Since the beginning of our university, its students have felt the need to team up. To learn more about the foundation of the Delftsch Bouwkundig Studenten Gezelschap Stylos, we have to go back to the eighties of the nineteenth century. Civil and building engineering students of the Delftsch Studenten Corps (D.S.C.) started different groups like “Practische Studie” (1878) and “Uit Louter Ingenieurs” (1886). Although these groups fell apart again a few years later, they did define the foundation of the Civiel en Bouwkundig Gezelschap “Practische Studie”, on February 13th 1894, for both Architecture and Civil Engineering students. In the early years, the students organized a lot of activities for the members of both studies, because, at that time, the two studies were thought to be much alike.
The importance and range of the association becomes clear when we look at its quick growth. Shortly after the foundation of the association, the number of members grew from a few dozen in 1894 to over five hundred in 1920. However, the gap between the two studies grew equally as fast. It would still take almost fifty years before the association splits up and the students are organized in two separate organizations.
The first signs of the separation of Stylos can be recognized in 1911, when the board sent both an Architecture and a Civil Engineering representative to the Central Committee of Student Affairs. Finally, the board splits up in two division, both with their own chairman, secretary and treasurer and located in different buildings.
In 1939, the divisions celebrated the ninth lustrum, themed “Civil engineers and architects: an effort towards characterization and limitation”, together. Choosing this theme, the divisions did show to be very much aware of the grey area between the two studies.
The outbreak of World War II caused a lot of resistance against the German occupation of the Netherlands from within the association. The civil division became the paragon of the “Delft Resistance”. In 1940, Mr. Van Hasselt, at the time chairman of the Civil Engineering division, gave a historic lecture after the Jewish academic Josephus Jitta had been denied access to the lecture room. Van Hasselt’s words induced the first Dutch student strikes of the war. Soon, the German occupiers learned the strong Delft student culture was a dangerous platform for large scale resistance. In 1943, they decided to close the Technical Academy and to dissolve all of her associations, including “Practische Studie”.
After the liberation in 1945, the student life slowly came back to live. With this came a deeply rooted dissatisfaction, which had been there for years, with the conservative character of the education taught at the faculty. This discontent lead to the formation of a new study group, called “Semper Spatium”, which will have an important role in the split off of the architectural division. The goal of the group was to break with traditionalism and to gain more attention for modern solutions of postwar architectural issues. A lot of students supported the group and quite soon, it became more popular among architecture students than “Practische Studie”. Led by Semper Spatium, more and more students came to the conclusion that it would be best for the association if the two divisions parted. In the end, this idea could also count on the Civil Engineering division’s approval.
After this decision was made, there were new questions to be answered, like the new name of the association. “Atrium Mater” was the first promising option, but this name did not get the needed majority of the members’ votes during the general members meeting. The name “Vitruvius”, the Roman writer and poet who wrote the first manual for architects, did get a majority of the votes. However, on December 2nd 1946, “ΣΤΥΛΟΣ” (Stylos), the Greek word for pillar, was mentioned. This name was warmly welcomed by the members, even though there was a lot of discussion on how to write the name, using Greek symbols or the western alphabet. On January 22nd 1947, the separation of the Civiel en Bouwkundig Gezelschap “Practische Studie” was definite, and the architectural division continued carrying a new name: Delftsch Bouwkundig Studenten Gezelschap ΣΤΥΛΟΣ (“Delft Architectural Student Association ΣΤΥΛΟΣ”).
On her own feet
The 11th lustrum of the association in 1949 was the first lustrum celebrated by the new association. The following years were dominated by the foundation of the association and great educational changes at the faculty. Students started to criticize the traditional “Delftse School” education, which concluded in a new education system with more freedom and focus on the design process. This new educational system was made possible by innovative academics like prof. Ir. Van den Broek and prof. Ir. Van Eesteren, who were warmly welcomed by Stylos.
In the sixties of the 20th century, the BNA (“Institute for Dutch Architects”) and several architectural academics proposed that recently graduated students had to do a two-year internship before receiving the official title of architect. Together with a large number of students, Stylos set up a successful strike against these plans and the plans are suspended.
The changing social and political mindset in the sixties are of great influence to the association. Stylos organizes several symposia on the meaning of the architectural profession. The social discussions became even more visible in the internal structure of the association. Stylos abandoned its corporal roots and for the first time since her founding, the chairman of the association didn’t have to be a member of D.S.C.
Boards tried to find the balance between the old values and the new social tendencies. All these doubts and discussions eventually lead to the organization of the first edition of InDeSem, International Design Seminar, which is still organized today. With this initiative, Stylos tried to broaden the education, but, more importantly, tried to promote Delft around the world.
The fight against the existing social structures found its climax in the late sixties and early seventies. The baby boom generation, who thought the Netherlands to be strongly segregated and narrow minded, wanted change. Higher education became more accessible, especially for the middle class, which lead to an increase of student activist groups pleading for more public voice and more equivalence. The members changed the spelling of ‘Stylos’ to ‘Stielos’, to support the progressive attitude of the students. Stielos fought for a more equivalent voice in the faculty’s regime and due to strong, lively debates and member’s meetings they reached this goal one step at the time.
Until late in the sixties, the faculty’s academics decided what was happening in and around the faculty. Due to a change in the Dutch law, the first steps for the staff to have an equal voice were taken. The faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment was the first faculty in the Netherlands to receive this equivalence. But just as everything seemed to get a bit better and the faculty’s internal structure was stronger than ever, a new thread came up. The parliament in The Hague presented new plans to increase the tuition fees. This meant a lot of students wouldn’t be able to pay their tuition and finish their studies. A lot of students, mainly members of Stielos, opposed to these plans and occupied the main building of the Technical Academy. After three days of occupation, the protest was successful. This occupation was the main subject of a play named the “Delftse Lente”, which was performed during the 24th lustrum of Stylos.
With a new decennium came a new accommodation. The faculty moved from the Oude Delft in the city center of Delft to its new building at the Berlageweg. To celebrate, Stielos organized a big faculty party, Bouwkundefeestje, attended by thousands of people. This was the start of many editions of this festival, leading to a biennial tradition of organizing the biggest faculty party of the country, BkBeats.
An open debate about the direction of education and student associations, held by the National Student Union, in 1980 concluded in the idea that associations should drop their anti-conservative course. Students became more individualistic and less critical. For Stylos, this meant the focus shifted to the content of the education and defending students’ interests, instead of being a protest organization. More extracurricular activities were organized and the association began publishing a new magazine, named Stielabus.
However, when the Hague announced huge cuts in the faculty’s budget, Stylos hadn’t completely lost its protesting roots. The association took in a leading role in the student protests, that reached their climax during the Dies Fatalis. Four trams, filled with over seven hundred students and staff members of the faculty, traveled to the political center Binnenhof in The Hague to protest. The former dean handed over a petition to the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer), which made the Board of Directors of the university reconsider their plans. In the end, the cuts were reduced to only half of the original cuts.
At the end of the twentieth century, Stylos published a few special publications. In time, Stylos focused more on the social debates from within the world of architecture, and managed to reach thousands of people inside the faculty and beyond. The association organized over seventy lectures a year, which resulted in several publications. This social position, the publication of books (like ‘Hundred years Fin de Siècle’, in honor of the one hundredth birthday of the association), the organization of lectures and debates and the renewal of the association’s magazine pantheon// were all factors that eventually lead to winning the prestigious Rotterdam-Maaskant award in 1998.
Alongside prize money, it was a great recognition for Stylos’ oeuvre of the past decennium. The jury of the price noted that Stylos was more than just a regular study association: “Stylos stimulates and renews the discussion and forming of opinions on architecture and urbanism. They do this with great personal involvement and spontaneity, but mostly by being very professional. Not only did they reach students, but they reached the whole architecture community, both in the Netherlands and far beyond. For its enthusiasm, Stylos deserves to be supported and rewarded.”
To celebrate Stylos’ 20th lustrum, the association launched a competition to design and build a pavilion. For years, this pavilion functioned as a role model for similar initiatives. The start of the new millennium came with two more successful pavilions and a steady basis for the rest of the association. However, on the eve of the 23rd lustrum, a tragedy hit the faculty.
On May 13th 2008, the faculty burned down to the grounds, due to a short in a coffee machine. The Stylos’ office, including a large part of its archives, was completely destroyed. While the faculty was looking for a new accommodation, students had to spend the rest of the year in tents. Eventually, new housing was found in the former main building of the Technical Academy.
After the fire, Stylos had to start from scratch. A new building meant getting back on track and trying to find a new basis for the association. Students needed the chance to develop themselves again by organizing new activities. The whole internal structure was changed, the articles of the association were completely renewed and Stylos got complete responsibility of her finances and foundations. In the past years, Stylos has focused on introducing present-day issues and discussion into the faculty and its education, for example by organizing the BEP debate in 2015 and an annual career event, named BAU, Business at University. Also, the influence Stylos has on education has grown by its participating in the Faculty Students’ Council (FSR) and the Board of Studies.
Due to the fire in 2008, our association lost a great part of its archives. If you are in the possession of any pieces you would like to donate, please contact us. The board of Stylos is very much interested in your stories about our association. If you want to share these stories with us, you are very welcome to come by our office or contact us.