University faculties are more than places to learn and study. They’re also where students meet, mingle and bounce ideas off one another. Where student teams form up and compete in challenges. And sometimes, what starts as a one-off challenge, evolves into something more. Margot Holländer and Kosmas Spanidis, together with Anna Tsagkalou and Francisco Munoz, co-founded MOR Studio, which transforms (empty) buildings, bringing new purpose to existing structures. “We’ve already proven how much is possible, transforming a former data centre into a sustainable housing complex.”
Holländer and Spanidis met at the faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment of TU Delft when participating in a student team. The goal: successfully participating in the Solar Decathlon Europe competition which challenges students to design and build prototypes of the most sustainable house possible. Holländer: “it was a truly multi-disciplinary team of over 40 TU Delft students from eight different faculties working together. We designed and built a prototype that was displayed in Hungary. In the finals, we ended 2nd place, but we were also awarded in eight out of the ten contest categories, setting a new world record.” The team wrapped up the prototype and shipped it back to the Netherlands, where it is displayed on the grounds of TU Delft field lab The Green Village.
In 2020, minister of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy Eric Wiebes opened the MOR pavilion on the Green Village. His enthusiasm had the team thinking, explains Holländer: “we realised our project could be interesting for construction and social housing companies. So we started meeting and discussing, but then Covid happened… Nonetheless, we stayed in touch and formed a new team that led to us forming a company: MOR Studio.”
Repurposing empty buildings
MOR Studio looks at old, empty buildings that are no longer used and how they can be improved – transformed, as Holländer and Spanidis like to call it. Holländer: “Think of empty offices changed into housing. You want to make the building facades more attractive and make interiors fit for healthy living, for example. Architects usually talk about operational energy: energy used for heating, cooling, lighting, cooking, etcetera. But there’s so much more to look at when repurposing a building.”
It’s not just about the building, but also the surrounding area, explains Spanidis. “If you want to work on sustainability, you have to look at the whole picture. Ideally a building is energy positive, not only providing energy for itself, but also giving back to its surroundings. And then there’s resources. We add materials to a building when transforming them, but ideally we also re-use materials from ‘donor buildings’ – recycling resources.”