Tom Vermeer

Tom Vermeer


Tastbare immaterialiteit

Tangible Intangibility

Intangible heritage as catalyst for change

Contrary to material heritage (buildings, objects, documents and monuments), intangible cultural heritage is a living and dynamic form of heritage, which adapts to and changes with time. It is formed by people and communities that practice it and identify with it. Intangible cultural heritage (ICH) constitutes the heart of that group of people, who often practise it with passion. ICH can give people a sense of belonging. ICH involves social customs, traditions, rituals, representations, expressions, particular knowledge of nature and craft skills that communities and groups recognise as a form of cultural heritage. Another term used to describe intangible heritage is living heritage because it is something that is ever in motion and needs people to keep practising it to stay alive.   

In our current society, the gap between high culture (opera, theatre, art, etc.) and everyday culture (festivities, crafts, cultural knowledge, etc.) is ever-growing. High culture has become the face of culture itself and is something labelled for rich people to be able to enjoy. Museums, big theatres, and opera houses have always been placed in prominent places in the city. In contrast, intangible heritage is being pushed back into community centres, sports halls, and libraries. They are left separated to fend for themselves. Yet, it’s these communities that play a big part in defining a culture and shaping the future of society.    

To help ICH communities revitalise their cultural heritage, they need three conditions; practice, people, and discussion. When an area has a healthy ICH community, it helps strengthen social cohesion and can help revitalise otherwise dormant pieces of a city.    

This project explores a strategy that brings together seemingly dissimilar typologies of ICH to exist side by side and manifest the importance of their (shared) history, relying on playfulness and discussion as a tool to propose a lasting typology that is specific yet timeless. By shockingly intervening in the public space, with temporary barricades designed not to separate, but to bring together cultural communities with collectivism to bring about permanent change in an urban-disoriented context. By shifting the civic focus and redirecting the established view on culture in the urban context, creating reciprocity between city and communities.   

Within this strategy, architecture is used as a temporary tool and carrier of activity in the form of a wooden, modular structure. The architecture serves its users and changes along the desired use. Within the structure, multiple spatial typologies can be formed to serve the varied spatial needs of the ICH communities. The location of the intervention is chosen along a series of conditions which can help ICH now and in the future. The pavilion is the catalyst of urban change.  

The wooden structure is the first in a series of phases that connects, activates, integrates and transfers ICH with the use of architectural and urban adjustments. Over time the structure will change and disappear while the activity in and around it finds a new home within the hearth of the city. Each of the phases activates different layers within the city structure to slowly embed the change and redirect the frequency of the city into a new culturally rich harmony. Making the intangible tangible.   


Graduation date:  24 August 2022 
Graduation committee: Bart Bulter (mentor)Jeroen van Mechelen, Jeanne Tan
Additional members for the exam: PninaAvidar, Stephan Verkuijlen

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