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By : Jacques Vink

Flex-buildings are buildings which are literally designed to change. A flex-building must be able to accept different infills and its users must be able to easily adapt their surroundings. Flexibility is defined as the capacity of a building to undergo modifications and accept changes of function with limited structural interventions. More than 40% of the activities housed in a flex building can continue to function during modification. Studies into flex-buildings (commissioned by the Dutch Government) have elicited a number of insights. These are not hard-and-fast conclusions but more in the region of statements and reminders for those involved with flex-buildings. These studies show that it takes more than civil engineering to successfully realise such buildings. Aspects of use and management are at least as important. Besides, it requires designers who are willing to let go of their design after it is finished. For the result is not a completed 'architectural' product but a continually changing object. Following insights (among others ) will be illustrated with built and unbuilt projects in the Netherlands. 􀁺 The fašade design, for example, figures prominently in designing flexible buildings. It makes special demands on the design's presentation during the design process, as the building can assume different appearances over time. The double facade is a promising concept that allows for expressive and/or open facades in flexible buildings. It can also help to reduce a building's energy consumption. 􀁺 Also by deliberately incorporating excessive space and construction a building has the necessary leeway to accommodate future developments. A building's flexibility is enhanced by oversize in structure as well as space. A big multi-use building in Rotterdam (H. A. Maaskant / W. van Tijen (1951)) and recent projects of RUIMTELAB are presented as case-studies. These are an inspiration for architects and planners looking for design tools to help achieve an open architecture.
Keywords : Flexibility, Design Tools, Architectural Expression, Case Studies, The Netherlands.

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