01 2023
January 2023
23/11 2022

Bridging Time – The renovation of the KMSKA

Following the recent opening of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp, we are proud to present ‘Bridging Time’ published by nai010 publishers. Scroll down to get your copy!

‘Bridging Time’ chronicles the making of one of Europe’s most exciting museums in recent history. The latest renovation work and new design combine a contemporary allure with the glorious but somewhat neglected beauty of the 19th-century landmark. The renovation and extension bring together the past, the present and the future in a layered ensemble of time, architecture, history and art.

Contributions by Inge Bertels and Frederik Vandyck, Melanie Bühler, Louis De Mey, and Dikkie Scipio unveil this palimpsest of influences that shaped the museum and its setting and eventually guided our architectural intervention.

The texts are richly illustrated with original drawings, archive material, unique images, and testimonies of designers, builders and craftsmen involved in the project over the past two decades.

Following the last week’s launch with the book contributors at a festive night at the museum, ‘Bridging Time’ is now available for purchase online and in specialised bookstores.

Get your copy here!


Texts: Inge Bertels, Melanie Bühler, Louis De Mey, Dikkie Scipio, Frederik Vandyck
Publisher: nai010 publishers, Rotterdam
Design: Alice Colombo
Cover photo: Sebastian van Damme
Photography: Stijn Bollaert, Karin Borghouts, Sebastian van Damme, Toon Grobet
Copy editing: John Kirkpatrick
Translations: John Kirkpatrick, Billy Nolan
Printing and lithography: Die Keure, Brugge
Paper: Magno Gloss 150 gr, Sirio Color Cherry 140 gr (interior), Wibalin Natural 565 Blueberry (cover material)

1st edition, 2022
176 pages
22 x 31 cm
ISBN 978-94-6208-743-9

Book photographs by Magdalena Wierzbicka.

18/11 2022

MINUTES wins website of the year at Dezeen Awards 2022!

After winning the public vote earlier in October, our short film platform MINUTES has also won the Dezeen Award for the website of the year from the international panel of judges.

The website was designed by Samuel Gadea, Florian Casarin and Julien Bidoret to host the 12 short films directed by talented international filmmakers portraying projects designed by KAAN Architecten. The site’s graphic language draws from black-and-white contrasts, informed by the core visual identity of MINUTES originally designed by From Form.

“This website manages to be design-led without intruding on user experience. It does not sacrifice functionality for style, and showcases each project in a way that is clear, concise and comprehensive, while still being visually arresting and engaging,” said the judges. “It allows the user to dive further into each film, inviting them to explore the process and design thinking behind the projects,” they continued.” What first could appear to be simply a landing page evolves into a complete content experience.” Read more here!

Explore MINUTES !

Rooted in the essential belief that every building tells a story, MINUTES was first floated as a concept in 2017, when we started exploring the dialogue between architecture and cinema. Four years later, MINUTES evolved into a fully-fledged cinematic oeuvre consisting of 12 short films, each less than ten minutes long. Within the framework of this unique exploratory initiative, commissioned filmmakers were given creative freedom to realise their vision of our projects. Using narrative, reference and symbolism, each film takes a different approach to portray how architecture interacts with the world.

14/10 2022

We are joining THE NEW OPEN [Minds] Talks & Workshop

Kees Kaan and our BIM manager Javier Cuartero are joining the first international THE NEW OPEN (Minds) Talks & Workshop as featured speakers on 27 and 28 October.

As a dynamic platform with ongoing critical contributions from global thought leaders in architecture, design, climate, data science, art, culture, economics and politics, THE NEW OPEN rethinks the future foundations of design and its impact on our societies. Their first public conference will take place on 27 and 28 October at the TU Delft. The event includes keynote talks, interview-like conversations and panels from architects, designers and academics on climate, artificial intelligence, architecture, data-driven design and social and cultural change.

“If more accurate, complete and unbiased information is available, our ability to shape our habitat will be better too,” says Kees Kaan to introduce his keynote on the future of data-driven design set for 27 October. He advocates the need for “open data, impartial and fair”, calling it essential for the design process.

“Better design decision-making is based on reliable, clean, and approved data sources”, continues Javier Cuartero. He will give his insight as a data and tech support leader in a workshop on 28 October. For the first time, THE NEW OPEN [Minds] workshop will bring researchers from the fields of Open Science, Computational Design, Urbanism, Data Management and Artificial Intelligence together with architects and experts from internationally renowned design firms innovating architecture through the use of data.

Find out more information and join here.

13/10 2022


Last Thursday, 06 October, we hosted a book launch for our monograph PORTRAITS in Paris at La Galerie d’architecture. This is our first monograph, published in June by Park Books and the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on fifteen of our major built works to date. Have you gotten your copy yet?

The director of our French office, Marylene Gallon, welcomed the audience after which editor and graphic designer Alice Colombo presented the concept behind the book’s structure and design. 

She explained the idea of selected projects being portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title.

The evening continued with a conversation between Kees Kaan, Vincent Panhuysen, architectural critic Pierre Chabard and architect Jean-Pierre Pranlas-Descours, both frequent collaborators of KAAN Architecten. Chabard is also one of the featured writers in the monograph. His essay Architecture as dialogue weaves through the book and elucidates framing, topology, geometry and craft as the hallmarks of our designs.

You can get your copy of PORTRAITS online and in specialised bookstores. The book is also available for purchase directly from Park Books.

Images by Sebastian van Damme. Featured image by Urte Baranauskaite.

27/09 2022

KAAN Architecten to design the new Courthouse in Nancy

We are proud to announce KAAN Architecten has been selected to design the new Courthouse in Nancy, following a competition launched by the APIJ, the leading real estate operator of the French Ministry of Justice.

The Courthouse in Nancy will bring together the penal, civic, social and trades courts on one site. Creating a singular hub for these legal entities aims to improve the conditions for welcoming the public and the functioning of all courts. The jury selected our design as it ensures a high-quality urban interpolation that highlights the remarkable industrial heritage of the site. Located on the site of the former Alstom factory in the northeast of Nancy’s historic core, the new judicial complex marks the first stage of the transformation of this historically industrial area into an up-and-coming ecological district. 

Our project restores the architectural and spatial integrity of the former assembly hall, transforming it into various interconnected spaces. Facades and most portico frames are preserved and dialogue with the project’s different parts: the new judicial building and its logistics spaces, the forecourt, and a dense forest. The greenery is omnipresent and seeps into the building through a large patio, contributing to the image of serene and welcoming justice.

Demolition works carried out by the municipality of Nancy will begin in 2023, while delivery is expected by 2027. Find more information here (in French).

Project facts:

Architect: KAAN Architecten, Paris/Rotterdam
Local architect: Bagard & Luron, Nancy
Structural advisor: EVP Ingénierie, Paris
Installation and Sustainability advisor: INEX, Montreuil
Financial advisor: BMF, Paris/Apprieu
Acoustics advisor: META, Paris
Maintenance and operation: SINTEO, Paris
Landscape design: Territoires, Besançon
Images: ILULISSA, Nancy

Client: The Public Agency for Judicial Real Estate (APIJ)
GFA: 15.000 m2
Program: 10 public courtrooms, 21 cabinet courtrooms, 338 workplaces


26/09 2022

A celebration of art and architecture decades in the making

On Saturday, 24 September 2022, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (KMSKA) reopened its doors to the public after a thorough eleven-year-long closure for renovation of the historical museum and contemporary extension completely concealed within the existing structure.

After winning an international competition in 2003 commissioned by the Flemish Government, we have worked intensively on the complex masterplan, renovation and extension of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Belgium), also known as KMSKA (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten Antwerpen), to bring contemporary allure to a glorious, overlooked beauty of the 19th century. 

Guests can walk through an enfilade of exhibition rooms tinted in dark pink, green and red; oak doors, tall columns and ceiling ornaments in plasterwork convey a feeling of ancient grandeur.

Meanwhile, hidden in the heart of the old building, a new vertical museum arises as a completely autonomous entity built within the four original patios.

With bright white exhibition halls, hidden rooms, long staircases, far-reaching sightlines and varying gradations of daylight, the new museum charts a route full of surprising vertical experiences.

With the museum’s grand opening, the longest-running project of our office comes to a close. “The renovation was a unique experience, one that has not followed the usual paths of an architectural project in any way. A lot of people have contributed with their hands and head to a result we can now celebrate, and for which I owe everyone a lot of thanks,” says Dikkie Scipio, the founding partner in charge of guiding the masterplan of the renovation for the past two decades.

Explore the complete project here.

Photographs by Sebastian van Damme.


22/06 2022

Introducing PORTRAITS – the first monograph by KAAN Architecten

Our first monograph, PORTRAITS, published by Park Books, has been released. This is the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on fifteen of our major built works to date.

The selected projects are portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title. “Designs morph into characters, and then into buildings,” claims Kees Kaan. “Each project acquires its own identity through the narrative that is developed by the architect. This is a nurturing process that pulls people and stories together to build a powerful, simple, clearly formulated, and connective concept.”

The same idea runs throughout the book, which draws on rich visual documentation, including photographs, original illustrations, and detailed drawings, to explore the studio’s work using different lenses. The eponymous Portraits chapter retraces and unfolds the projects’ narratives, focusing on single pieces of a complex puzzle: a fragment of an image, a citation from an article, a detail. Meanwhile, Gallery, Drawings and Features simply hold up a mirror to the projects, reflecting them as they are, with no additional interpretation.

Original essays by architecture critics Pierre Chabard and Ruud Brouwers weave through the book, interpreting the common architectural themes evident in the firm’s work. Chabard’s Architecture as dialogue mainly elucidates framing, topology, geometry and craft as the hallmarks of KAAN Architecten designs. At the same time, Brouwers reflects on their strong contemporary identity, which is simultaneously rooted in history and future-proof.

The book is available for purchase online and in specialised bookstores, as well as directly from Park Books.

Photographs by Justina Nekrašaitė

14/06 2022

Amsterdam’s iconic Aurora building set for renovation

The iconic Aurora building on the corner of the Stadhouderskade and the Overtoom is heading towards a sustainable future. We are collaborating with Being, IMd Raadgevende Ingenieurs, DGMR and SkaaL to develop the striking corner building into a state-of-the-art office location with international allure.

The Aurora building is a prominent landmark at the intersection of Centrum, Zuid and West and is one of Amsterdam’s first modernist anchor points. It was designed by the renowned Dutch architect Piet Zanstra for the Aurora life insurance company in the 1960s. The elegant curvature of its facade is a characteristic feature, running almost parallel to the bend of the street corner. The building consists of a commercial plinth with spacious office floors of almost 1,000m2 above.

The renovation of Aurora combines character preservation with innovation. The ambition is to modernise and make the building more sustainable while respecting its history and unique features. Adding a new roof structure, green roof terraces, and a vertical greenhouse will create various outdoor spaces and meeting spots to strengthen the connection within the building and with the neighbourhood. The aim is to obtain an A++ energy label, BREEAM and WELL certification for the building. All sustainability measures contribute to a comfortable and healthy living environment. The focus is on social cohesion and achieving a pleasant living environment, with less noise, heat stress and air pollution.

Aurora will make an ideal new home for major national and international companies due partly to its good accessibility and location in relation to the centre of Amsterdam. First activities regarding renovation are expected at the end of 2023, after the departure of the current tenant, Booking.com.

Architect: KAAN Architecten
Developer: Being
Owner: UBS Asset Management
Structural engineering: IMd Raadgevende Ingenieurs
Installations and sustainability: DGMR
Financial consultant: SkaaL
Leasing manager: CBRE, Van Gool Elburg

03/06 2022

A year of MINUTES – Making of KAAN

To mark a year since we launched our MINUTES short film series we talked to Martina Margini, the initiator and curator of this unique project at the intersection of architecture and cinema. In a personal essay titled ‘Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams’, Martina describes her fascination with moving images, the beauty of the unseen and the need for new ways of communicating architecture. Read more in the latest ‘Making of KAAN’ edition below!


Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams

I’m not an architect, but I’ve always been attracted to the built environment: the spaces we occupy, what they represent and how we represent them.

Since I joined KAAN Architecten in 2015, I started working on how to illustrate architectural projects. First, I observed how architects describe their buildings, which supports they choose, which language they use and how their narratives come to life. I noticed how a bad presentation could ‘kill’ a well-thought project and how an intelligent presentation could uplift a project designed in just a couple of days.

Behind the scenes of ‘Today’ by Marcel Ijzerman (the real film director and DOP)

Working in communications, my job is to ‘curate’ the way we present the office’s projects to the broader public: journalists, students, clients, collaborators, social media followers, and so on. It’s complex work requiring understanding your audience and choosing an appropriate language and a suitable medium to spread your message. Because of the press standards in the architectural field, we usually follow a uniform procedure to document projects. This is a ready-to-use package that illustrates the projects at their best. Nevertheless, I felt something was missing, and more could be done to dig into the real essence of a building. Playfully, I imagined a situation where the story of the building is not told by the architect but by someone else who brings a very fresh view of the space.

Behind the scenes of ‘Crafted’ in Maputo with director Benitha Vlok and camera assistant Annalet Steenkamp

During the construction period, the organs and blood vessels of a building take shape; you can almost see the heartbeat. To me, visiting a construction site always felt like an intimate moment, like peeking into a pregnant woman’s belly. Once the machines are gone, the structure is free-standing, now free to roam. The creature (building) has its own life and voice. There is something cathartic about the moment a building is completed. Like the ‘passing of the baton’, the architect and the whole construction team offer a building to its users. From a hand-drawn sketch or 3D model representation, the building is now fully operative and gives room to other narrations outside the contractors’ meeting rooms.

‘Crafted’ behind the scenes at local workshops in Maputo

Thanks to my specific role in the company, I have access to most KAAN Architecten’s buildings. I manage press tours, accompany photographers during their photoshoots, and visit construction sites with our clients to plan a press strategy for upcoming buildings. While walking through these spaces, I was surprised about how many elements I could grasp from these buildings that don’t necessarily emerge through our standard press material. The building ‘lives’ its daily routines, it breathes, and people occupy places in an extraordinary way. There are so many stories to tell.

The idea of MINUTES started here.

Erasmus MC Education Centre photoshoot, photo by Fernando Guerra

MINUTES is a way of counting time. It is a standard duration, notes from a meeting, generic and precise at the same time. I thought this name could work well for such an ambitious project. I proposed to launch a series of films. Web and TV series work really well. Series are the product of our times par excellence. Bits of information in a restricted length of time, a story diluted into chapters for better digestion.

MINUTES propose alternative stories about KAAN Architecten buildings. We established a standard set-up for the series, an opening sequence, a clear project identity, and a methodology to approach each movie in a structured way.

Behind the scenes of ‘The Letter H’ by Giulio Squillacciotti

We gave ‘open mic’ to 12 directors from different backgrounds and nationalities to experiment with a selected range of projects. In discussions with them, I always promoted the importance of creating their own vision of the building. The final objective was not to have a documentary of our built portfolio but rather a constellation of stories emerging from personal memories and emotions generated by these spaces.

Fragments of the reality of these buildings are eternalised on film. The buildings aren’t always the centrepieces of narration. Sometimes they serve as settings; other times, we barely see them, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with MINUTES. Work with evocative images, a sensory experience of space.

Behind the scenes of ‘To become one’ by Romain Loiseau & Tristan Soreau

Our imagination works with images and needs them to operate. Architecture is a constellation of images, but I always thought they lacked the dynamics of how we experience spaces. The vibrating shadows, people’s gossip, the fact that some spaces are dull and others are soothing, dog’s footsteps in an empty space… Films can elevate spaces to places where situations happen.

The adventure of MINUTES was far from being an easy one. In constant conversation with the firm’s partners, I coordinated many directors with brilliant and original ideas while trying to keep the overall project looking like a coherent series. MINUTES touches a vulnerable spot; it is intended as a generous gesture where the architect offers the building to interpretations. It is not very common and, as far as I reckon, this has never been done by other architecture studios, at least not as a full series of movies.

Another significant challenge of MINUTES is offering additional documentation of architectural projects framed at a particular time. For example, I’m thinking about Floating Stillness, which Miguel C. Tavares shot in Lille during the Covid-19 pandemic. We were almost ready to shoot, but then the scenario had to change entirely and adapt to the constraints given by the limited activities in the building and the overall atmosphere of estrangement and loneliness at that moment. On the other hand, when Joana Colomar filmed Utopia, within the walls of a vibrant space filled with the most diverse kind of crowds, she decided to illustrate the building by filming the people occupying the space. Their presence is so significant and gives meaning to the whole architectural project. We can understand the project and how it socially resonates without the need to see the building.

Nowadays, we have the privilege of a fantastic variety of media to capture the essence of a building. Nevertheless, when I’m out of inspiration, I think about the sensibility of Vilhelm Hammershøi, who could evoke the feeling of dust particles dancing in the light that filters through a window with just a still life painting. We all know this precious yet tiny little event. A flat interior space gets inhabited by a small dance originating from the sun. It’s an invitation to discover a story where we thought there was just a dull corner of a building. Life is happening; it’s all about how attentive we are.

– Martina Margini

Explore the MINUTES project here!

‘Dust Motes Dancing in the Sunbeams’ Vilhelm Hammershøi (Støvkornenes dans i solstrålerne, 1900)

30/05 2022

‘Portraits’ book launch during Rotterdam Architecture Month

Every June, Rotterdam Architecture Month celebrates the diverse and unique architecture of the city. We are pleased to join the month’s festivities by launching an exciting new publication and opening our office to visitors. Scroll down for more information!

On June 21, we will present ‘Portraits‘, the first monograph on KAAN Architecten, recently published by Park Books. This is the first substantial publication offering a unique perspective on our major built works to date. The selected projects are portrayed as different characters with distinctive physiognomies but belonging to the same family and sharing similar features, hence the book’s title. Beyond being a project overview, ‘Portraits’ is a culmination of a research process aimed at interpreting a complex genealogy that reveals the fifteen buildings not as autonomous entities but as parts of a shared vision.

Join us on Tuesday evening, June 21, in a festive ceremony with a brief introduction by the authors and editors. The book will also be available for purchase during the event, courtesy of NAI Booksellers. The launch will take place at Baanhof, a unique and quirky venue located in a mid-century power station in the heart of Rotterdam. Spaces are limited, so get your tickets here!

Photo by Simone Bossi

We are also joining the Open Office Day initiative during the Rotterdam Architecture Month. On Saturday, June 25, we will open the doors of our office space located in the former premises of De Nederlandsche Bank. Come learn about the history of the mid-century landmark as well as about our work and projects. Guided tours in English will occur hourly, between 11.00 and 16.00 (the last visit starts at 15:00). Entry is free with registration. Book your time slot at the ticket link.

Feature image by Urtė Baranauskaitė.

18/05 2022

We’re celebrating Opbouwdag!

Opbouwdag (Construction Day) is a traditional Rotterdam event marked on and around 18 May that celebrates the (re)construction of the city after the Second World War. On that day, just days after the devastating bombing, city architect Willem Gerrit Witteveen was commissioned to develop a plan for a whole new city centre. The day offers an opportunity to look both back and forward to the ever-evolving image of the city. It highlights the importance of heritage, as well as sustainable city planning.

The Reconstruction era was an extremely fruitful period which yielded the city’s many landmarks. As a Rotterdam based studio, we are honoured to have contributed to several of them through renovations, extensions and retrofitting assignments. We dug into our archive to bring you a selected overview below!

Galeries Modernes

Sebastian van Damme

Originally built in 1957 in central Rotterdam by renowned architects Van den Broek en Bakema, Galeries Modernes was a prime example of the Reconstruction era architecture of the city. Our new proposal refers to and respects the basic architectonic principles of the original design. Strong volumes with deep setbacks in a primarily horizontal composition and sharp canopies are original qualities that are reinterpreted and translated into a contemporary building.

Crystal House – The Lobby

The Lobby is a sustainable transformation of the current commercial venue Crystal House located in central Rotterdam. Although a part of the historic Lijnbaan ensemble, the building is not a protected monument because it was built later. As a part of the ongoing urban regeneration of the surrounding area, this outdated structure is getting a complete overhaul based on transparency, accessibility and a lively program. The modernist redesign of Crystal House gives the nod to the Rotterdam Reconstruction era yet radiates individuality simultaneously.


Sebastian van Damme

In 2013 we have renovated Dreamhouse, one of the monumental buildings by Van den Broek en Bakema from the 1950s in Rotterdam’s Lijnbaan area. While maintaining the existing concrete structure, rectangular volumes have been stacked in balanced proportions and masses similar to the original plan. They display a subtle differentiation of materials, window openings, colours and details, giving a contemporary feel to the traditional post-war architectural identity of Lijnbaan.


We are currently finishing the preliminary design for Lumière, a highrise project adjacent to the protected Lijnbaan ensemble that makes significant steps in the development and desired densification of the city centre and brings to it a qualitative programmatic diversity in line with Rotterdam’s metropolitan ambition.

Central Post

Luuk Kramer

Central Post is a listed national monument that we transformed into a contemporary and multifunctional office building in 2009. A 90% increase in floor area was achieved through exterior restoration and interior transformation, and the building was granted a Class A Energy Label. The original Louis van Roode art piece on its façade and other integrated art pieces were also restored.

Erasmus MC Education Centre

Bart Gosselin

The Education Center is part of the Rotterdam academic hospital Erasmus MC, originally designed in 1965 by Arie Hagoort (OD205) in collaboration with Jean Prouvé. A neglected paved courtyard and an existing low-rise building have been converted into a much-used atrium that connects various new educational spaces.

Groot Handelsgebouw

Nationaal Archief

Recently, we have been collaborating on several projects with the Groot Handelsgebouw (GHG), the icon of the 1950s reconstruction. GHG is located in the centre of Rotterdam, right next to the city’s Central Station.

17/05 2022

L’Architecture Manifeste exhibition in Rennes

We are participating in the L’Architecture Manifeste exhibition in Rennes organised by the French association La Plateforme and École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Bretagne from 17 May to 10 June 2022.

KAAN Architecten is among ten offices, collectives and groups that have been commissioned for the L’Architecture Manifeste exhibition, which aims to highlight the conceptual practices of today’s architects. The official opening will take place on Thursday, May 19, at 19:30 at the ENSA Bretagne in Rennes, while the exhibition remains on show until June 10.

Find more information here.

13/05 2022

Amsterdam Courthouse wins BNA Award in the category ‘Identity and Iconic Value’

The award ceremony for the BNA, rewarding clients and successful projects for society, took place at the Theatre Zuidplein in Rotterdam yesterday evening.

The jury, headed by Barbara Baarsma, recognized the social value of Courthouse Amsterdam: “Strict, respectable – humane. This building places the administration of justice where it belongs, at the center of society, and provides guidance during compelling moments when life-changing decisions are being taken.”. The jury was impressed by the powerful visual impact of the Courthouse “rather solemn from a distance, while very open and light once close by. The enormous scale of the building is additionally softened by the approachable sculpture on the front public square. The building ‘calls to order’ whilst embracing the visitors, with a generous natural stone square that invites you to step inside.

We’d like to congratulate and thank Rijksvastgoedbedrijf, who trusted consortium NACH and allowed us to develop a successful PPP (Public-Private Partnership) for this project. Congratulations to the whole NACH consortium as well, involving Macquarie Capital, ABT, DVP, KAAN Architecten, Heijmans and Facilicom. We finally would like to congratulate all the other winning offices: Bedaux de Brouwer Architecten, Olaf Gipser Architects, CULD Inbo vof and MVRDV.

To discover more about this award, you can read the full jury report and BNA Award press release.

29/04 2022

Small, self-built and sustainable: housing done differently – Making of KAAN

Meet Koen Bosman, a KAAN-er for six years whose adventure to build his own small and sustainable home on the outskirts of Eindhoven has become the talk of the office. In his own words, Koen describes the motivations, challenges and ideas that fuelled his decision to forgo the usual path to getting your first home. Read more in the latest ‘Making of KAAN’ edition below!

As architects, we usually design buildings for other people. We provide a service to clients, small or big, and we try to place ourselves in their position and into the position of the building’s users. For the last six years, I’ve been doing exactly this at KAAN Architecten for buildings like the new Amsterdam Courthouse or the new Education Centre of the University of Groningen. The chance to design something for yourself becomes increasingly more difficult with rising real estate and material prices. Especially when you would like to design your own house, the plot price is usually well above the mortgage a 30-something-year-old can afford, let alone the costs of building a house. Luckily people are looking for alternative ways of living, most famously with the Tiny House movement, which is increasingly winning ground in many municipalities in the Netherlands. Although many people, myself included, wouldn’t want to live on 25 sqm with the risk of moving within a couple of years, this movement is actively proving the potential of self-built, bio-based, prefab and modular building, albeit on a very small scale. However, this scale might be on the verge of change.

In Eindhoven, a new neighbourhood called Buurtschap te Veld (En. neighbourhood in a field) is being developed. This neighbourhood will be located in the north of the city, adjacent to the A50 on a large plot of fallow land and will give room to about 570 apartments of different sizes and 100 spaces for self-built houses. Depending on the permit (temporary or regular bouwbesluit), the houses are allowed to stay for 15 or 30 years, resulting in mainly prefab, modular and/or rebuildable homes that are largely bio-based, leading to more sustainable development. Although the project has a supposed end date, this amount of time really allows residents to invest in the project and the environment. Depending on the size of the houses, the people pay a monthly rent of between 300 and 400 euros to the municipality to use the land. Since the area is not divided into plots, all outdoor space is communal. Together with their neighbours, residents can design and maintain the outdoor areas themselves and in agreement with the municipality. At Buurtschap te Veld, my girlfriend and I will be building our own house as well.

The house should have a maximum footprint of 50 sqm and a maximum height of 6 m. Secondly, it should be compact and sustainable. Because the project has multiple intake rounds, we were already designing our house before we had any idea where the house would exactly be located. This resulted in an interesting design approach, where the house is truly designed from the inside out. Because of the still relatively small plot size, we had to rethink the usage of spaces and formulate our personal living preferences. Quite quickly, we concluded that many spaces in a house only serve one specific purpose and are not in use most of the time. By creating a sequence of connected spaces, functions can more easily flow from one into the other, allowing all spaces to be used throughout the day. While positioning the windows and ventilation grills on the first floor, it has already been considered that three bedrooms can be realised by reducing the void. The use of moveable walls will ensure that the spacious concept of the house will stay intact.

The technical space, kitchen and bathroom are grouped on one side of the house, for the efficiency of the MEP, which will also result in a reduced energy loss of the hot water plumbing. Towards the north and east, large windows are positioned to allow for large amounts of daylight while reducing the change of high temperatures in summer. Not only do these windows allow daylight to come far into the house, but they also provide a view of the green surroundings from the working space adjacent to the void.

The house’s exterior is clad with anthracite corrugated steel, reminiscent of burned timber or black tar facades found in rural architecture, allowing it to become a more abstract shape within its eclectic surroundings. The wooden window frames with extended exterior jambs create an interesting contrast with the steel cladding and literally bring the wooden interior outwards, allowing for a connection with the ecological character of the building.

Interestingly, sustainability is not quantified in the project requirements, but many try to build as sustainably as possible by default. For example, many people use bio-based insulation materials such as hemp, wood fibre, flax, recycled cotton or hay. These materials are renewable and compostable, but they are also better at storing heat. Their breathability allows for a vapour-open structure, which creates a much healthier living climate and reduces the amount of heat loss through ventilation to get rid of excess moisture. To minimize costs and the carbon footprint, a lot of houses, including our own, will be built with second-hand materials, such as window frames or leftover batches of insulation.

All houses that want to stay for more than 15 years have to comply with all Dutch regulations, including BENG (Bijna Energieneutraal Gebouw). This can be a challenge since all materials used for the facade should be documented for the final energy label of the house. Our current apartment in Rotterdam has already turned into a storage with stacks of OSB, kitchen, bath, scaffolds and insulation packages all around. Moreover, the new house will be equipped with an air-air heat pump with heating and cooling capabilities. Because of the compact and adjustable design, it will be naturally ventilated. High costs of heat pump systems led us to use an electric boiler, which could be exchanged with a ventilation air-water heat pump in the future since the boiler and ventilation unit are located in the same place. On the south-facing pent roof, PV panels will be placed.

We are currently in the process of finalising the design to submit the building permit. The first apartments are already built at Buurtschap te Veld, and the first self-build houses will start construction in May 2022. The area where we will build is due to be ready for construction in Q3-Q4 2022.

– Koen Bosman

Follow the progress of Koen and Maartje’s house here!



20/04 2022

KAAN Architecten to renovate Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht

We are proud to announce our winning proposal for the renovation of the Museum Catharijneconvent in Utrecht. The assessment committee, led by Chief Government Architect Francesco Veenstra, unanimously opted for our vision in which the monument and the new architecture optimally reinforce each other.

The committee appreciated the integrated attention to the visitor experience and the interplay between old and new. They also praised our reflection on the museum’s contents, in which daring interventions bring unity to the entire complex. On this assignment, we worked together with Origin Architecture & Engineering, who contributed with their expertise in restoring and renovating monuments and landscapes.

Museum director Marieke van Schijndel says: ‘We are delighted that KAAN Architecten will be making the design for our new museum. The current museum building has a capacity of 100,000 visitors per year and no longer meets the needs of the 160,000 exhibition visitors, school children, families and tourists we receive every year. The vision of KAAN Architecten is a brilliant translation of our ambitions and makes the building, which is so linked to Utrecht history, part of the visitor experience. The proposal solves logistical challenges, provides space for all our visitors and offers opportunities for sustainability. We will have more space for our temporary exhibitions and the outdoor spaces will become more accessible’.

We are looking forward to developing the vision for Utrecht’s historical landmark. Find more information about the project here.

Images are by Filippo Bolognese.

29/03 2022

Amsterdam Courthouse nominated for the BNA Building of the Year

Out of 82 entries, the jury selected ten candidates to compete for BNA’s Best Building of the Year 2022 award. Our Amsterdam Courthouse is nominated in the ‘Identity and Iconic Value’ category.

‘Best Building of the Year’ is a Dutch architecture prize awarded by the Dutch Architectural Firms Association (BNA) for buildings that offer added value to clients, users and society. The nominated projects are eligible for the jury prize and the audience award decided by a public vote that is open until April 28. Cast your vote here! The winners will be announced on May 12 in Theater Zuidplein in Rotterdam.

Explore the Amsterdam Courthouse!

18/03 2022

Construction starts on the RUG Education Centre

On 18 March 2022, the name of the new Educational Centre at the University of Groningen was officially unveiled in a festive ceremony that also celebrated a recent start of construction. The new building on the Healthy Ageing Campus will be named after the Groningen resistance fighter and medical student Anda Kerkhoven (1919-1945). 

The Anda Kerkhoven Centre is expected to be completed by the end of 2023 and will offer teaching, meeting and working spaces for around 2,000 students and staff from the Faculty of Medical Sciences and the Faculty of Science and Engineering (Pharmacy).

The new building will be the face of the part of the campus surrounding the Antonius Deusinglaan, which in the coming years will be transformed into a lively and green city square with branches of the University College Groningen and cultural student centre surrounding it.

The Anda Kerkhoven Centre consists of a high brick building block with education spaces and a lower foyer with a green roof garden on top. The foyer is closely connected to the outdoor area and the rest of the buildings and therefore functions as a true new entrance to the Healthy Ageing Campus. The building will have a relaxed atmosphere that encourages cooperation and knowledge transfer, and invites to a healthy lifestyle, with much attention to space and sustainability. The energy will be generated sustainably using solar panels and a thermal energy storage system. Explore the design here.

Image by Filippo Bolognese

Read more information here and follow the construction via a live webcam.

Building team
Architect: KAAN Architecten
Installation consultant: Sweegers en De Bruijn
Construction engineer: abtWassenaar
Building physics advisor: Peutz
Contractor: Aannemingsmaatschappij Hegeman BV, in collaboaration with: De Groot Installatiegroep
Contract management: ZRi
Infra: WMR
Landscape design: Felixx Landscape Architects & Planners

Images courtesy of the University of Groningen, unless otherwise stated.

16/03 2022

First artwork reinstalled in KMSKA

Yesterday a festive ceremony marked the unveiling of the first artwork reinstalled in the historic halls of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. The exciting and emotional moment was captured by photographer Sanne De Block.

Rubens’ Baptism of Christ was hoisted straight up into the Rubens Hall through hatches in the floors. These slots come in handy for transporting the paintings to and from the underground depot for safekeeping.

Photo by Karin Borghouts

After the Rubens, other ancient and modern masters will follow based on a strict plan worked out by the curators and restorators. In total, 650 works will soon be placed on the walls of the restored and new museum rooms.

Following a thorough extension and renovation by KAAN Architecten, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts is set to open on 24 September 2022.

Images courtesy of KMSKA and Sanne De Block, unless otherwise indicated.

14/03 2022

‘Static’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Static’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the eleventh release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

Directed by Spirit of Space at the Crematorium Siesegem in Aalst, Belgium, ‘Static explores the power of architectural imagery in visually manipulating space and time to create an idyllic perception.

Faceless, empty forms are designed to define the scale abstractly so we can envision ourselves inside future buildings and landscapes. If we suddenly became one of these static figures our emotions would shift. All we would know is what we’ve assumed from staring blindly at empty blogs, feeds, and exhibits of blank forms. What is the intended purpose of our dream world? If generalizations and monoculture blind us from the purpose of architecture we all become aliens navigating static worlds of isolation.

Spirit of Space was founded in 2006 in Chicago based on the belief that buildings tell stories. They completed about 200 film shorts working with architects and designers such as Jeanne Gang, Amanda Williams, Steven Holl, Wolf Prix, and Daniel Libeskind. The art of SOS filmmaking lies in taking sequential authentic experiences and directing and editing in such a way that the emotional intensity of the project is felt. Their films are exhibited in museums, biennials, and galleries, but in keeping with the belief that design should be accessible to everyone almost all of their work is found online and distributed through educational lectures and public events.

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series, subscribe to the newsletter.

14/02 2022

‘Floating Stillness’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Floating Stillness’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the tenth release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

Directed by Miguel C. Tavares at Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat Hauts-De-France, Floating Stillness portrays a specific moment in time. It is a meditation on a paradoxical period at a multifunctional building for collective use. Instead of weaving together people and stories, the big machine is on standby, its parts suspended mid-air.

Floating Stillness guides us through different spaces as the temporarily vacant building is revealed in fragments. The sound emerges, unveiling an expectant inner soul. In this narrative, the building is the starting point for a poetic analysis of the moment we are living in.

Miguel C. Tavares works as an independent filmmaker and frequently collaborates with different artists and disciplines. Together with Ana Resende and Tiago Costa, he started a series of films that explore visual constructions from architectural works. Their latest projects are The Construction of Villa Além (in collaboration with Rui Manuel Vieira), a film that follows the construction of a house by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati on the Alentejo coast.

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series, subscribe to the newsletter.

10/02 2022

Construction to start on NEAC Visitor Centre in Margraten

Construction of the new Visitor Center at the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten is set to begin this February.

KAAN Architecten was appointed by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) to design the Visitor Center at Netherlands American Cemetery (NEAC) in Margraten, which will host interpretative exhibits and enhance the understanding of the site’s history. Groep van Roey will act as the main contractor for the project.

The Visitor Center is a product of an integrated design process dedicated to creating an effective and efficient facility with attention to the landscape. Located on an opening amid a ring of scattered trees, the building blends with the sloping topography, its presence delicate compared to the monumental features of the Cemetery. Explore the complete project here!

04/02 2022

Galeries Modernes shapes up!

Recently named as one of the 20 most anticipated buildings of 2022 by the Domus magazine, the renovation of Galeries Modernes is steadily advancing. Scroll down for a photo report from the construction site in the heart of Rotterdam!

Strong volumes with deep setbacks in a horizontal composition and sharp canopies are original qualities reinterpreted and translated into a contemporary building. 

The façade design is equivalent on all sides of the building with a transparent plinth of big glass panels resembling the rhythm of the original façade.

Above the plinth, a glass box and natural stone volumes follow in a horizontal alignment. Few carefully chosen materials manifest in a natural yet elegant ensemble.

Inside the building, a patio will bring light into the hotel. On top of the 5th floor, a terrace and a pavilion will be surrounded by a green roof looking out over the city centre of Rotterdam.

Explore the full project here.
Photographs by Sebastian van Damme.

26/01 2022

The new hybrid city block

On Tuesday, February 01, 2022, Architectenweb, in collaboration with the Lectoraat Bouwtransformatie van de Hogeschool van Amsterdam, Pakhuis de Zwijger and MORE Architecture, is organizing a symposium on the emergence of a new hybrid building block: the combination of a closed building block with several residential towers.

This new typology is explored and discussed based on precursors from Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam and Utrecht. What are the design solutions applied in this block? What are the challenges? And how will these blocks shape the future city?

Kees Kaan joins the symposium to discuss SPOT Amsterdam, a mixed residential and office district in the middle of Amstel III designed by KAAN Architecten. The panel of speakers also includes designers from MORE Architecture, Barcode Architects, de Architekten Cie, OZ, and BURA.

Reserve your place at the link.

17/01 2022

‘Await’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Await’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the ninth release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

‘Await’ is a visual essay about the transformation of grief captured in and around the Heimolen Crematorium, directed by From Form

The crematorium’s symbolic architecture reflects on moments of loss, acceptance, and finding relief that often seem to flow into each other and raise the question of whether this occurs in the past, present or near future.

From Form is a Rotterdam-based film and design studio founded by Jurjen Versteeg and Ashley Govers. They’re passionate about working across print, spatial and film. They have also designed the MINUTES visual identity, including the opening sequence for the series and all film posters.

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series, subscribe to the newsletter.

13/12 2021

‘The Letter H’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘The Letter H’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the eighth release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

The film is an exercise in imagination set on an idyllic countryside estate, directed by the Italian artist and filmmaker Giulio Squillacciotti. While preparing for exams, two students speculate on something that only exists in their minds and, step by step, find themselves in the space they shaped with words.

The film was first teased as a part of the MINUTES launch event 12 Ways to Film a Building earlier this April and premiered at the Lisbon Architecture Film Festival in June.

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series, subscribe to the newsletter.


02/12 2021

Sustainability is an exercise in citizenship – Making of KAAN

Following her participation at the COP26 in Glasgow, our managing director Renata Gilio talks to us about her active work as an urban planner and policymaker in Brazil, ideas for achieving resilient cities and misconceptions about sustainability. Read more in the latest ‘Making of KAAN’ edition below!

Many may not know about your involvement in the sustainability policymaking of São Paulo. Can you give us some background on how it all started?

Well, for the past eight years already, we have been working on large urban projects in Brazil to reshape regulations by promoting urban hub densification, restoring green pockets at water edges, and developing low impact mobility infrastructures.

Thanks to our work in planning and sustainability development of large urban scale projects, KAAN Architecten has been invited as a voting member of the Chamber for Climate Change in São Paulo. This has been a very fruitful collaboration. The direct exchange with companies from the private and public sectors keeps us connected to new technologies and market development.

How did you go about making realistic goals for climate improvement in SP?

At the Chamber, we believe that decarbonization is the victim of a horse race where lack of data damages the liability of the matter. When it comes to the worldwide rules, we are all behind, and today there are still no precise scales and methodologies common to different nations. So the first step was setting the basis for national regulations and measuring carbon emissions.

And has it taken off in the direction you intended it to?

Definitely! After three years of work, we finally created our own system of carbon credits in São Paulo state. The strategy of the Chamber encourages a collaborative approach via incentives. We took on the role to calculate CO2 emissions and created a compensation program for private companies in Brazil. Today more than 1.000 private companies are already part of the voluntary program, and we hope to develop new regulations for the private sector soon. At the COP26, the Chamber presented the results of this effort and the regulations in a joint publication. This is just the beginning, and I’m eager to see the evolution of the discussions in different countries, especially after the progress achieved on unifying regulations during the COP26.

Chamber for Climate Change members at the COP26 in Glasgow

Based on that experience, how do you see the policies of São Paulo, and other cities for that matter, evolving?

Containing growth in urban expansion is key to sustainable and resilient development. It is possible to live within the limits of the ecosystem, meet the present and future needs, and ensure justice and equity for all through high quality, well thought urban projects. For me, that’s the most rewarding thing about working as an urban planner: making meaningful changes.

The main goal should always be to promote building resiliency when studying urban development based on affordability, compactness and connectivity. Not all urban innovations require high-end technology skills or equipment. And it’s always a good option to start a concept with a passive sustainability approach. In the end, sustainability is an exercise in citizenship, also for architects and urban planners.

Project: Operação Urbana Consorciada SBC

How does the work of KAAN Architecten tie in with this?

When we look into general KAAN methodology, it’s based on process, understanding the questions, and creating the best possible answer/design. That’s also our approach to sustainability. Sometimes the focus is clearly on community building and social development, sometimes in low maintenance and representation, other times in overall carbon footprint. But the common denominator is a profound respect for the site and its specificities.

Some examples of this work are the urban operation projects for Sao Bernardo do Campo, Sao Jose dos Campos and Contagem. ‘Urban operation’ is a focused review of urban legislations for an area developed under the government’s coordination and involving the private sector, residents and users of the site. In these projects, the goal is to densify the consolidated areas within a given perimeter, shape and regulate real estate interventions in target places seeking to produce an urban space with structural transformations, social improvements and environmental enhancement.

Operação Urbana Consorciada São José

This is rarely the kind of work most people have in mind when you mention sustainability…

Yes, people usually forget that sustainability is much more than the visible environmental aspects of a project. Intangible, economic and social matters are just as important and, as architects, it is our moral obligation to discuss and work on those matters too. I’m not a very big fan of the term “greenwashing”, but that’s exactly what happens when we simply discuss matters like the materiality of a building, for example, without considering its carbon chain, logistics, the boost for the local economy, durability and maintenance efforts for those design choices.

There is one undeniable truth when we speak about sustainability, though – the most sustainable building is the one you don’t build. The same is true for urban planning: the best way to promote the decarbonization of modern cities is to understand their infrastructure and densify strategic neighbourhoods rich in mobility nodes and public equipment. It sounds like something quite intuitive and straightforward but it’s remarkably difficult to achieve.


Renata Gilio is the Managing Director of KAAN Architecten with extensive experience in urban planning projects across Brazil and Latin American territory. She is an active member of the Sao Paulo Chamber for Climate Change and Sustainable Cities Club.

Interview by Valentina Bencic. The original text was edited for clarity and brevity.

Cover image: El Prat de Llobregat project (2008)

29/11 2021

‘I AM EVERY WOMAN’ – Sevdaliza meets KAAN Architecten

The creative collaboration between musical artist Sevdaliza and KAAN Architecten is a celebration of female leadership in every form.

The evocative photographs by Willemskantine showcase Sevdaliza‘s powerful presence as she embodies every position in the workplace. No distinction is made between these positions: they each hold potential, talent, power and strength. Hierarchy is non-existent. Sevdaliza is EVERY WOMAN.

The right combination of ingredients meets in De Bank, our Rotterdam headquarters representing THE OFFICE – the everyday work environment of millions of people throughout the globe. THE OFFICE is characterized by the solid balance between two simple materials, wood and concrete, creating a stable, durable and strong realm. Sevdaliza is characterized by her continuously flowing cutting-edge artistry with a long-term philosophical and existential approach to being. Together they merge power, innovation and strength, resulting in self-explanatory art. It effectively emphasizes the concept of female leadership in every interpretation possible. Construction of two identities melting together into an alluring combination of roughness and elegance.

Creative Direction & Photography: @willemskantine
Producer: @evaschaaf
Art-Director: @jairoxlr
Stylist: @leendertcs
Hair: @latoyavelberg
Make-Up: @laurayard
Gaffer: @linhou.o
Food Dresser: @__agne
Photography Assistant: @ashleyrottjers
Styling Assistant: @leawilbrand
Gaffer Assistant: @borispeters.film


16/11 2021

Conversation about light with Flores & Prats Arquitectes

On 23 November 2021, A+ Architecture in Belgium and Bozar are hosting a conversation between KAAN Architecten and Flores & Prats Arquitectes at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels for a joint thematic conference on natural light. 

Vincent Panhuysen will talk about the use of daylight in the work of KAAN Architecten, drawing upon examples such as the Crematorium Siesegem, Utopia Library in Aalst and many more. The evening will close with a discussion with Eva Prats and Ricardo Flores.

See you at Palais des Beaux-Arts – Brussels on 23 November 2021, 19:00. Get tickets here.
The event will be in English.

15/11 2021

‘Territory of the Beings’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Territory of the Beings’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the seventh release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

Directed by Dutch visual artist Mirte van Duppen, ‘Territory of the Beings’ pays homage to the classic wildlife documentaries by exploring the office setting as if it were a natural habitat of an animal species – the ‘beings’.

Set in the District Water Board Brabantse Delta office building, the movie is a comprehensive survey of the beings (the employees) in a modern ecosystem consisting of flexible islands (the office). The narrator takes you on tour: displaying, analyzing and describing the beings’ behaviour and how they occupy and defend their territory. 

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series, subscribe to the newsletter.


01/11 2021

KAAN Architecten at the COP-26

As an official member of São Paulo’s Chamber for Climate Change, KAAN Architecten will participate in the 26th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP-26) in Glasgow. Find out more below!

Through our branch office in Sao Paulo and the active membership of managing director Renata Gilio in the Chamber for Climate Change, KAAN Architecten is a part of the policymaking processes for the sustainable development of the State of São Paulo. The Chamber was founded by the state government agency CETESB to technically support the São Paulo Environmental Agreement. It brings together 18 representatives from various sectors of the economy of São Paulo, working to encourage the technological change and structural shifts necessary to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations, creating decarbonization policies and regulations in the State.

Today at the COP-26 summit in Glasgow, CETESB and the Government of the State of São Paulo are launching the book ‘São Paulo Environmental Agreement: 56 successful cases in the climate agenda’.  The book is a joint research effort in reducing GHG emissions and its findings will also be presented as a part of the CETESB-UN Climate Change Partnership on Friday, 5 November.


12/10 2021

Kees Kaan at ‘Learning Landscapes’ conference

On 20 October, Kees Kaan is participating in the ‘Typology Talks: Learning Landscapes’ conference organized by Studio Kempe Thill. Scroll down to find out how to participate!

Teaching and research in higher education are currently subject to profound social and educational change. Globalisation, digital work, the rapid development of new technologies, international competitive pressure between universities and the qualities of university locations are just a few aspects that play a decisive role in this. In their first academic year as professors at Leibniz University Hannover, André Kempe and Oliver Thill deal with the radically changing conditions in the educational landscape. What influence do factors such as the particular ideal of social education, the context and location or the spatial and typological organisation of the objects have on their success or failure?

Photograph by Simone Bossi

The “Learning Landscapes” conference questions the typology of buildings for education and explores the possibility of an optimal building organisation, internal logistics, spatial backbone, flexible structure, compactness and energy performance. Considering his experience in architectural practice and academia, Kees Kaan will offer his views on the evolving learning landscapes both as an architect and a teacher. He will be joined by Piet Eckert (E2A Architects), Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara (Grafton Architects).

Tune in on 20 October, 15.30 h, when the conference will be streamed on the YouTube channel of the LUH Faculty of Architecture and Landscape.

Watch it here!

11/10 2021

CIRCLE – Build faster with flexible modules

We are proud to introduce CIRCLE – a construction module based on an optimized concrete shell developed in collaboration with Casco Totaal and ABT. The concept will be introduced at the PREFAB fair from 12 to 14 October, Brabanthallen, Den Bosch.

CIRCLE combines good design, smart construction and efficient operation. It offers a robust and quickly realizable solution to the increasing demand for smaller and flexible homes with high quality, circularity at all levels, shorter construction time and lower costs.

Its optimized 3D-Concrete Shell® of 35 square metres is made in an industrial production environment that ensures high quality. Each module has standardized openings for installations and circulation which allows units to be coupled horizontally or stacked vertically. Rapid realization and just-in-time delivery of the modules significantly shorten the construction process and allow for up to 20% lower construction costs. Integral design and prefabrication ensure standardization and therefore less waste. In addition, the standardized module enables high-quality reuse of its parts due to the separation of construction, finishing and installations. The concrete is 100% recyclable. Come find out more at the PREFAB fair!

Discover the brochure below!



‘Dynamo’ released on MINUTES platform

We are delighted to introduce the short film ‘Dynamo’, now freely available worldwide on the MINUTES web platform. This film marks the sixth release for the series, consisting of 12 short movies directed by international filmmakers and portraying a selection of projects by KAAN Architecten.

Directed by Katja Verheul, ‘Dynamo‘ weaves a mysterious tale of a creature wandering around the empty CUBE at the Tilburg University inspired by a local anecdote of a puma sighting in the forest.

Nothing can stay hidden in a completely transparent building, so we occasionally catch glimpses of the creature’s body in reflections on the windows or captured on security cameras. But what are we watching? Or rather, who is watching whom?  

In case you missed it: the video from the event ‘Building Stories – Architecture on Film‘ is available to watch in full. Organized in collaboration with Pakhuis de Zwijger the event was dedicated to screening a curated selection of projects from the MINUTES film series.

Visit MINUTES website to discover more information about directors, films and architectural projects. To keep up to date with all upcoming events, online lectures and film releases related to the series,subscribe to the newsletter.

08/10 2021

A building that sets a new standard – how we built the biggest Courthouse in the Netherlands

In ‘Making of KAAN’, we uncover the stories behind some of our most known projects as told by the designers who worked on them. Through personal anecdotes and lessons learned, meet the team that makes KAAN Architecten. We spoke to Marco Lanna, project leader of the Amsterdam Courthouse. He tells us about the collaborative design process in DBFMO contracts, context-aware building and embedded sustainability. Read more below!

The Amsterdam Courthouse is another high-security institutional building designed and built by our office over the past 20 years. In fact, I looked it up – the Courthouse project began around the time we finished the Supreme Court in The Hague, which you also worked on.

Was there a transference of knowledge gained in the Supreme Court and applied to the Courthouse? Perhaps certain elements the two buildings had in common?

Although similar in the program, the Supreme Court in The Hague and the Amsterdam Courthouse have some differences. While the former is a tendentially closed building, only open to selected visitors under specific circumstances, Amsterdam Courthouse is a fully public institution. The urban settlement of both designs is also very different. The Supreme Court reacts to a consolidated urban structure – the historical city centre of The Hague. At the same time, the Courthouse is located in an extraordinary area of Amsterdam South, where three urban plans crucial to the city’s growth have exercised their influence. Our building reacts to this rich history and its truly public character by opening up to the surroundings.

L: Supreme Court of the Netherlands, R: Amsterdam Courthouse
Photograph by Fernando Guerra FG+SG

In French, they have an excellent name for a Courthouse: cité judiciaire. This expresses our goal for the design: a building that continues the city public space. The result is a building that serves its purpose – that of showing the process of justice, visually accessible but still authoritative, imposing in the right measure. Making room for the large public square generated pressure on the programme organisation inside and was reflected in the complex engineering of some parts. Therefore, the functional and logistical challenges of the Amsterdam Courthouse have also been much more demanding than the ones of the Supreme Court.

However, we can find many similarities between the two projects. In both, we see a very high building quality, coming from the choice of durable materials, carefully detailed and well-assembled. In fact, both buildings are conceived under a DBFMO (Design, Build, Finance, Maintain, Operate) contract. In this type of contract, the architect works in a consortium with engineers, a construction company (and its subcontractors) and a facility management party on the design from its early stages. Their expertise is conveniently reflected in the design, which results in a robust, highly qualitative building made to stay.

Indeed, we often describe the Courthouse as a future-proof building with embedded sustainability. Can you reflect on that? Did the collaborative process enable this?

When signing a DBFMO contract, both the client and the appointed consortium enter a mutual commitment for 30 years, which involves a delicate repartition of costs in case of future transformations or adaptations. This situation forces both parties to prevent extra costs beforehand. On the client’s side, occupants and users are intensively stimulated to reflect on foreseeable changes to their primary functional process, which would require an adaptation of the spaces. Envisaged transformations are then included in the project specifications as a requirement. On the designer’s and contractor’s side, there is interest in minimising the costs for replacing or maintaining materials and installations, which would be necessary to avoid penalties.

Hence, combining both parties’ interests results in efficient and flexible layouts based on modularity for the predictable changes and additional reservations for the less foreseeable ones. In combination with state-of-the-art, technical solutions, this results in a building that needs virtually no heavy maintenance over a long time. We have learned to call that “embedded sustainability” – a concept that spans way beyond the mainstream sustainability features.

Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen

In light of this, one could reconsider some elements of the flashy greenwashed sustainability. I am highly conscious of the opportunity and responsibility that the building industry is taking up by broadcasting a “green” future. Our world needs a change and whatever moves in that direction is good. However, a lot of this greenwash is still too experimental or fragile. Take wood as an example: it needs more treatments and is subject to replacement much, much earlier than natural stone. Greenwash is a trend that very much tunes on the needs of today, but a courthouse should be timeless and designed in a way that preserves its image unchanged over time.

Suppose we analyse the energy demand throughout a building’s lifespan, including its construction, transformations, demolition or dismantling. In that case, we see that most energy demand is in the first and the last phase, where the transportation of materials, disposal of debris and the use of building facilities require energy. So the best way of thinking of an energy-neutral building is to make one that lasts as long as it can. This is not just a matter of engineering. For a building to last long, it must gain social recognition and relevance in the community of its users.

Photograph by Sebastian van Damme

This is precisely what happened with the amazing sculpture Love and Generosity by Nicole Eisenmann on the forecourt. The press coverage for it has been probably higher than the building’s itself. Lately, when I pass by the Courthouse, there is always a professional photographer shooting the sculpture. Secondly, there is a group of skaters and BMX-ers who enjoy the ramps and benches of the square. Once I talked to them for a bit, and they told me an incredible story. In the beginning, they were shooed upon their arrival. But then, someone I later learned was a Courthouse representative – visited a local skate guru who addresses the rest of the skating community. Together they established some ground rules; for example, no grease allowed on the benches to preserve the lawyers’ suits. And from that moment on, skaters were welcome again.

A genuinely public building represents the institution’s authority while opening up to the community; it involves art in creating symbols that enrich the narrative and give a sense of belonging.

Source: Skyscrapercity

The construction phase of such a building must have been quite a venture. Can you walk us through some of the challenges you faced there and how you, eventually, dealt with them?

In Italian, there’s a beautiful, old word: sprezzatura. It refers to something that looks easy and obvious but conceals a great deal of engineering. I like to think of this building as an example of it.
When I looked back at the design documents of the first dialogue phases, before a contractor joined our consortium, I realised that the building had the same programme organisation, massing, façade design, and type of natural stone already 6 weeks after the start of the design! We knew by intuition from the very beginning that this was the right model AND the right design. The rest of the process has been a long journey of engineering and fine-tuning. We benefited from the expertise of the engineers, the facility management company, the main contractor, and the subcontractors. The peculiar organisation of a DBFMO design process confronts the designer early on with the need for solutions to design challenges that minimise risks.

Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen

I like to mention the design of the façade as an example. We wanted the columns to be as thin as possible since the building concept is about showcasing the use behind the envelope and not making it carry its own significance, as most buildings on the Zuidas do. At the same time, the façade line in the foyers needed to be flat to prevent people from hiding behind a column which implied putting them outside the glass line – structural profiles inside the metal case, wrapped with insulation. This required consideration of all kinds of challenges early on: production and montage tolerances of the steel parts, sufficient exposure of the structural profiles to the inner temperature to prevent deformations, montage sequence and agreements on the position and size of seams, bolts, welding… These are things you usually deal with during construction. In this case, they were anticipated into the design process by putting the façade contractor, steel supplier, main contractor, structural engineer, building physics engineer, and the architect around one table. Only after two lifesize mock-ups and conceiving numerous innovative engineering methods for steel production everyone had enough confidence that the designed solutions were valid enough.

Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen

Circling back to the thread of knowledge transference – what are the main takeaways from the Courthouse for you? What do you see being embedded in our next projects?

There are multiple takeaways from this project. In my opinion, the most important one is the power of narrative in the design process. As strong and right architect’s intuition can be, there are moments in the design process where hundreds of other people operate very far from the main concept source. How do you make sure everyone moves in the same direction?

Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen

The architect’s authority is essential when exercised constructively and inclusively, as it creates a sphere of trust from which everyone benefits. But this alone isn’t sufficient. We had to respond many times to our own question: what is this building about? We like to work with presentations featuring infographics, a graphic language that can’t be misinterpreted. By constantly referring to the founding ingredients of our story, as communicated to the client and our whole team, we kept a screenplay to which new ingredients would add up in time as the original core values evolved. In the same fashion, all design choices we needed to make, even and especially when in contrast to the Program of Requirements, were documented, explaining alternatives and justifying why we considered the chosen option the best one.

Photograph by Dominique Panhuysen

There is also another important takeaway. The DBFMO design process generates the architect’s awareness of the efficacy and appropriateness of the design choices when time is an important factor. Together with experienced facility managers, you get to think early on about matters such as: how big and well connected does the furniture storage need to be if FM has to arrange the layout of a Courtroom in a contractually given time? Where to place a coffee corner considering the natural routing of people through the building so that revenues can be maximised? Or more technically: what is the best compromise to still realise that nice plaster ceiling in the foyer, considering the frequency of maintenance of the installations behind it?

Photographs by Sebastian van Damme and Fernando Guerra FG+SG

We have learned to think this through at an early stage. And the great thing is that so many people in our office had the opportunity to work on this big project – so this knowledge is now widely spread in the office. After all, once you make a building that sets a new standard, you aim at no less for your next project!


Marco Lanna is one of the Managing Architects of KAAN Architecten with extensive experience in developing and managing complex building projects such as the Amsterdam Courthouse and Supreme Court of the Netherlands. 

Interview by Valentina Bencic. The original text was edited for clarity and brevity.

Featured image by Dominique Panhuysen. 

27/09 2021

MINUTES – Building Stories – Architecture on Film

On Tuesday, 28 September 2021 at 20.00, Pakhuis de Zwijger will host a MINUTES event titled ‘Building Stories – Architecture on Film’. See you there!

During the event at Pakhuis de Zwijger, a curated selection of 2 films and a performance from the MINUTES series will be screened. The event will be a hybrid between a screening and a talk followed by live and online audiences.
This period of intense uncertainty inevitably led us to reflect on our lives and the physical (or symbolic) space we occupy in our environment and society. The three selected projects reflect on the ‘meaning of being’, metaphorically touching the topics of birth, death and immortality.
It emerges through the forces of creation (Crafted by Benitha Vlok), the acceptance of mortality (Static by Spirit of Space) or possible immortality (Notes on an Immortal Being by Jaime Levinas). Building stories will explore this conceptual fil-rouge crossing over the 3 projects while discussing the potential of intertwining cinema, architecture and other creative practices.
The talk-screening Building Stories will be moderated by Dana Linssen, a film critic and writer. During the evening, 3 works from the MINUTES series will be presented by Benitha Vlok (via Zoom), Spirit of Space and Jaime Levinas, introducing his upcoming expanded cinema project ‘Notes on an Immortal Being’ with a performance. Besides them, KAAN Architecten founder and associated partner Dikkie Scipio and Martina Margini, MINUTES film series curator, will also participate in the discussion.

To explore the MINUTES project, visit the project website.

KMSKA opening announced!

The Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp has been closed for renovation and extension for ten years and will finally open its doors to the public. Scroll down to find out when!

The fully renovated and extended museum will open its doors to the public in just under a year, on 25 September 2022! The long-awaited opening of Antwerp’s landmark museum was announced with a festive moment this weekend in the presence of Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Flemish Government and Flemish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Culture, Digitization and Facility Management and Luk Lemmens, chairman of KMSKA board of directors.

Photograph by Stijn Bollaert

The museum will welcome the visitors by exhibiting the highlights of its collection as well as new modern pieces in the additional 40% more exhibition space due to the extension by KAAN Architecten. Explore the full project on our website. For more updates, stay in touch with KMSKA here!

Featured image courtesy of KMSKA.



17/09 2021

‘Beautiful but not perfect’ – a story of KMSKA

In ‘Making of KAAN’, we uncover the stories behind some of our most known projects as told by the designers who worked on them. Through personal anecdotes and lessons learned, meet the team that makes KAAN Architecten. For the first edition, we spoke to Walter Hoogerwerf, the project leader on the renovation and extension of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. Find out how this process shaped him as an architect and his favourite memory of the project!

The process of renovating and extending KMSKA has been at the same time delicate and respectful to the old building but in other parts quite radical when it came to building up the extension. How did you navigate between the two approaches?

Interesting topic. First of all, I’ve never considered it as two different approaches. For me, it is one project where every part was worked on with the same delicacy, attention, respect and, indeed, radicality. Although the monument required more time researching on-site, working with the unknown and dealing with surprises to get, for instance, the same level of integrated details we designed on paper in the new extension.

In our vision, the new spaces are a completely different world with new experiences and possibilities, set apart from the monumental spaces. Therefore, the materiality of the two also required a big focus on contrast. In the monument, we searched for the artisan, the craftsman’s hands, the oak and the wax, the age and the wear, the scale and the weight. At a certain point, I had to explain to the plasterer not to make the walls too smooth, the parquet installers not to close the gaps, things like that. Beautiful but not perfect, matching the monument. Smooth straight surfaces were for the new museum. A similar thing about the paintworks; no perfect spray in the monument but visible brushstrokes. Even on the ceilings.

L: Karin Borghouts, R: Toon Grobet

The abstract immaterial spaces of the new museum had the same attention to materiality. Choice of paint, delicate PU floor with depth, floor boxes in marble and messing, infamous zero-point details, immaculate skylight, those kinds of things. No visible marks of the craftsmen, of the effort, of the engineering, but even more necessary so.

We were also quite radical in the monument to resuscitate it; no small changes were made. The colours, for example, are a far cry from what they were; we’ve even inverted the wall-ceiling contrasts. Most colours were not exactly what we measured but were made more saturated, some colours darker, some colours acting as an intermediate. All decided after applying test surfaces.

KAAN Architecten archive

Radical breaches in the monument were necessary to give the new museum its hidden routing possibilities. On the other hand, the new building, where the installations were built in two technical towers and main air distribution filled an entire floor, serves as an infuse for the monument delivering air, heat and cooling. The new and the old need each other; they rely on each other functionally, technically and materially. That is why it is one project and not a monument with an extension.

The project itself took around 17 years, from conception to finish. The conditions for which it has been designed and in which it will continue to live have changed during that time – how do you keep a design relevant to conditions in flux? 

This is a situation that is a reality we are facing in almost every project, although in different proportions. 17 years is a lot, but it took a good 6 years of contracts, master planning and budget finding before the design work could start. We had a good concept, widely supported, strong enough, but not too determined, able to remain all those years: hidden new museum built up within the courts of a revived and freed monument. We could keep using it as a starting point with every new development, enhance it and improve it. We fitted new developments within this framework, and under our control, we kept the consistency in the project.

L: Karin Borghouts, R: Stijn Bollaert

What iterations and changes did you have to make?

One example of this is the redesign of the public facilities with a more generous restaurant, shop and receptions facilities. In the design of phase 2, the budget had to be focused on exposing and preserving the art and the monument for the community. Public facilities, or more precisely, commercial facilities, had to be modest. In 2017 KMSKA changed from a government agency to a non-profit organisation, with more autonomy on finance and development. At the same time, the expected visitor numbers had increased. These conditions made possible, and for KMSKA necessary, a redesign of the public facilities. We could stay within our defined public zone at the front of the building. In fact, extra square metres were found by moving the library office to the back of the building. This way, the entire front became public, and the library reading room became more prominent, with event possibilities.

Most importantly, we had the commissions for all the major phases and disciplines in my team; phase 1, phase 2, security, public facilities, offices and ateliers. This allowed for all these parts to be as consistent as a project can be. With other parts, the ones out of our control, the consistency is not self-evident.

I can only assume this is the longest-running project in your career, and as such, it must have shaped you as an architect – what are the lessons you learned along the way?

It definitely shaped me as an architect. I’m in my 12th year on the project now with one more to go, and I must say it is hard to imagine not working on it. I’ve got the chance to work on it from the start of the preliminary design, from the first phase all the way up to the delivery of the final phase. I was always very aware of how rare that is, but also that I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I learned how vulnerable a project is in this kind of long process. Everything could have and did, in fact, happen. Imagine changing four ministers of culture and three museum directors, new personnel in our design teams, the client’s team and the KMSKA team. Also, imagine working without a set budget and programme at the start. At a certain point, you become the guardian of the project, and I liked that. I noticed recently that it is hard to let that go.

Another thing is the importance of investments in personal contacts. Not only to make sure the mutual understanding is enduring but also to build what we’ve envisioned. I realise that what we designed is in many ways quite out of the ordinary and needs enthusiastic collaboration to get built. Together.

L: Karin Borghouts, R: Sebastian van Damme

Then there’s bound to be many interesting stories from such a long collaboration. Does any particular story or anecdote stand out?  

There are so many, but one that is very dear to me is about colours. Halfway through the construction, doubts were raised about the colours of the museum spaces by someone external to the design process (see my previous point about vulnerability). There was a big debate about our design with the clear white, night blue and saturated dark reds, greens and browns instead of their suggestion to make everything light grey. Indeed, everything in light grey – walls, ceilings and wherever possible, also the floors.

Our approach to clarify this situation for everyone involved was to prepare for a meeting meticulously. We built up a clear argument and made a presentation that outlined our design’s intentions and results compared to the light grey one step by step, from the generic to the specific, with the projected artwork and big colour samples. All this without judgement, relying very much on the quality of our intent. At that time, the most precious artworks of the KMSKA collection were exhibited in an early 17th century premises in Antwerp: Rockox House. We proposed to meet there, among the art, to make the subject tangible and, most importantly, to prevent a theoretical discussion. A new context can be an eye-opener.

This meeting cleared up the subj