– in Bochum, Germany (a president of one of the “Hochschulen”): “A substantial group of my employees never visits the city of Bochum – they do not spend any euro here”
– student housing and – after that – alumni housing is crucial (one of the aldermen in Delft): “First house, first child: if you can keep the knowledge worker long enough, they will decide to settle and grow roots”
– in the end “place attachment” depends on alumni finding work – in the meantime: stimulating and accommodating entrepreneurial activities will be one of the collective tasks of university and municipality
– at the VSNU retreat both groups concluded that there are niche Master tracks (i.e. agriculture), world-famous (i.e. Ivy League) universities or unique research institutes (i.e. CERN) that will attract students and other knowledge workers despite their location or quality of buildings, but there are many, many more ‘same quality universities’ that offer similar Bachelor/Master/PhD programmes and compete on other qualities, including their physical (urban) setting.

Studying in Leiden (photo: DUWO)

Studying in Leiden (photo: DUWO)

Students in Delft (photo: DUWO)

Students in Delft (photo: DUWO)

Some facts from research:
EU Study Portals published research (2012) about “reasons to study abroad” – 25% mentioned academic quality, 24% city/culture/country;
– UK research (HEDQF 2012) showed that 1/3 of all students admit to have rejected a university based on the (poor quality of) the physical environment; that does not necessarily mean “buildings in bad condition”, but could also refer to an isolated campus or lack of social space.

Every discussion about the university of the future includes scenarios about increasingly ‘virtual’ universities (also in my own book). Many policy makers state: “Students in 2040 will be completely different: we can not predict how they will behave.” The physical campus will completely disappear? No, because one thing will not change (ever): biology. Let’s face the facts: students are not just attending our universities to learn, but also to meet people, to start relationships – sometimes for life.

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Assessing Facade Value

by Alexandra den Heijer

On June 6, 2013 I was a speaker at a conference about the Future Envelope – the theme this year was Facade Value. My presentation can be found under DOWNLOADS.

Choosing “façade value” as a theme for this year’s Future Envelope 7 was an excellent choice. Value has many angles – which showed in the four different sessions – but also forced every speaker to answer one common question: who benefits from the façade? Value connects experts from design and manufacturing to stakeholders who own, use and manage the building – this is increasingly important in a time of changing roles and new business models.

Themes like the value of façade innovation on design (transparency, flexibility in form, customization), the influence of the façade on (the user’s) performance, life cycle costs (and benefits) and sustainability issues were discussed in a range of presentations. These are all themes that should be made explicit during the design and construction process, involving the client and user in decisions. This also calls for sharing more knowledge about these subjects in practice and in academia, of which the conference was a very good example.

Facade Value - on stage after our presentations: Alexandra den Heijer and Thijs Asselbergs, interviewed by Tillmann Klein (photo: Marcel Bilow - Facade group TU Delft)

Facade Value – on stage after our presentations: Alexandra den Heijer and Thijs Asselbergs, interviewed by Tillmann Klein (photo: Marcel Bilow – TU Delft) – more photos

I want to thank professor Ulrich Knaack (TU Delft / Design of Constructions) and his Facade Research Group for inviting me to speak at this conference. Involving the client – future owner/user of the building – in briefing and design decisions is one step, but giving them the evidence-based knowledge about how new (façade) concepts influence their performance is even more important for successfully implementing innovation in the built environment.

For the future of the built environment demand and supply side should go hand-in-hand. On-going research – including the NWO-funded FuturA research (Future Value Chains of Architectural Services) that explores the changing roles of designers – emphasizes that. This is all the more reason to share knowledge between the chairs of Real Estate Management, Design & Construction Management and Design of Constructions for future research.

More about the NWO funded research about future role of architects – FuturA “Future Value Chains of Architectural Services” – can be found using the following link. More about TU Delft’s Facade Research Group can be found on the TU Delft website and on the Imagine blog.

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