Design & History

You must understand the past before you can design the future. This is the basic idea behind ‘Design & History’, a research programme that compacts all the knowledge and instruments relating to the origins, restoration, conservation, revitalisation and transformation of heritage.

Existing cities are in a constant state of change, with the function of historic buildings also changing regularly. The main challenge is to accomplish these changes without causing damage to what we term heritage. Researchers from the departments of Architecture, Architectural Engineering + Technology and Urbanism have joined forces to take on this challenge, each viewing the problem from their own field in order to arrive at a comprehensive, joint approach. 


The programme revolves around developing expertise relating to history, heritage and conservation techniques, and teaching designers of the future. Designing heritage or new buildings in existing surroundings is inextricably bound with the history of the context of the location. This typically European approach simplifies communication between heritage and design professionals.

Huge shifts in the nature of building assignments are making knowledge of heritage and design an essential part of the tool kit for future designers. More and more architectural assignments involve transforming and redeveloping existing buildings and areas. Knowing more about history will put designers and other professionals in a better position to analyse the value of the heritage they are working on, and make it easier for them to decide on suitable new functions for historic buildings. 


The Design & History research programme is aimed at every scale of the built environment; from landscapes and cities to gardens, buildings, sections of buildings and materials. The main theme of the programme is studying historic landscapes, cities, buildings, materials and construction techniques. Fundamental research into the history of architecture and construction helps with the task of developing a responsible strategy for renovations and transformations. Building on and disseminating technological knowledge of historic building materials ensures that building work is carried out in the best way possible and prevents restoration work from becoming ineffective or even causing new damage.

Key themes

The research group has chosen the overarching theme of Heritage and Resilience and focus on five research topics.

More about this programme

Want to know more about the scope, research environment, academic reputation, valorisation, and the key journals and articles of this specific research programme?
Download a complete overview of the research programmes (BK Books website)

More information about this research programme or discuss possibilities for cooperation: Carola Hein (Research leader)

Key projects
Key books
  • Rietveld’s Universe
    Rob Dettingmeijer, Marie-Thérèse van Thoor & Ida van Zijl (eds.)
  • Noties
    Jo Coenen, Maarten Mesman
  • Zonnestraal Sanatorium: The History and Restoration of a Modern Monument
    Paul Meurs, Marie-Thérèse van Thoor (eds.)
  • Town Planning in the Netherland since 1800. Responses to Enlightenment Ideas and Geopolitical Realities
    Cor Wagenaar
  • Toekomst beschermd gezicht? Stads- en dorpsgezichten, archeologie en cultuurlandschap
    Paul Meurs (ed.)

more books …