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'Use material for what it is good at'

Interview by Houtblad with Elma Durmisevic on Reversible Building Design and the GTB Lab as an implementation of these principles.

Durmisevic: 'The reuse of building materials today is still largely downcycling, for example concrete used as road paving. Or it requires a lot of processing and material loss to make building parts ready for a new use again.'


The solution, believes Durmisevic, who recently developed and taught a master's program at the University of Twente but is now concentrating on her own architectural practice and on the GTB Lab, is to design materials in such a way that they can be reused without having to crush, remelt or saw through them. And to build houses in such a way that they are 'monumentally flexible'. 'Take the canal houses in Amsterdam. Those warehouses and patrician houses have been there for centuries, have been split into multiple dwellings or offices came in. They are beautiful monuments and they can be used flexibly. That has to do with the wooden construction and the fact that they usually have a facade detached from the structure, but also with the spatial capacity. So, when we design for disassembly, it does not mean that the buildings have to look bad or that they have to have a limited lifespan, on the contrary.'

The GTB Lab is an elaboration of those principles. The use of wood is immediately noticeable, but Durmisevic is material-neutral. 'I'm doing a lot of work on establishing tools, guidelines and measurement methods to determine whether homes and housing designs are suitable to be taken apart or transformed, measured, for example, against the effort involved. One reason for building this lab is to actually experiment with materials. Many manufacturers have ideas for material systems lying around that never got beyond the drawing board. Here they can develop them further.

Houtblad 8 2022 houtbouwer Elma Durmisevic
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