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RMB, Re-use of modernist buildings - Design tools for sustainable transformations

The project, Re-use of modernist buildings. RMB wants to initiate an educational framework of common definitions, approaches and methodologies on a European level. It is based on existing research, educational practices and reference projects in the program countries and associated states.

Demographic and climate change has resulted in huge qualitative and quantitative challenges and demands for the European building sector. The need for suitable and affordable housing in the city centres and urban agglomerations is increasing and cannot, and should not, be fulfilled with new constructions only. A major task for the building industry should be realized through the refurbishment of the existing housing stock, as well as conversion from other building typologies such as warehouses, offices and public building with special focus on the post WW2 modern era.

RMB is unique in its identification of the main study subject since it focuses on a very specific, oft problematic, very important segment of the building stock; modernist architecture. Neighbourhoods, quarters and buildings from this era are in danger of being destroyed with the risk of specific cultural elements and environments at loss.

On a technological level refurbishment shows how difficult modern structures are to adapt to high contemporary standards. Modernist architectures experimental nature, its fragile constructive systems makes its attractiveness but also its vulnerability to non-professional refurbishments.

On a conceptual level modernist architecture shows a re-definition of the habitat trough new inside- outside relations and open floor plans, supported on innovative urban design goals. This was a major effort to prevent from the excesses caused by the unhealthy, unhygienic industrialized cities. Modernist architects sought for new worldwide solutions for cities and buildings.

On a societal level it was just this rapid global replication of modernist buildings that led to a critical perception of this huge building stock. This complicates a sustainable reuse and retrofit into energy efficient and user-friendly buildings.

Once innovative and very adequate, today modernist typologies for housing and other communal facilities such as schools, often don´t meet our contemporary needs.  In an up-to-date adaptation, and optimization of the environmental performance in construction process, with respect to the modern legacy lies an important task for architects, stakeholders and future users.

The expected results will be valuable to extend the yet very limited database and knowledge on buildings user behaviour, which is currently a restraint to the potential improvement of energy policies and environmental sustainability strategies. The conclusions regarding user behaviour can be used by researchers developing buildings’ performance simulation models.

Due to discrepancies in the European job market and employment situations, graduates are well aware of the fact that they may have to leave their country to work in a different country or to be able to work in their countries but in international projects. In several international networks Bachelor's and Master's students already have the opportunity to get familiar with the challenges and requirements of the global job market in the building sector. This experience related to language training, intercultural and interdisciplinary competences are very much appreciated by the students as relevant for their professional future. RMB will add an extra level to this by not only offering a coherent international study program, combining the local and the international but also by inserting in this curriculum cooperation with industry and with other institutions to investigate and solve relevant practical, technical and societal questions. Students get acquainted with industry and with praxis via internships, graduation assignments, conferences, workshops and guest speakers. This connection between academic education and the practice is perceived as an asset for the future profession of the graduates.

The participating partners are convinced their cooperation, with specific knowledge and input regarding spatial patterns, cultural heritage, climate and construction principles, social and technical evaluation and the monitoring of built spaces. Creating a well-balanced adequate curriculum for preparing graduates for this international job market and strengthen the European common ground in this specialized expertise. So first of all students will benefit from this, secondly the building industry as well as authorities will profit and of course in the end the urgent European topics on human habitat will find better solutions.

RMB is innovative in the sense that it will contribute to the urgent speed up of the transformation of our building stock, by better job chances for students in the field, generate more jobs for the building industry as a whole and to improve people's lives and build greener and better societies Thus following very close the definition of the EU Commission on innovation.

RMB makes knowledge and existing teaching formats accessible on a European level. Specific parts from the curricula of the partner institutions are inserted in to a comprehensive well balanced educational pack. The combination of these contributions forms a unique program pool.

The teaching formats contribute to the execution of the EU targets on Modernisation Agenda's priority areas and the implementation of the 2013 Communication on opening up education. RMB will explore combinations of traditional e-learning forms, on site events such as conferences and workshops as well as extended very innovative e-learning options in digital fabrication and building integrated management (BIM). It will improve the possibilities of a remote teaching in design education which is not self-evident up till now. The results will be disseminated to a wider audience through open courses, open sources and best practice syllabi.

The Project Partners:

Th OWL, Detmold School for Architecture and Interior Architecture – Germany (Applicant); Prof. Michel Melenhorst


·         University of Belgrade Faculty of Architecture – Serbia;

·         ULisboa, Instituto Superior Técnico – Portugal;

·         Universidade de Coimbra, Faculty of Science and Technology – Portugal;

·         University of Antwerp, Faculty of Design Sciences – Belgium;

·         DOCOMOMO International – Netherlands


Since one of the aims of RMB is to combine a broad spectrum of European practises the partners are geographically chosen accordingly.

The project started September 2016, RMB was accredited in all partner countries in 2022 and is preparing a Joint Master program on reuse, offered by a consortium of the five European universities mentioned above and expected to open the application procedure for students in 2023.

More info on www.rmb-eu.com