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October 18, 2023

Securing space to experiment with architects Jens Wind and Veerle Elshof

An inn serving as a hiking rest stop amidst the vegetation of De Dellen estate in Gelderland and a living and working space inspired by a farm from childhood memories. At first glance these two places are unrelated, but both are the subject of a finals project by graduating students in the master’s course in Architecture, both of which projects derived from a deep personal connection with the location. These unique projects could not have come to fruition without the space to experiment the master's course allows, Jens Wind and Veerle Elshof, the students in question, add.

Veerle's finals project entails designs for a new living and working space inspired by her grandparents' old farm, an important place from her childhood. "I have always been fascinated by this place, which I have visited ever since I was very young," she explains. "The farm served as the backdrop of my family's daily life: working, living, leisure – it was all done in this one place. When I started my graduation project, I didn't know what I wanted to do. I started with the idea of creating an adaptive reuse design for the farm. But as I was working on that, I thought to myself: this place is already special as it is. Can't I use the character of the place as a silhouette for something new? So my task became totally different. This lesson of giving yourself time for a project is something I learned in this course. The course is designed in a way that gives you the space and time to experiment and to find your own voice in architecture. That is really nice."

The importance of atmosphere in architecture

 "After I clearly knew what my task was going to be, I often revisited the farm, where another family now lives," Veerle continues. During these visits, Veerle would observe the place for hours. By reliving her memories of the place and by making drawings, she wanted to find out why the place made her feel so at home. Veerle: "I have always had a fondness for atmosphere in architecture, because through atmosphere we can really experience architecture and we are subconsciously influenced. I explored the atmosphere at the farm using seven different themes. By means of careful observation with a sensitive eye and ear, I observed the special in the everyday that every place has hidden within. Using this method, I designed my own living and working space for the future. This has resulted in seven atmospheric paintings with accompanying stories that show different places of my living and working space."

Eén van de ontwerpen van “Verborgen Realiteit”, Veerle's afstudeerwerk.
One of the designs from "Hidden Reality", Veerle's graduation work

The architect as bricoleur

In his graduation work, Jens too sought what both Veerle and he describe as an "internalised relationship" with a location. "I wanted my graduation project to be a process in which I could develop a set of tools that I could use in practice later," Jens explains. "That's why I chose to use the bricoleur as an example: the architect as someone who designs and makes something using only tools and materials available in the immediate vicinity of the location. That was my fascination."

The course is designed in a way that gives you the space and time to experiment and to find your own voice in architecture. That is really nice."

Veerle Elshof, master's student Architecture

Jens happened to come across an empty container that was once a pond on De Dellen estate. This pond was used for boat recreation in the 1950s, and Jens decided to use it for his graduation project. "In the research stage of the project, I saw a need for a place, an inn, where people could unwind on the estate. Then I started looking for what materials and tools were available in the immediate area, materials and tools that could be used to make a building from this empty container," Jens says. The next step for him was to demonstrate that the building could actually be made. "I started working out the details. I spent the night there and made lots of models and sketches. Everything stemmed from the materials and tools that were on site. In the end, I assembled everything into several designs, which I want to show to the estate managers. I have the quiet dream that those designs will be realised in the future."

One of the designs from "Inn in Nature: A bricolage of the Heerderdal", Jens Wind's graduation work

Like the Harry Potter school

For Jens, the opportunity to experiment during the course was also crucial for his graduation work. "You are free to do things based on your intuition, which I really like," he says. "Something MAY be created instead of having to follow a script. I think that this freedom is what is unique about taking a master's course in architecture at an art school. But what has been most important to me is the fact that the education directly interacted with practice. Due to the way the course has been designed, a student works and studies concurrently. This meant that we could immediately put the things we learnt during study into practice."

You are free to do things based on your intuition. … Something MAY be created instead of having to follow a script. I think that this freedom is what is unique about taking a master's course in architecture at an art school."

Jens Wind, master's student Architecture

Veerle adds: "I was already coming from art school; I got a bachelor's degree in Interior Architecture at ArtEZ. I decided to take a master's course because I felt I lacked experience in the constructional aspect of architecture. I experienced studying at ArtEZ as very free, creative, and focussed on conceptual thinking. The setup of working and studying at the same time in this master's course helped me a lot in making that conceptual thinking more concrete in practice. In addition, a group of lecturers at the academy who you know well personally guide you along your learning journey. I found that small scale, together with having close contact with other students - also from other years - a real advantage of taking a master’s course in architecture at ArtEZ."

Jens: "It reminds me of Hogwarts, the school from Harry Potter. The togetherness you see in these films is something that you also see at the academy: teachers who all know you and the students from different years mixed together... What I find special is that I can tell from a drawing which student at the academy created it. Everyone develops their own handwriting. That is the result of that atmosphere where everybody knows each other – but also of the freedom and time to experiment you get as a student."

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