PhD candidates sought for the FWO-funded project 'Meaning and Material' (ref. BAP-2023-219)

Updated: 5 months ago
Job Type: FullTime
Deadline: 10 Jul 2023

13 May 2023
Job Information

KU Leuven
Research Field

Architecture » Other
Researcher Profile

First Stage Researcher (R1)

Application Deadline

10 Jul 2023 - 21:12 (Africa/Abidjan)
Type of Contract

Job Status

Is the job funded through the EU Research Framework Programme?

Not funded by an EU programme
Is the Job related to staff position within a Research Infrastructure?


Offer Description

The Faculty of Architecture at KU Leuven ( ) offers courses in interior architecture, architecture, urban design & spatial planning, and an educational master's degree in design sciences. The faculty has approximately 2400 students (300 of whom are international) and has two campuses: Sint-Lucas Brussels and Sint-Lucas Ghent. The Department of Architecture of KU Leuven ( ) groups the research on the built environment within the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Engineering (campus Leuven). It is an international center of expertise and counts more than 150 (international) doctoral students within a wide variety of research groups. This vacancy is published by the research group Architectural Cultures of the Recent Past (ARP).

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This vacancy relates to the FWO research project “Meaning and Material. Towards a Multidisciplinary Assessment of Post-War Church Roofs in a Context of Adaptive Reuse”, directed by professors Stephanie Van de Voorde (VUB) and Sven Sterken(KU Leuven). Two PhD positions are included in this project.


The research looks into the church building boom in Belgium during the 1960s, with a particular focus on the novel building materials and construction methods that were used in the roof structures of these buildings, such as laminated timber, prestressed concrete or steel ‘space frames’. Such structures allowed for large, open spaces and were often left exposed as an explicit token of modernity. Today, the future of these church buildings increasingly depends on their potential to accommodate new uses. Yet, when measures are taken to enhance the stability or energy performance of these structures, their historical significance, heritage value and spatial qualities are often jeopardized. Aiming to counterbalance this tendency, this research borrows methods and concepts from Construction History, Heritage, Building Pathology and Architectural Design, combined with empirical research and critical reflection. The project aims to 1) reveal how structural innovation contributed to the typological renewal of church building in the 1960s; 2) facilitate the diagnosis and remediation of material defects in their roof structures; 3) reinterpret traditional heritage criteria to the specificity of post-war buildings; and 4) provide guidelines on how to adapt these roof structures to the technical and functional challenges of the future, with respect for their specific aesthetical, spatial and structural aspects.


With a view to uncovering the dialogue between ‘material’ and ‘meaning’ in post-war church roof structures, and disclosing how this can inform the adaptive reuse of these buildings, this research combines an empirical exploration of a number of local examples (= 'material') with a critical positioning of the findings within a broader international framework(= 'meaning'). Three or four examples of each of the most recurrent building materials, namely concrete, wood and steel, will be investigated. The focus will be on Catholic parish churches built between 1960 and 1975 in the Antwerp-Brussels region and the Campine area. The research activities will be organized along two concurrent and complementary tracks: one track will focus on Construction History and Heritage; another one on Architectural Design and Building Pathology. Both researchers pursue their own PhD but work together in specific work packages (e.g. literature study, theoretical reflection) to foster the integration of the various fields.


This specific vacancy, issued by KU Leuven, is related to the track combining Architectural Design, Building Pathology and Adaptive Reuse. In case you are interested in the other track, Construction History and Heritage, please go to the VUB jobsite to apply.


We are looking for candidates with talent for research in architectural design, building pathology and adaptive reuse. Affinity with construction history and built heritage is a plus.


You are our ideal candidate if you

  • Possess a degree of MSc in Architectural Engineering or Architecture (Master 120 ECTS) or equivalent, obtained with distinction (cum laude); or have distinguished yourself in other ways throughout your student or professional career. Master students graduating in the academic year 2022-2023 are welcome to apply. Note that researchers (assistants and other) that held/hold an academic mandate overa total (cumulated) period of 12 months (365 days) cannot apply.
  • Have a good command of Dutch and English. A passive command of French is a plus.
  • Can demonstrate an affinity and experience with (design) research and academic writing, by means of a writing sample.
  • Know how to organize yourself, and can work under pressure or against deadlines.
  • Function well in an interdisciplinary team but are also able to work individually.
  • Know how to stand up for yourself in an international and professional environment (e.g. at conferences or seminars).
  • (preferably) Are in possession of a driving permit (B)


We offer a full-time PhD-scholarship for 12 months (extendable up to max. 48 months, on condition of positive intermediate evaluations), including a budget for research visits, participation in conferences, publications, etc. Starting date is 01/10/2023. 


The doctorate will result in a joint PhD between VUB and KULeuven. While your home base will be the Faculty of Architecture's Brussels campus, you will be expected to spend approx. 1/3 of your time at the Etterbeek campus of the VUB to ensure a close collaboration with the other researcher and with both supervisors. This will give you the opportunity to fully benefit from the vibrant academic environment offered by 2 leading Belgian universities.


With a view to strengthening your research skills, you will be expected to enroll in the doctoral training for the entire duration of the project, while your activities will be followed up by a supervisory committee. Further, you will be expected to engage in general services to the Faculty as well as educational activities such as providing guidance in student assignments, the following up of master dissertations, etc. The amount of hours will not exceed the limits set by FWO. (Active) participation in the writing ofgrant applications is an intrinsic part of the job. More information about pursuing a PhD at the Faculty of Architecture can be found here:…


For more information please contact Prof. Sven Sterken ( ) or Prof. Stephanie Van de Voorde ( ).

You can apply for this job no later than July 10, 2023 via the online application tool

KU Leuven seeks to foster an environment where all talents can flourish, regardless of gender, age, cultural background, nationality or impairments. If you have any questions relating to accessibility or support, please contact us at .

Research Field
Architecture » Other
Education Level
Master Degree or equivalent

Additional Information
Work Location(s)
Number of offers available
KU Leuven
Postal Code
Parijsstraat 72b

Where to apply



Parijsstraat 72b Leuven

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