Op Gespannen Voet
Independent research

Tents – large and small, primitive and high end – are among the most relevant contemporary constructions and one of the least investigated.1 Whereas glittering high-rise symbol stands for economic inequality and exclusivity, tents offer shelter to vulnerable and displaced persons – migrants, refugees, and homeless people – and support countless cultural and religious activities. But are tents architecture?

Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (1).

Op Gespannen Voet illuminates the problematic culture-historical relationship between the tent and the architecture discipline. It gives a glimpse into a future in which tent and architecture are no longer separated from each other. For this, we executed a study that has been plotted in three components: theory, practice, and design.

Tents do not fit within the framework of conventional architecture. However, the self-imposed limitation of what architecture should be – permanent buildings of stone, concrete, and glass – is an absurd practice from a time when architects were exclusively concerned with copying Greek and Roman monuments.It unnecessarily excludes valuable constructions, such as tents, boathouses, caves, and tombs. Through an extensive literature review, we concluded that tents are not excluded because of practical or constructive reasons but because of three cultural grounds. Tent architecture was seen as too feminine (gender inequality), associated with non-western cultures (racism), and would not be sufficiently permanent (culturally driven conception of sustainability).

In the context of the twenty-first century, in which the mentioned cultural grounds are very relevant, we need to re-examine and re-imagine the architectural value of the tent. The historical selection of buildings, texts, and images in the architecture history discipline has significantly influenced the theory and practice of contemporary architecture. This frame of reference is essential for understanding the character and meaning of architecture. If the tent remains excluded from the architectural canon, it can never become an equivalent part in practice. Documenting (modern) tent architecture is not enough: for a revised understanding of architecture (history), the relationships between western and non-western, male and female, temporary and permanent, and tent and pyramid must be mapped out. In order to keep architecture relevant, it must be able to change.

This is an ongoing research project and will be updated in the future.


1. Huber, D. (2017, October 25). The Future of Architecture Is in Tents. Garage. https://garage.vice.com/en_us/article/8x5nyz/contemporary-architecture-tents

2. Rudofsky, B. (1964). Architecture Without Architects. The Museum of Modern Art.

Anonymous (c. 1545). The Field of the Cloth of Gold [painting].
B.F. Fletcher (1905). Prehistoric Architecture, in: B. Fletcher and B.F. Fletcher, A History of Architecture (1905).
Atelier Frei Otto/Warmbronn (1974). Cooling Tower (model), Stuttgart (DE), photograph: Atelier Frei Otto/Warmbronn (1974).
Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (6).
J. Chapelle (1982). Black Tent Construction [illustration].
Anonymous (n.d.). Bedouin Tents, North Africa.
J.L. Gérôme (1859). Ave Caesar! Morituri te salutant [painting].
Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (5).
Anonymous (c. 2575 - c. 2465 BCE). Pyramids of Giza, Giza (EG), photograph: H. Wolters (2004).
J. Skelton (1810). Nagay Tartar Traveling With His Khabitka Upon Wheels [illustration].

There is much to learn from architecture before it became an expert’s art.

– Bernard Rudofsky

Anonymous (1886). Hunters Camping at Norcross Brook [photograph].
Christo and Jeanne-Claude (1971). Wrapped Reichstag, Berlin (DE), photograph: W. Volz (1971).
Anonymous (c. 1200). Tombs, Erzurum (TR), photograph: H. Keser (2012).
OMA (2006). Serpentine Gallery Pavilion, London (UK), photograph: J. Offenbach (2006).
Anonymous (c. 1975). Tents at Saturn Black Sea Resort, Mangalia (RO).
Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (3).
I. Burton (1890). Mausoleum of Richard and Isabel Burton, London (UK), photograph: M. Carnaby (2015).
Le Corbusier (1954). Notre-Dame du Haut, Ronchamp (FR), photograph: G. Merin (n.d.).
Walt Disney (1941). Scene From 'Dumbo': Setting up the Tent [animation].
N. Waugh (1954). Bustles, in: N. Waugh, Corsets & Crinolines (1954).
M. Nowicki (1952). J.S. Dorton Arena , Raleigh (NC, US), photograph: Anonymous (c. 1952).
Anonymous (n.d.). The Prayer of the French King in the Field Camp (cutout), in: Heures de Turin des Herzogs de Berry (1418).
H. Matisse (c. 1950). Church Vestment.
Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (2).
Atelier Frei Otto/Warmbronn (c. 1967). A Light Cloud Over the Brown Oberwiesenfeld [painting].
S. Delaunay (1931). Rug (red).
J.A. Coussin (1907). The Origins of Architecture, in: J.A. Coussin, Du Génie de l'architecture (1907).
NRC (2011). Refugee Camp [photograph].
Namelok (2021). Collection of Tents (4).
G. Gerster (1997). Movable Market in Veracruz, Mexico [photograph].
Moncler (2021). Moncler Genius Spring/Summer 2021 Collection, photograph: Moncler (2021).
Office KGDVS (2018). Centre for Traditional Music, Muharraq (BH), photograph: B. Princen (2018).
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