N.J. Habraken


As director of the SAR, Foundation for Architects’ Research, John Habraken (1928) explores design and construction modalities for flexible, adaptable housing. His theories of ‘open building’ and his desire to give users a say in the design of their homes carry worldwide influence.

N. John Habraken studies architecture at Delft University of Technology. In 1967 he is appointed professor at the TU Eindhoven to set up the new Architecture Faculty, of which he is the first chairman. From 1965 to 1975, as director of the SAR develops design and construction methods for adaptable dwellings. The guiding principles of the SAR, known today as ‘open building’ prompt the creation of a worldwide international network to propound theory, conduct research, and put their ideals into practice.

Habraken argues for a vital architecture that is flexible, and suited to everyday life. In so doing, he draws a distinction between the ‘support’ or base building and ‘infill’ or interior fill-out. The support of the dwelling makes it part of the public domain and is permanent, while the infill belongs to the individual, and is flexible. Habraken’s approach assigns inhabitants a participative role in the design process and first frames these concepts in writing 1961 when he publishes ‘Supports, an Alternative to Mass Housing (English edition 1972), followed by ‘The Structure of the Ordinary’ (1998) and ‘Palladio’s Children’ (2005).

Habraken is head of the architecture department at MIT in Cambridge, MS from 1975-1981. He gives lectures worldwide, publishes books, research reports and articles. Habraken is the recipient of numerous prizes for his work, including the Creative Award of the Association of Collegiate Schools in the US (1988), the David Roëll Prize of the Prins Bernhard Fonds in 1979, The King Fahd Prize in 1985, the Oeuvre Prize of the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture in 1996 and the BNA Kubus in 2003.


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