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(21-22) ADAPT, on continuity in building

Master’s thesis, 21-22, Ghent

Generous architecture aims to create new meaning in building, through an approach that is process-based and inclusive, dynamically anticipating to a fast-changing context, with the main focus to connect people, place, space and time.

Although architects are essentially dealing with material culture, we feel the need to activate and invigorate the often intangible and ineffable elements of local traditions with the aim of safeguarding the memory of traditional and sustainable ways. We therefore believe that it is precisely the continuity of a living tradition that identifies people and creates a sense of belonging.

This design studio aims to safeguard and reactivate natural knowledge as a generator of meaning in a globalized and superdiverse world. Our main focus will be on understanding traditional knowledge and vernacular architecture that generates sustainable, climate-resilient buildings and infrastructures. By translating globally available knowledge to locally available resources and skills we achieve low-impact and low-tech building.  In short, designing and creating physical spaces in remote rural areas which have to deal with hardships such as difficult climate conditions, urban and economic pressure, social isolation, etc  is our core activity.

We currently work in Nepal (‘post-school’ project), the Democratic Republic of Congo (‘des centres généreux’), Greenland (Inuit village of Ittoqqortoormiit) and Peru. In the past we built in Haiti (BBBC, Building Back Better Communities) and did research in The Netherlands (Groene Hart) and South Africa (Cape Town, UCT, adaptive re-use). In attachment you can find more information about the school project in Nepal.


From an architectural perspective our interest in the continuation of the ancestral knowledge is twofold:

1/ Climate – We consider a tradition as a treasure-box of knowledge that has been fine-tuned for many generations. It teaches us for instance how to build in a climate-adaptive way and with locally available resources and skills. Or, in more contemporary words: in a sustainable and low-tech manner.

2/ Culture – Traditions are shared memories that are essential carriers of social networks and meaning. In countries where people still live a rather traditional life, they are under heavy pressure because of the drive towards a modern lifestyle that threatens the heterogeneity and the natural complexity of ecosystems and traditions. This often leaves them, and especially their children, who no longer learn the traditional knowledge that their parents and grandparents possess naturally, with a feeling of alienation. It teaches us to build by including elements that demand full community participation and maintenance and evoke social engagement.


Building on the expertise that we acquired from our previous projects in Belgium and abroad, it is our aim to further research and design resulting in actual built spaces, by investigating lesser-known local technologies and traditional ecological knowledge. By research and design we are looking for building systems that are embedded as well in culture as in climate.

We therefore initiated projects -in close collaboration with local partners in the field of education, research and practice- resulting in actual built spaces. We intend these projects to be places of knowledge transfer through hybrid buildings that combine functions such as a community center, dispensary, school, kitchen, sport’s center, …

In the first part of the master dissertation, the students analyze a site on his embedded traditional ecological knowledge. In this analysis we are looking for as much information as possible to nurture the design phase. Students can propose their own site and program to be analyzed and designed. However, fieldtrips on site can only be organized taking into account the evolution of covid-19.

In the second part, students design in ways they learned from their analysis on site. Together we will look for designs that are both embedded into the culture as well as climate. The design is a search for the continuity of building with limited resources. Scarcity of raw material as a starting point for design.


  • Metamorphosi – Chapp, Nepal – Empowering Nepal’s rural schools: an adaptable system and an architectural prototype – Eleni Tsiamparta
  • Rural Watermarks – Tanzania – Reinforcing identity and encouraging self-reliance through community-centric water utilities in the Ulyankulu Settlement – Mihika Sarkara
  • From road to ropeway – Nepal – Challenges of transportation in mountainous Nepal. Rethinking cable car terminals – Hetauda – Lucas Renson
  • Beyond Aegis, Enabling disaster resilience through local community based adaptive shelter in the coast of Bangladesh – Sarah Binte Haque
  • The misplaced waste of Nepal – Engaging the community to create sustainable waste management – Basak Isik
  • Opening up the microcosm – Jugal, Nepal – A reflection on the limits of Nepali women’s national involvement despite their economic contribution
  • The Forgotten Garden, a reflection on Persian gardens and their new role in cities – Shiraz – Iran – Seyedeh Reyhaneh Mesbahi
  • Architecture in a City without architects – Kathmandu – Taking advantage of self-construction – Carlos Cardenas
  • Muskuy, Exploring ways to facilitate opportunities to a resilient society – Quito – Ecuador – Sofia Vega Lulo

Read the full studio description here (pdf)

Sofia A. Heinen: Soil & Soul

The content of this paper is based on a field trip to the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal in February 2020. Under the overarching topic “on continuity and identity”, this master’s dissertation investigates the damages following the April 2015 Nepal earthquake. In particular, this paper explores how ongoing reconstruction efforts are influencing the country’s development processes. […]


Gillis Ide: Reusing local resources and vernacular design elements in a contemporary design strategy

The aim of this master’s thesis is to highlight the importance of vernacular architecture, traditional knowledge and resources in relation to building resilience in Nepal, while highlighting the impact of modernization on that resilience and architectural diversity. The building tradition passed on from generation to generation is slowly being modified by the import of new […]


Başak Işık: The Misplaced Waste of Nepal – Engaging the Community to Create a Sustainable Waste Management

Nepal is one of the many developing countries that are facing challenges in implementing an effective waste management program. The flaws of the system have severe negative impact on health, ecosystem and urban life. The reasons underlying the problem include the lack of social awareness, as well as the lack of technical and human resources. […]


Marie Moens: Opening up the microcosm

A reflection on the limits of Nepali women’s national involvement despite their economic contribution. Namaste. If it were not for the inspirational women I met during my staying in Nepal, this thesis could never have existed. If it were not for their openness and inclusion in wich they allowed me to explore both positive and […]


Agathe de Coninck: The water in Nepal: Adaptive architecture towards the seasonal flooding

The aim of this master’s thesis is to develop a design strategy towards the most important resource in Nepal: the water. Although Nepal is considered as one of the world’s most water rich countries, with more than 6000 rivers, less than 7% can be used in the daily life. The first part of this research […]


Raphael Pauschitz: Dharmaśālā: A Significance for Ancient Modules

Dharmaśālā: A Significance for Ancient Modules. Or: Learning from the Public Rest House. This master’s thesis was prepared within the framework of Studio Nepal which encouraged us to study living traditions in Nepal. Based on this study, it was required to develop a design strategy and apply it to two sites. During my trip to […]


Carlos Cardenas: Architecture in a city without architects

Taking advantage of self-densification Architecture in a City Without Architects is the master’s thesis for the Master in Sustainable and Resilient Architecture, in the framework On continuity and Identity, which aims to cooperate with Nepal’s government in the reconstruction process after the devastating earthquakes of 2015 that affected that country. Focusing in Kathmandu’s city since […]


Dagna Kolodynska: Engaging Square

Engaging Square is a master’s thesis that aims to introduce a 12-20 year master plan for Shree Janahit Basic School in Ratomate, Nepal. The design is to engage the local community and create new collective spaces by division of one existing common square, but also to build new, earthquake-proof school structures, with improved ventilation, acoustics […]


Lucas Renson: From rope to roadway

Challenges of transportation in mountainous Nepal: Rethinking cable car terminals This reflection paper and thesis project is an end product of my 6 weeks internship in Nepal and report paper ‘The post-school: rewriting old stories’. The design studio ‘On Continuity and Identity’ starts from the earthquake of April-May 2015 which has left a big impact […]


Ludmilla Andreoli Parekh: Chautara – The transformation of the School Grounds

Children in the villages spend 30 hours per week in school. The school grounds offer hope, and it may be the last opportunity to reconnect children with nature and create a future generation that preserves and values the natural world. Books about educational systems, design guides for the school playgrounds and papers on learning through […]


Sebastian Blommaert: Upgrading Nepalese schools

Transforming standard school buildings into regional, enjoyable learning environments in post-earthquake Nepal. During the 2015 earthquake, nearly 7000 school buildings in Nepal were destroyed. Not being able to follow education is terrible for the children in one of Asia’s poorest countries. Therefore, the government of Nepal made a plan to build 6000 new schools in […]


Valentina Marcello: Under her eyes

Architecture against gender-based violence in Nepal. The master’s thesis is included in the framework “On Continuity and Identity, Limited Resources”. The aim of the project is to respond to the needs of limited resources areas in an efficient way and without compromise their way of living and identity. I had the chance to spend a […]


Mauricio D. Garcia: Doko roof

How to Improve Education in Nepal through Architecture and Sustainability. If schools are meant to produce something it is happy, creative and resilient individuals. Instead, they are factories of dullness. This is not surprising if we consider that our education system, which was conceived during the Industrial Revolution almost 200 years ago, remains almost intact. […]


Julie De Groote: A playful school. It all starts with the base

Our aim is to make the ‘Ideal School’ which is built out of local materials, to lower the costs: a school with an efficient, simple structure fitting into all environments throughout the country without having to sacrifice anything on quality. The engagement of the parents and teachers can be reached by a design that not […]


Emilia Tomasetto: Spontaneous learning – Spaces for social interaction

Spontaneous Learning: spaces for social interaction is a master’s thesis included in the framework The Ideal School: limited resources on continuity and identity. The aim of the framework is to propose a prototype school that can respond to the needs of a limited resources area. The country I have the chance to investigate is Nepal, […]


Eda Uraz: Hope & Resistance

Earthquake Resistant Strategies Through A Prototype School. This master’s thesis is about developing a series of systems and strategies for a prototype school which can be adaptable to different climate regions and buildable with different material options based on local availabilities and limited resources in Nepal. This master’s thesis addresses the lack of educational facilities […]


Carolina Torres Ortiz: Back to origins

Craftsmanship building techniques and earthen architecture as a modern alternative. The master dissertation studio “On Continuity and Identity: The Ideal School Nepal” is a cooperation between KU Leuven and the Center for Educational Policies and Practices -CEPP- from Nepal, developed for helping Nepali government in the design of new schools after the earthquake of 2015 […]