The new architect | Thijs Asselbergs

Does architecture still belong to the architect?

Building is getting more and more complicated. Today an architect must be able to work multidisciplinary. A new generation of architects attach less importance to 'authorship'. Do architects see themselves as independent consultants any longer?

They increasingly act as entrepreneurs who are part of a team of various disciplines and fields. Responsibility for a building or work of art is borne by several parties instead of just the architect. Architecture has become a production. Can the architect still be the

master builder in this play of forces? Who is in charge and who is liable? Does the team jointly take responsibility for architectural quality? In other words, does architecture still belong to the architect?

Influence of users

Influence of end-users is very important for every building. In the twentieth century we started with huge home productions. Many people had to be housed. A massive housing assignment had to be done quickly and efficiently. Today there is a much greater need for how such mass production can adapt to the people themselves. How can you provide an answer to what is needed? We are working on mass customized building systems to optimize the high demand for housing. We want to be able to adapt to the need that is needed at that moment.

In the twentieth century, an architect said, "It's not what they want, it's what you want." This attitude seems completely reversed and requires new answers from the architect. Another factor is that new digital technologies linked to machine-based production methods give great freedom in manufacturability. Think of 3D printing, robotics and CNC milling, for example. More freedom of design is generated. The "new architect" can play an ingenious role in this. In terms of process and product. Connecting digitization and materialization integrally.

Architectural sustainability

The aesthetic aspect will never be subordinate. You don't just demolish a well-designed building. We attach ourselves to it. The aim must be to make sustainability and circularity an integral part of the creation of architecture. After all, we are faced with major challenges in the field of energy consumption in addition to the scarcity of materials. Solutions for energy production and reduction and solutions for detachability of many parts of construction works must be an integral part of the assignment. The implementation of the assignment can consist of assembling numerous different components, each of which also has its own life cycle. Designers together with clients must take the lead in this. We need new inspiring examples in the field of architecture that show society how we can build sustainable and smart. Government and investors must want to stimulate this.

Create valuable neighborhoods

Thanks to the internet and the unlimited ability to fly around the world, a uniform world of architecture has been created all over the world. Dubai looks like the Zuid As, Singapore like Houston and Sao Paulo could have been Jakarta. Everything looks the same. There is no sense of local circumstance. Is this positive? It's horrible. We must continue to work on making our own identities and culture visible. And we have to strengthen it. Diversity must remain linked to local and climatic conditions and the availability of materials. It is precisely by making use of the local availability of energy, materials and of the mobility that can be enhanced on site (such as water), that design choices remain inspired and influenced by local circumstances. Especially now that we are increasing parametric design and implementing digital systems in our daily practice, it requires new digital craftsmanship.

The new architect

Well-trained architects across all scales must be the pioneers of smart buildings and urban structures that also have cultural added value. This should be encouraged. It is called ‘value by design’. The complexity of our assignments is huge. Major architectural issues in urban and landscape environments await us, where it is of paramount importance that these can be tackled by the right talents with the right attitude. They must be supported in this by science, education, professionals, industry, politics and clients. This requires an attitude from the architect that I summarize as "the new architect". This attitude is of added value to our society at all levels of the use of our built and unbuilt environment.


An article written by Thijs Asselbergs, Chair of architectural engineering TU Delft, Architect in Amsterdam.