independent school for the city

International Symposium: Never Demolish !?

Symposium about the pros and cons of a total demolition moratorium and what that would mean for the profession of architecture and spatial planning? Thursday 14 March 2024, 13:00 - 17:30, with amongst others: Peter van Assche, Wouter Deen, Sanne van Manen, Dimitri Minten, Ludwig Engel and Kristiaan Borret.

Never Demolish !?

This symposium is focused on the implications of a total demolition ban for our cities, public housing and economies. More and more researchers and designers are calling for a total demolition moratorium. Instead of wanting to realise a new building every time, architecture could focus on transforming, densifying and topping up. It requires a change in the architect's ethics, but no more demolition could result in an architecture that is much less harmful to the environment, and that is richer and more varied than the parade of new objects with which the profession now associates itself.


Peter van Assche
After beginning his career in science and experimental mathematics, Peter van Assche transitioned into architecture and is now the founding principal of bureau SLA, an Amsterdam-based firm focused on the necessity of transitioning to a circular economy through design. The studio does not wait for commissions to be given but builds and develops in the city in an innovative way — from their own initiatives and with their own manpower. By designing, researching, inventing, and building the full potential of material use, energy, waste flows, smart living & working and development processes are discovered - and realised. Peter van Assche is professor Architecture and Circular Thinking at the Academy of Architecture Amsterdam, and supervisor for the Utrecht station area. He received a Master of Information Technology (cum laude) from the Technical University Eindhoven and obtained his architecture degree from the Rotterdam Academy of Architecture. Peter is co-founder of Pretty Plastic, a company that successfully produces building products from plastic waste. He was visiting professor in Erfurt (2019), at Cornell University (2020, 2022), and at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (2022, 2023). Peter van Assche was nominated Architect of the Year in 2023. 

Wouter Deen
Wouter Deen is project leader for design research projects at Mevrouw Meijer. Wouter Deen is an architect and has a lot of experience with the design of schools. With the HDduurzaam agency, he focuses on making our living environment more sustainable, from energy savings in existing buildings to neighborhood projects for greening and local energy generation. He also regularly teaches at TU Delft and Eindhoven.

Sanne van Manen
Sanne van Manen is one of the initiators of the Platform Woonopgave (Housing Platform) which launched in 2023. Besides that, she is an architect and senior associate at MVRDV, a teacher at the Academy of Rotterdam and chairwoman of the Foundation for Post-war Reconstruction Architecture in Rotterdam. Platform Woonopgave is a growing collective of architects, urbanists, developers, builders and policy makers from the government searching for alternative affordable and sustainable solutions to the Dutch housing crisis. The platform started with a critical analysis of the current status of the crisis. This analysis is open source and can be downloaded and used (under creative commons license) by everybody. One of the first conclusions that can be drawn from the analysis is that we first have to ‘find’ houses, before building them new. Through transformation, renovation, splitting and expanding we can ‘find’ over 1,5 million homes in the existing building stock. 

Dimitri Minten
Dimitri Minten is an architect and co-founder of RE-ST, an architecture and research agency from Antwerp that seeks solutions for urgent and complex spatial issues. Through their projects and research processes they search for critical insights and visions on the built and open space that remains to us. This leads to the formulation of new challenges and design assignments. Their position is that not every spatial need necessarily has to lead to a new building: 'The most sustainable building is the one that does not have to be built.' The research into the benefits of not building in 2014 was an initial search for a conscious resistance to building, and also inspiration for several design processes of ongoing architectural projects. In 2020, Wanderspace / Zwerfruimte (©2020, NAi publisher) was published, in which the methodology for detecting and dealing with underutilization of space was described in detail. He is also a lecturer in cultural studies and repurposing at Hasselt University (Faculty of Architecture & Arts) and a member of the City Studio of the city of Hasselt.

HouseEurope! by Ludwig Engel
Do you rent an apartment or own a building? Are you concerned about the environment or involved in the building sector? Well, you should be. Speculative real estate practices and the harm they cause affect everyone. The threat of demolition looms over nearly every building, fueled by financial speculation that promotes demolition and new construction. This leads to a scarcity of affordable homes, job losses, and environmental damage. Therefore, we urgently need a socio-ecological transformation of contemporary building practices that extends beyond materials and energy and considers the values Europe upholds as a society. The European Citizens’ Initiative HouseEurope! advocates for regulations that acknowledge and safeguard the value of existing buildings. HouseEurope! campaigns for EU-level legislation that prioritizes the preservation, adaptation, renovation, and transformation of the existing building stock over demolition and rebuilding driven by financial speculation.

Kristiaan Borret
Kristiaan Borret is the bouwmeester maître architecte (BMA) of Brussels Capital Region since 2015. The bouwmeester is a government official who promotes spatial quality in urban development projects in Brussels from an independent position. He previously held the same position in Antwerp (2006-2014) and is currently also working for the City of Amsterdam as supervisor for two major urban transformation areas Oostenburg and Hamerkwartier. Kristiaan Borret is professor of urban design at Ghent University since 2005.


12:30 Doors open
13:00 - 13:30 Introduction
13:30 - 13:50 Lecture by Peter van Assche (Bureau SLA)
13:50 - 14:10 Lecture by Wouter Deen (Mevrouw Meijer)
14:10 - 14:30 Q&A

14:30 - 14:45 Break

14:45 - 15:05 Lecture by Sanne van Manen (Platform Woonopgave)
15:05 - 15:25 Lecture by Dimitri Minten (RE-ST)
15:25 - 15:45 Q&A

15:45 - 16:00 Screening film House Europe by Ludwig Engel + Q&A
16:00 - 16:20 Lecture by Kristiaan Borret (Bouwmeester Brussel)

16:20 - 17:00 Panel conversation with all speakers and audience

17:00 Drinks