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For its Fourth Annual Conference, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre hosted the fifth thematic conference of the European Architecture History Network, The Tools of the Architect, in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of TU Delft. The conference was held between November 22-24, 2017. On the afternoon of November 23, the conference moved to Het Nieuwe Instituut, where a series of paper sessions and a keynote lecture by Michiel Riedijk took place.

The Tools of the Architect

Architects have for their activities of drawing, writing and building always depended upon the potential of particular tools –ranging from practical instruments such as straight edges, French curves, compasses, rulers and pencils to conceptual tools such as working drawings, collages, photographic surveys, infographics, diagrams, casts and mass models.

As technologies advanced the toolbox of architects has changed and expanded. Today architects have an extraordinary array of sophisticated tools at their disposal but also rely on many of the same tools as their 18th and 19th century peers. Working drawings, pencils and tracing paper continue to appear in the designer’s studio while their role and potential is being redefined.

Time and time again, architects have engaged with new tools. The quest to find the most appropriate and adequate tools to articulate, test and communicate design ideas has never ended, and in this pursuit architects have appropriated tools from other disciplines, such as art, historiography, sociology, philosophy, computer sciences and engineering. Out of this perspective the tools of the architect have become a field of intense exploration of the encounter of architecture with other disciplinary perspectives.

Inventions and innovations of tools throughout history have not only provided better answers to questions of analyzing and representing the built environment, but they have also pointed to new ways of conceiving and intervening. Ellipsographs made it possible to precisely draw an elliptical space in the 19th century and computer-aided drafting software has allowed for a new conception and construction of complex geometries in the 20th and 21st century. New tools have continuously affected the imagination, character and qualities of architectural projects.

This conference wanted to focus on the changing practical and conceptual tools of the architect and their effect on the logos and praxis of architecture. The conference was structured along three thematic lines:

  • The Instruments of the Architect  (i.e. the apparata and equipment of the architect)
  • The Tools of Analysis (i.e. the devices to study architecture and the built environment in general)
  • The Tools of Intervention (i.e. the devices to intervene in the built environment)

Keynote speakers of this conference included: Mari Lending (professor of architectural theory and history, Oslo School of Architecture and Design/ OCCAS: the Oslo Center for Critical Architectural Studies), Michiel Riedijk (professor at Chair of Public Building, Delft University of Technology/ Neutelings Riedijk Architects, Rotterdam), and Anthony Gerbino (Senior Lecturer, Art History, University of Manchester).

Manner or Method: the Tools of the Architect Reconsidered

From Vitruvius and Villard de Honnecourt up till Building Information Modeling (BIM), the art of architectural design has been propelled by an ongoing process of division of labor within the building industry. In his lecture at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Michiel Riedijk investigated what this process implies for both practice and education in architecture.

Annual Conference Series of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre

Each year the Jaap Bakema Study Centre organizes an anual conference to bring together scholars and practitioners around a special subject that is related to the ongoing research at the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft and the collections of Het Nieuwe Instituut.

The last edition of the conference was devoted to the architectural drawing and the current developments in the fields of digital media and archives: ‘Between Paper and Pixels, Transmedial Traffic in Architectural Drawing’, with a keynote by the British architect Will Alsop . In 2015 the annual conference dealt with the topic of exhibition making and architectural research: ‘Research on Display, The Architectural Exhibition as a Motor for Knowledge Production’ with the keynote deliverd by Maarten Gielen of the Brussels office of Rotor. The first annual conference ‘Bakema and the Open Society’ was held at the conclusion of the Dutch presentation at the Venice Biennale, which presented to the work of Jaap Bakema and his ideas on architecture, the welfare state and the open society.

European Architectural History Network

Established in 2005, the European Architectural History Network supports research and education by providing a public forum for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge of the histories of architecture. Based in Europe, it is open to architectural historians and scholars in allied fields from all countries.


Faculty of Architecture and the Building Environment, TU Delft
& Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam