Reading and reacting: from the research of border conditions to experimental methods in architectural and urban design


  • Marc Schoonderbeek TU Delft
  • Klaske Havik TU Delft



architecture, borders, urban design, experimental research, mapping, literary techniques


It is in marginal urban areas, borders of states, territories and cities, that marginal urban practices tend to take place. Limits of “normal” behaviour are transgressed and social and political differences become apparent. Such sites, where “other” spatial conditions have emerged, and that are “teeming with suggestive meanings and unexpected potential” (Schoonderbeek 2010), have hardly been analysed and discussed within the contemporary architectural discourse. This paper addresses such marginal urban conditions from an experimental approach to urban analysis and architectural design.  Methods such as mapping, navigation, and literary techniques such as character and scenario are brought into play in the analysis of urban fringes, and in the speculative design of alternative urban realities. With this experimental approach comes as well a certain understanding and appreciation of the border as a space of simultaneity, much like the Aleph of Borges. Drawing on this literary connection, the last part of the text proposes a method for border analysis and design by means of seeking the borders between architecture and literature.

Author Biographies

Marc Schoonderbeek, TU Delft


Marc Schoonderbeek is the coordinator of the research group ‘Borders & Territories’ and is currently working on a doctoral thesis within this group, on the relationship between architectural theory, representation and design. After graduating from the TU Eindhoven, he has practised architecture in the Netherlands, Germany (Studio Libeskind) and Israel. In 1998, he founded with Pnina Avidar '12PM-Architecture', an Amsterdam-based firm for architecture and urban design. At present, he is editor of Footprint, lectures at a regular basis at several architecture institutes, and is a regular contributor to architectural magazines. In January 2004, he co-founded 66EAST-Centre for Urban Culture in Amsterdam and published, in 2008, the book ´Houses in Transformation: interventions in European gentrification´ together with JJ Berg, T Kaminer, and J Zonneveld.


Klaske Havik, TU Delft

Klaske Havik is associate professor of Architecture, Methods & Analysis at Delft University of Technology. She studied architecture in Delft and Helsinki, and literary writing in Amsterdam. Her PhD research (TU Delft, 2012) developed a literary approach to architecture and urban regeneration, proposing the three notions description, transcription and prescription. Her book based upon this investigation Urban Literacy. Reading and Writing Architecture is published by nai010 publishers (2014). She co- edited the anthology Architectural Positions: Architecture, Modernity and the Public Sphere (SUN Publishers 2009). Havik writes regularly for architectural reviews in the Netherlands and Nordic countries and is editor of architecture journal OASE. As a practicing architect, she has been involved in the redevelopment of ship wharf NDSM in Amsterdam. Havik’s literary work appeared in Dutch poetry collections and literary magazines.




How to Cite

Schoonderbeek, Marc, and Klaske Havik. 2014. “Reading and Reacting: From the Research of Border Conditions to Experimental Methods in Architectural and Urban Design”. Nordlit, no. 31 (July):49-58.