Conditions for Growth
Ministerie van Maak 2022

In September 2022 we were – together with 100 other offices in the Netherland – selected to participate in the ‘Ministerie van Maak’, an initiative by Saskia van Stein (Architecture Biennale Rotterdam/IABR), Elma van Boxel and Kristian Koreman (ZUS) and Stephan Petermann (MANN).

The Ministerie van Maak, a ‘platform for the radical transformation of the Netherlands’, addressed the Dutch housing crisis and challenged designers to (collectively) come up with solutions on how to create the required one million houses, while simultaneously considering the other (societal) challenges we are facing, such as the energy transition and the changing climate. For this task we received a ‘test kit’, a box of 1 per 1 meter with a 1:2000 map of the assigned location, in our case the town ‘Margraten’, and its surroundings, in the southern region ‘Zuid-Limburg’. The kit served as a base to (spatially) test out how to build or integrate 10.000 houses per area, and to display the final proposal. One month later, in October 2022, all proposals were exhibited at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, together with a letter by the former Chief Government Architect Floris Alkemade.

Here we show a summary of our proposal. For more info on the platform, the other selected teams and updates of the next steps, visit www.ministerievanmaak.nl

rotative studio, October 2022

Architecture and architects play an important role in redefining the way we live, work and interact as communities. Our contribution for the Ministerie van Maak focuses on preserving and regenerating the landscape and on revalorising the existing built environment. Through an incremental densification strategy of adapting the existing, we propose a ‘master plan’ of conditions for growth


The village of Margraten is situated in the hill landscape of southern Limburg on the ‘Plateau of Margraten’, 140m above sea level. It is surrounded by valleys, agricultural fields and designated Natura-2000 sites. The undulating landscape is characterised by unique slope forests, hollow roads, wooded banks, groves, orchards and many characteristic plants and animal species, and organised by a radial network of historical roads – aligned by trees on both sides – that interconnect the original centres of the villages.
We propose building on the liminal zone between village and landscape - the moment where the village encounters the landscape - as a new typology for housing. These new typologies are inspired by the historical housing types, such as the typical South Limburg farmhouses, arranged in square form around a courtyard and that have continuous facades along the streets. By consolidating the new limits of Margraten, we add 300 units on the new perimeter.


Margraten is a village of 4,200 inhabitants and with 1918 houses – average in the Netherlands. Currently 6% of the houses are vacant, which is very high compared to other Dutch villages. Our strategy explores new urban and architecture concepts for the existing neighbourhoods with ‘twee-onder-een-kap woningen’ (row houses made of two one-family houses), built between 1968 - 1980. With simple principles we can reuse the existing in a more sustainable way and prolong the physical, social and economic lifespan of these neighborhoods.

We can create more building mass by densifying: cutting, adapting and adding on the existing houses, between houses, on top of the existing houses. Currently, one third of the people that live in Margraten live alone in a house of 150 square meters. This might be a hazardous idea, but we propose an average unit of 75 square meters, as a way to create more building mass within the already built environment. Also in these neighbourhoods we see a lot of assigned private terrain, that is on the border with the public one, such as front gardens and (covered) garages. These functions take up a lot of space that, although in private use, could have the potential to become spaces for more houses and for common spaces. Realising that this might also be a risky thought, we think that this is a necessary step towards a more sustainable use of the (limited) space we have on our planet – a way to preserve the existing unbuilt landscape.

Four out of ten people in the Netherlands states to be lonely (CBS, 2020). We want to address this by pleading for more public, communal spaces. By densifying the existing building mass, we can create new courtyards, which have potential to become spaces of encounter and collective gardens for local production and consumption – another important step towards a more sustainable future. And by diversifying the existing, we can create a more mixed neighbourhood, as opposed to the current homogeneous, mostly solely residential one.

This incremental densification strategy allows us to add 100 housing units per block, with a total of 4.000 units in Margraten. Furthermore, it adds a total of 200 units on the ground floors consisting of services and common spaces. 


Today, building generates nearly 40% of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. By activating new ‘non-extractive’ local resources, planting a new production forest, we can create new material for construction: local wood – local resources. This can also lead to diversification of the landscape, to an increase of the soil quality, which once was so fertile, and to carbon capture.


The subsoil (geological layer) in the region consists of limestone (‘mergel’ or ‘marl’), which is covered by fertile löss soil, resulting in the use of land for agriculture. Marl is a natural stone used for different purposes. First, they extracted (underground) just the amount needed for the construction of local houses, this later turned into ‘mass-extraction’ (above ground), using marl as a raw material for the cement industry (a.o.). After many (local) protests, one of the largest quarries of the area, ‘Groeve ‘t Rooth’, has been closed to avoid more nature loss and impacts on groundwater levels (leading to drought).
We propose to use the extracted sites, former quarries, which are ‘holes’ of approximately 50 metres deep, as a building site for new houses. Imagining the spatial possibilities of these sites, creating plans of transformation where nature and housing are combined. By uncovering the potential of the historical quarry Groeve ‘t Rooth as a potential building site, we add 700 units for housing, from which 35 are services and common spaces.

With our proposal we add a total of 5000 units, which is half of the amount of what was requested. We consider this a realistic, sustainable approach: not expanding but densifying within the existing boundaries, with a diversity of (new) typologies and common spaces, valorising and preserving the existing landscape and built environment, with Margraten as an exemplary case for similar towns in the Netherlands.* 

*On the 13th of March 2023, the Dutch public news platform NOS wrote about plans for a similar approach for various villages in southern Limburg.

© rotative studio