CBL avant la lettre

The Bouwkundewinkel has existed since 1973 and has always operated according to the guidelines of TU/e’s newest educational concept Challenge Based Learning. Students work on solutions to built environment-related issues suggested by clients from outside the university. Whether the solutions are actually implemented depends on the project applicants, but students benefit either way as they get the chance to put their theoretical knowledge into practice.

Built Environment offers the Bouwkundewinkel elective to both bachelor’s and master’s students. In 2023, a total of 58 students took the course. They received assignments selected by the Bouwkundewinkel board. Last calendar year, this resulted in 21 projects.

Since the Bachelor College was redesigned, TU/e has claimed to offer challenging education on its website: ‘The questions that you are working with are directly derived from the corporate life, society or science. The experts who are actually working on these challenges, are actively involved in our education. This helps you, even before the start of your career, to build bridges between technology and the world around you. This is a strong quality that is highly valued on the job market and in our society.’

Rimke Spoelstra has a more direct way of saying it: “We see a problem in society, address it and learn from it. The Bouwkundewinkel has been doing this since 1973.” Together with Wesley Massij and two others, she makes up the current board, whose members are nicknamed winkeliers (storekeepers) – Bouwkundewinkel literally translates to ‘built environment store’. The board assesses applications and divides them among students and teachers, keeps in touch with ESA, and supervises projects.

Serious assignments

Massij explains what criteria applications must meet. “They must make for eight weeks’ worth of education and must lead to a scientific paper or design. They must also be of value to society from a built environment perspective and suggested by a non-profit organization or private person.” Spoelstra adds: “We’re not a cheap corporate intern.”

These demands are illustrated by the following rejected projects. “A gentleman gave us construction plans and asked us what materials he should use. That’s too easy. Someone else asked us if we could eliminate the source of a hum in their home. That’s impossible,” Massij says. “Sometimes people ask if we sell screws or planks.” They’re not that kind of store, but the board does have opening hours and a physical space on floor 7 of Vertigo (see photo, with Wesley Massij to the left and Rimke Spoelstra to the right).


The Bouwkundewinkel gives clients an advisory report. “What they do with it is up to them,” Spoelstra says. “It’s nice if it’s implemented, but we understand that’s not always possible.” Oftentimes, the advice serves as a nudge into the direction of a professional agency. “A remarkably high number of assignments relate to damp and mold in rented homes that residents can’t get fixed by their landlords. Our students can give good advice in this respect.”

The winkeliers know the teachers are happy to collaborate on the projects. “The assignments aren’t run-of-the-mill and generally allow for a bit more creativity than the usual course material.” From an educational point of view, it’s the students that benefit most; the Bouwkundewinkel is their first opportunity to put their theoretical knowledge into practice. For Spoelstra, the nicest aspect of the project she ran last academic year was the direct contact with the clients. “That was fun and I learned a great deal.”

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