collaborative knowledge

bureaubakker operates as catalyst between industries, knowledge institutes, creative practices, governments and the public.

We produce cross-disciplinary exchanges that are based on collaborative knowledge and aimed at developing expertise and products. We are involved from initiative and concept development to publications, including project and research management, communication, tutoring and moderating.


design intelligence

We are convinced that exchange and creation of knowledge forms the key factor in developing new ideas and aims that are embedded in a more and more complex reality of expertise and ambitions. Furthermore close collaboration with 'other' disciplines is crucial in understanding and developing one's own expertise. Our 'exchanges' are focused on pragmatic creative processes and are based on innovative design approaches, strategic scenario techniques, cross-cultural collaborations and decision-making methods.

Firmly based on an architectural and didactical background we facilitate research for development programs ranging from brainstorm sessions to international competitions. Essential to all 'exchanges' is the production of specific formats that are based on associative generation of knowledge and exploitation of individual fascinations.

Depending on the ambitions and expertise of our clients we offer project support starting from generating concepts and formats to full project or research management and coordination, marketing strategies, supervision and publications on results and ambitions. For each initiative a well-balanced team of professional experts and critics is assembled. The organizational staff adapts to changing needs throughout the range of our exchanges.

bureaubakker finds its strength in maximizing its flexibility and expertise through a diversity of collaborations with long term clients, specialized companies and individuals. We are specialized in bringing together various parties in challenging settings. Thus generating conditions for the development of innovative - result driven- processes and deliverables. Conditions that offer critical confrontations, often unveiling strikingly distinct but analogous methods and techniques. This may involve representatives from various parties within one industry, exchanges between the academic and commercial realms or confrontations between fairly different disciplines with similar ambitions, methodologies or problematics. Our involvement enhances the ability to release expertise and deploy design intelligence.


development of collaborative projects

production of specific formats fine-tuned to project ambitions, needs and collaborators

organization of processes, networks, content and aims

workshops, brainstorm sessions and conferences

interviews, lectures, videos, 'newspapers' and books

Complexity, Craftsmanship, Capacities and Collaboration

Complementary facilities and ambitions from industry and academia leads to enhanced knowledge and expertise.

All architects, designers and engineers need to fully understand the nature of the materials they deploy. Not only should they grasp the physical and structural properties of the materials. Nor should they merely appreciate its aesthetical presence. They also need to know about manufacturing elements and systems out of the chosen materials. They need to be confident about how materials behave when altered or formed and how connections can be made taking in account all of the above-mentioned issues and properties. When putting materials to use, structural or otherwise, one should have an intimate knowledge of a complete set of areas concerned with those materials and how they are intended to operate. This knowledge needs to reach beyond a theoretical approach based on quantitative data and visual examples. It needs to extend to actually working with the materials. To touch them, experience them in action and reflect on physical testing and results.

In order to facilitate existing curricula in universities and academies, bureaubakker has developed various formats in which educational institutes can benefit from industry facilities to actually work with building materials. Supported by the Cement&BetonCentrum a series of such projects have been implemented within the curriculum of the chair of Materialization at the Faculty of Architecture of the Delft University of Technology. We strongly believe that combining the strengths of both industries and educational institutes can offer beneficial results for both. In principle their inherent and explicit capacities are complementary. Universities have an abundance of energy committed to investigate and research their disciplines of study. They are filled with students eager to extend their knowledge and are still unburdened from too much practical experience, which too often automatically discards options and views due to traditional methods of working or lack of time to experiment. The industry hosts very specialized and practical expertise and can release facilities and funding for hands-on testing in a manner and to an extent almost no educational institute is capable of.
It’s obvious that both cultures within the realm of building need each other for their respective existence and development. However in practice it does not seem to be evident that they can benefit directly from each other when the strengths of both are combined and utilized. Merely waiting for students to become professionals solely prepared academically is just as much a waist of potential as simply introducing ‘real-world’ experience through lectures on best practices and reading of professional literature. Industries should enter the educational programs by providing those facilities universities can scarcely organize or afford. Universities should embrace and implement such opportunities and in return offer renewed insights and ideas. Besides, learning to communicate with and understand representatives of various disciplines within one’s profession is by itself already more than enough reason to enter such collaborations.

The chair of Materialization is in our view a welcome addition to the education program for architects in the Netherlands. It is among the first of its kind among European universities that not only recognizes the need to study the construction of buildings, but that is also taking in account the European context in which architectural design seems to be mostly driven by pragmatic and programmatic concerns and is embedded within carefully developed concepts on society, economy and politics. Too often this historically grown attitude towards the development of architecture leads to diagrammatically and theoretically sound proposals that only at the last stage of development are related to actual construction out of materials. One could say that in most of these examples the physical presence of a building reflects a material statement of a theoretical position that has driven the design. Most current developments within the realm of architecture and building lead to an even more isolated position for the actual building materials. New digital design techniques, increasing awareness of environmental impact of living and building, and the exploding complexity of planning, building and maintenance processes seem to gobble up most of the attention. Even when exposed to digital fabrication processes like laser cutting, CNC-milling or robot driven techniques, practitioners tend to focus foremost on subjects as ‘coding’ and computer-driven design strategies. Physical results, like technique-specific surface structures for example, seems to be more of an afterthought then a research addition to one’s set of material properties to be used. Although the programs of the chair of Materialization acknowledge all of the above they also introduce a renew attitude towards materials, or rather reintroduce the fundamental one of ‘building as deploying materials’. One should develop designs taking in account all considerations arising from context and program. However, one should clearly recognize the action of building or constructing just as much as well. Perhaps this action of building, of mastering the materials, is actually the core business of architects in the building practice. In a sense “Materialization’ is providing a set of essential of skills to future architects, training them to master a contemporary and complex version of craftsmanship.

For the past few years bureaubakker, supported by the Cement&BetonCentrum, has collaborated with ‘Materialization’ on developing and implementing additional programs to their existing curriculum. Often these projects coincided with the programs of the international Concrete Design Competition for students. This initiative of a consortium of European cement and concrete associations asks students of architecture, design and engineering to explore and exploit the material concrete on its inherent properties and to compete with design proposals in which concrete is applied intelligently. Similar to the main award for the Concrete Design Competition, a hands-on workshop with concrete, the program for the students of Materialization focuses on truly experiencing the materials.

Within the existing programs of the design studios SADD and MADD we explored applying concrete in the designs. The programs did not position the material properties as sole design drivers, which basically is what the Concrete Design Competition is doing, and which would be the exact opposite of what is often the case in architectural design. Rather, elements of the designs in development like façade components, structural systems or smaller objects, where to be explored in concrete. The obvious follow-up would be to analyze what effect the particular material would have on the design and how this could open new insights into the whole design proposal. The students had to develop ideas on construction and aesthetical merits and were challenged to explore those ideas through the production of prototypes in scale. The current theme and assignment of the Concrete Design Competition functioned as basis to focus one’s ideas. Participation in the competition became an added value to the projects. Leading during the first cycle of this Materialization project to a winning entry called Sakura Concrete by Ryoko Ikeda.
All students start with an introduction to concrete by a form of free-testing with the materials. The simple act of mixing a mortar, producing a simple mold and experimenting with additives, aggregates, formwork surfaces and forms, offered a first taste of what concrete feels like. These first tests demonstrate how the material behaves when pouring it in a mold, what happens to anything added to the basic mixture, how to adjust and control colors, and how to demold the results. A seemingly straightforward and modest exercise, however an indispensable experience in order to gain knowledge on how to mold the material to ones own needs. In all instances simply experiencing the necessary techniques to control a material that transforms from being fluid, when elements have to be produced, to a solid state with its specific mass and qualities, unveils a series of skills necessary for applying any material. This physical transformation makes concrete specifically suited to demonstrate relevant issues in an academic context. Basically one has to develop a design twice. Firstly, as how it has to function when finished, solid, often capable to carry loads and with its massive presence. And secondly, as its negative, the formwork, fit to withstand the fluid-dynamic forces of the liquid concrete, dealing with buoyance of formwork elements and working with the ‘mirroring’ nature of concrete in relation to the surfaces of the molds.
After the first experiments with the material the gained experience has to be transferred to the design process. Ideas may be altered; new potential may have been found. The ‘trail and error or succeed’ process transforms into more informed design proposals and prototypes focused on developing more specific results. No matter how successful or amazing these prototypes become, the actual production of them in the real material is without a doubt beneficial for students of architecture to become well informed and all-round design professionals. Through these programs they experience a glimpse of the realm of the producers. They are confronted with considerations and possibilities when making something physical. Thus, they are better equipped to work and communicate with builders and manufacturers, which is an essential skill within a profession that becomes more complex and demands more parties to collaborate in order to create its product.
To further stimulate collaboration and entice discussing ones findings two ‘study abroad’ studios run by bureaubakker for the University of Kentucky, College of Design, interacted with the Materialization studios. The UKY/CoD studios took place in Delft and adapted the current program of the Concrete Design Competition as their assignment, similarly to to students of the Materialization studios. Thus, both groups were confronted with the same objectives and challenges and faced similar programs in terms of working ‘hands-on.’ An ideal context for regular exchange of results and coinciding workshops and lectures. It offered a fruitful platform for discussions on cultural differences between Northern American approaches to design and education and European ones.

Besides the hands-on workshops our collaborations also provide lecture series on concrete, ranging from architects and researchers to manufacturers and material developers. People like Mark Burry, who works since thirty years on the building of the Sagrada Familia, and Allan Dempsey founder of NEX and former member of Future Systems, presented not only their results, but explained in depth their experiences with making architecture. Mark Burry applies state-of- the-art parametric technologies to produce the formal system invented by Antoni Gaudi some hundred years ago. Allan Dempsey was among the first to deliver a sizable concrete structure – a bridge in Dublin – made in a CNC-routed formwork.
Gregor Zimmermann from G.tecz appeared to give a peek into their world of Ultra High Performance Concretes. His visit resulted in a tour to their laboratory in Kassel taken by a group of students. Within the spirit of our program they did not just look around and listen to the experts. They were invited to bring their own molds and work in Kassel with samples of the newest concrete mixtures.
Over the years numerous other professionals from the industry and research institutes were invited to give their views and present their findings to the students of MADD and SADD.

In our view a profession that continuously becomes more complex because of ranges of new materials and techniques, broader scopes on social and political driven contexts and economical challenges needs to become more collaborative, intelligent and craftsmanship-like. The necessity to control the workings within the building profession demands architects to understand a broad range of disciplines and to be able to communicate with them. Hence, the fully filled curricula one sees in all universities. However, architects cannot dismiss their most important area of expertise, which is to master building materials. To be able to control and direct construction to support one’s design proposals as effectively as possible. Hands-on experience with working with materials and with communicating with others is indispensable within a mostly theoretical academic culture. Collaboration with the industry and practitioners serves both ambitions.

Industry and Education

The Blitz Beton Program is developed in a close collaboration between the ENCI, the Netherlands Cement Industry and bureaubakker, an independent architectural firm specialized in architecture education. In our experience it is exactly this independence - some would say interdependence - that is crucial for the progress of our project. bureaubakker operates as an intermediary, functioning as a buffer for the political and cultural differences between commercial enterprises such as the ENCI and the academic world. Translating the specific wishes and particularities of curricula into workable programs for sponsored initiatives and vice versa. Also of decisive importance is the ability of the industry to offer a comprehensive product, including well-devised workshop programs and all the necessary teaching and supervisors. All this in addition to ensuring the contribution of many companies in the form of specialized technical assistance, materials and tools. In this way we are able to offer different schools a relatively simple opportunity to sample this program. Each workshop and atelier organized by us is tailored to the needs and wishes of each school and group of students.

Although our aim is to set up a collaboration in which there is no overlap of expertise and in which the involvement of the school is much more extensive, practice has taught us that a gradually shift from this initial aim of a comprehensive product towards our intended role as a truly supporting collaborator seems to work well.

So what is it that we do exactly? The Blitz Beton Program consists out of the Workshops and Ateliers.

Once a year we organize a Blitz Beton Workshop. Students from different schools - from more and more countries - are invited to participate in this one-week event. Each year different supervisors develop a theme around a specific material and technique. Each year huge efforts from many different companies guarantee an intensive and innovative workshop, with professional assistance at all levels.

The Ateliers are more modest in scale, though certainly just as intensive. However, their main characteristic is that they are incorporated into the curricula of the different institutes of education, both universities and academies of architecture. These Ateliers are specifically geared to the varied needs and wishes of each institute and thus form a direct extension to their existing curricula. They tend to blend more and more with the programs of the schools. Often the Ateliers are not a separate component of the program but an integral part of a design or analysis studio. In terms of objectives they are similar to the Workshops, offering a real - i.e. practical - introduction to the materials that are central.

Both the Ateliers and Workshops are the products of the same ideas and conviction about teaching a true understanding of materials. Their format - a workshop resulting in a 'real' product, scale 1:1 - provides the basic structure. Instead of a mainly theoretical approach, the Workshops offer a necessary complement to many existing study programs. The set-up offers to students a chance to gain practical experience. They have a limited amount of time in which to see their ideas through to implementation. Ideas are immediately tested in a way that is more intensive than a purely theoretical approach. They are confronted with the consequences of their own decisions. When working with concrete this often is even more intensive. The result of their efforts, from architectural design to solving practical and technical problems to making the product, is only revealed after the molds have been removed. The end result is then fixed. There is no possibility of improving it during execution. That, in our view, is a very important lesson in fully considering the consequences of all kinds of decisions taken during the design and production process.

In addition to the choice of this format two main concerns about architectural education are embedded in both initiatives.

Firstly, the idea that to master the profession, students must understand the tools and materials they work with. The Workshops and Ateliers are organized with this in mind. Traditionally, educational institutions are extremely capable of creating an academic environment in which students learn about and investigate (at a mainly theoretical level) their future profession. There is ample scope to explore their fascination for many different fields of expertise. However, partly because of this continuously expanding stock of knowledge that has to be gained, specific knowledge about materials often remains purely theoretical. Students become expert in constructional data, cost-effective solutions, environmental issues and the like, but an understanding of materials - especially in an architectural and tactile sense - rarely extends beyond a few lines on paper and perhaps some images of surfaces.

The Workshops and Ateliers aim to fill a gap. To give students a real experience of how they can use, control and 'prescribe' materials as they develop as designers. A 'hands-on' learning program in which they are asked to discover and explore the possibilities of materials and techniques. IN which they learn how materials can be deployed to meet design objectives instead of adjusting their ideas automatically to the seemingly well-known and generally accepted limitations. They learn to explore, gathering knowledge in the process of making. A program in which techniques and materials - both old and new - are combined with an often-unorthodox design assignment and which always results in a 1:1 product. To experience and understand the process in which building components are used is, in our view, an important asset in extending the ability to design with these materials and to gain a fascination for both the technical and architectural aspects.

Developing this fascination is of extreme importance in ensuring that students keep exploring, even after the Workshops and study programs have ended. Particularly owing to the overloaded curricula, this becomes even more crucial. Short introductions have to have a long-lasting and wide-ranging impact. It is not the fascination for a specific material or technique that is the prime motivation in doing this. Of greater importance is to develop an interest in how to study and explore ideas. Once students have experienced a format that broadens their capabilities they can reap the benefits when confronting other subjects and issues.

The second main idea is based on the belief that multidisciplinary collaboration leads to fruitful results, especially where the different partners have individual, complementary characteristics. In this case the combination of educational institutions and industries. In educational institutions there is an abundance of eager and fresh minds that are trained to investigate and question everything they are confronted with. The industries can offer 'real-life' experience and experts, and are capable of providing the necessary materials and tools in a more flexible and pragmatic way. These Workshops and Ateliers are one such combination of different partners that can develop and take advantage of each other's specific contributions. On the one hand an interesting and necessary extension of an already busy and seemingly complete curriculum, on the other hand the possibility of gaining insight into materials and products. To illustrate this last aspect it is interesting to note that some results of the Ateliers are currently being investigated further to see if they can lead to commercial use - an important development that justifies more extensive input from different partners.

Together with the collaborating schools, we where able to show the advantages of a critical approach from both the industry and educational institutions. Such collaborative ventures can benefit from the expertise of both parties. We have been steadily developing a more interesting and close partnership with the Dutch colleges of training. We are also currently investigating possibilities of extending our knowledge and efforts through collaboration with both European partners of the ENCI and other schools and academies. After all, the success of these programs depends on the enthusiasm, fascination and close interaction of a wide range of companies and institutions.

Nine Statutes for Complementary Architectural Training

Article 1 - complementary training
The training operates as complement to the existing curriculum. Also, the existing facilities will be used. Within the training there will be a focus on differences with the existing curriculum, not on contradictions. Formally the training can be seen as a differentiation.

Article 2 - critical abilities
Students are supposed to develop a critical attitude towards their own work, work by colleagues and others, the profession in general and the training itself.

Article 3 - interdisciplinarity
Architecture means thinking on order, space, body and experience. Thinking that can be tested and developed in collaboration with filmmakers, artists, scientists, dancers, choreographers, sportsmen and philosophers. Architecture will function as context and framework.

Article 4 - planning and presentation
Only a development of ideas is not sufficient. Planning of the design process and presentation of ideas are part of the skills students are asked to master.

Article 5 - projects
The training will have a project-oriented format. Built up of project team, tutors, format and duration will vary per project. Project teams are responsible for the full organization. Any project will not be limited to a design assignment but will contain the organization of the project team, financial organization, planning and presentation as well.

Article 6 - research and design practice
Students will be exposed to circumstances that are very similar to 'commercial' research and design practices. Projects that qualify are investigations, competitions and real building assignments.

Article 7 - selection
Selection of participants will be based on an interview. Regardless of level of education or discipline, portfolio and motivation will be the most important criteria for qualifying. Participating will be possible for a maximum duration of one year. The selection procedure is open to anyone who is willing to think on order, space, body and experience.

Article 8 - continuity
All relevant information in order to maintain the institute, as documentation, project scenarios and texts, will be collected in such a way as to be transferable to future project teams.

Article 9 - application and information


Academy of Architecture Maastricht, ArtEZ Zwolle, BOZAR Brussels, Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology, European Concrete Platform, Irish Concrete Society, Leiden University - Centre for Innovation, Mackintosh School of Architecture Glasgow, Ministry of VROM, Oslo School of Architects, Polytechnical School Rotterdam, Queens University Belfast, Syracuse University - School of Architecture, Technical University Darmstadt, TENT Rotterdam, University College Dublin, University of Kentucky - College of Design, Zeebelt Theatre Den Haag


Cooper Union, Delft University of Technology, Design Academy Eindhoven, Eindhoven University of Technology, ETSAM, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Lund University, Mackintosh School of Architecture, Royal College of Arts, TU Kassel, UCLA, University of Kentucky, University of Michigan