Open Building, as conceptualised by John Habraken in the 1960s, implies that residents become facilitated to (re)arrange the layout of their homes without too much effort and in line with their needs, while structural architectural elements remain intact. Changes in the infill domain, through interventions at foreseen and unforeseen moments in time, have a strong material implication. This material side is at the heart of this article. The focus is on adaptability of the non-structural interior domain, whilst unlocking associated materials to flow at short to medium-cyclic frequencies. From that vantage point, this design-study sets out to establish a prototype for an Open Infill configuration, specifically aimed at non-bearing walls. Three aspects in particular informed the co-creative design and development trajectory: purity of applied resources, circularity potential of the applied materials, and engagement of the stakeholders. The result is a lightweight, stackable wall module, made out of renewable fibers from local origin, assembled with reversible joints, and customisable for specific communities. The next stage concerns testing of the concept in practice, aimed at a wall of 15 m2 in a community center in the Netherlands. Although this testing stage is beyond the scope of this article, the discussion section includes relevant learning points from the preceding design and development process. This latter aspect is deemed essential to assess the feasibility of the overall ‘circular’ concept.
Dr. Bob Geldermans is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Interior Architecture of Antwerp University (Belgium). His background is in Design and Industrial Ecology. Bob’s PhD trajectory revolved around Healthy and Circular Material Flows in the Built Environment, cutting across scales. Before his position in Antwerp, Bob has worked at Delft University of Technology, where he co-initiated the Cradle-to-Cradle Inspired Lab and the Circular Built Environment Hub. He has worked on numerous research and education projects on the crossroads of Materials | Construction | Sustainability.