ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] NSA Muscle project records

ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] NSA Muscle project records

Part of


  • ONL (firm) (archive creator)
  • ONL (firm) (architectural firm)
  • Kas Oosterhuis (architect)
  • Ilona Lénárd (artist)
  • Laura Aguili (associated architect)
  • Sven Blokker (associated architect)
  • Bert Bongers (associated architect)
  • Christ Kievid (associated architect)
  • Remko Siemerink (associated architect)


ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] NSA Muscle project records

Dates of creation



  • archives

Level of archival description


Extent and Medium

  • Approximately 5000 digital files (6.3 GB)

Scope and Content

The ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] NSA Muscle project records, 1995—2013, contain approximately 5,000 digital working files for the NSA Muscle project, a built prototype commissioned for the Non-Standard Architecture exhibition at the Centre George Pompidou in Paris in 2003.

The Centre Georges Pompidou first opened in 1977 as an internationally-focused modern art museum, and has since expanded to include industrial creation, architecture, and design. In 2003—2004, the Pompidou hosted an exhibit titled “Architectures non standard,” for which they invited twelve groups of architects to showcase their research and prototypes. In particular, the exhibition featured projects that were using digital technologies in innovative ways. The Dutch architecture firm ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] developed and built the NSA Muscle for the exhibition between 2001 and 2003.

The NSA Muscle is a built prototype of an earlier ONL conceptual project, called the Trans-ports Pavillion, which envisioned architecture as a dynamic game for designers and users that continues long after the structure is built. The NSA Muscle is an inflated body wrapped with seventy-two connected Festo muscles, hollow tubes which expand and shrink according to the amount of air pressure. The public connects to the Muscle both through sensors and a computer screen. ONL also programmed the Muscle to have independent behaviours to allow not just reaction but interaction with the public. Its physical design, movement, and soundscape was created and coordinated using Virtools, a 3D modeling software often used in game design. After the exhibition at the Pompidou, the Muscle project continued, and project materials were reused by the Hyperbody Research Group at Delft Technical University to create a number of related projects, including Muscle ReConfigured, Muscle Tower I, Muscle Tower II, and Muscle Body.

The records are entirely digital, and include administrative files, CAD files, Virtools files, photographs and publicity materials. They were primarily created from 2001—2004, and they document the planning, design development, construction and showcase of the Muscle.

CAD formats chiefly include Maya, AutoCAD, STL, OBJ, and 3D Studio. Virtools files include at least four proprietary formats including composition files (CMO), player files (VMO), object files (NMO) and scripts files (NMS). They also include software and code. Additionally, there are a number of photographs (JPEG), audiovisual (MPEG, MP3, WAV), Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel files.

The records have been arranged into two series:

Series 1, Workspace, 1995—2013, documents the administrative and design activities for the NSA Muscle and related projects. It includes planning and budget materials, CAD files, and files generated or coordinated by Virtools.

Series 2, Photographs and publicity, 2003—2013, chiefly contains photographs, consisting of over 300 JPEGs and four MPEGs, which illustrate the construction, installation, and showcase of the NSA Muscle and related projects. Publicity material also includes photographs of press coverage, and fragments of the book ONL: Hyperbody Logic, as well as written descriptions of the project.


"Architectures Non Standard." Centre Georges Pompidou. Accessed 10 October 2017. https://www.centrepompidou.fr/cpv/resource/cpBeKA/rRREoKn

Reference Number


Physical Description

This fonds contains a number of born-digital files in CAD and 3D modeling formats. Due to the complex and often proprietary nature of CAD formats, proper rendering and use of these files may require highly specific software. CCA’s dedicated Study Room CAD workstation is loaded with a wide but incomplete range of such software. For further information about services and software available for interacting with obsolete or niche file formats, please contact Collection Reference (reference@cca.qc.ca) and ask to speak with the Digital Archivist. Using a Windows XP virtual machine is recommended for the playback of digital files, particularly those related to Virtools, to ensure optimal functionality. A small number of HTML files are not fully functional, as they run JavaScript hosted on player.virtools.com, a site which no longer exists. Additionally, files with the extension .zdb, which are sliced build files for the ZPrinter 3D printer, cannot be opened using existing CCA software.


At the time of accession, the materials were arranged into two main directories, “Workspace” and “Publicity.” These reflected the original order and use of the materials.

The two major directories were maintained as series: Series 1, Workspace and Series 2, Photographs and publicity. Additionally, sub-series arrangement was imposed within Series 1, Workspace to include: Sub-series 1, Administrative documents; Sub-series 2, Computer aided design documents; and Sub-series 3, Virtools files and software.

Original order was largely maintained with a few small exceptions. The file originally titled “4.0 application” was moved from its initial location in the Publicity directory to the Series 1, Sub-series 3 Virtools files and software. Additionally, Subseries 2, Design files and Subseries 3, Virtools files were roughly sorted by date.

Administrative history

ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] is a Dutch architecture firm founded in 1988 by architect Kas Oosterhuis and visual artist Ilona Lénárd.

The firm’s work incorporates art and digital technologies to build client-driven, parametric, and open nonstandard and interactive architecture. They often collaborated on projects with the Hyperbody Research Group, the Delft Technical University center for nonstandard and interactive architecture, where Oosterhuis served as director from 2000 to 2016.

Award-winning projects include Garbagetransferstation Elhorst/Vloedbelt (Business Week/Architectural Record Award 1998, OCE-BNA Award for Industrial Architecture 1996, Aluminum Design Award 1997); the Saltwater Pavilion (Gold Award 1998); the Hessing Cockpit in Acoustic Barrier (National Steel Award 2006, Glass Award 2006, Dutch Design Award for Public Space 2006); the CET Project (Autodesk BIM Experience Award 2008); and the Parametric Climbing Walls (Wood Innovation Award 2012).

Another major project is the NSA Muscle, a working prototype commissioned for the Non-Standard Architecture exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris in 2003. It was a programmable building that changed its shape and content in real time with independent behaviours to allow not just reaction but interaction with the public.

In 2017, Oosterhuis and Lénárd relocated to Doha, Qatar. Oosterhuis joined the architecture faculty at Qatar University. Lénárd remains an active artist with projects across the globe, including in the Netherlands and Dubai.


"History of Collections." Centre Georges Pompidou. Accessed 10 October 2017. https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en/Collections/History-of-collections.

"Who." Hyperbody. Accessed 10 October 2017.


Lénárd, Ilona. "CV | Exhibitions | Commissions | Lectures | Publications." Ilona Lénárd: visual artist. Accessed 10 October 2017. http://lenard.nl/?page_id=144.

Oosterhuis, Kas. "Home page." Kas Oosterhuis: Observations, opinions, innovations. Accessed 10 October 2017. http://www.oosterhuis.nl/.

Conditions governing access

  • Digital material can only be accessed on-site. Please contact Reference at ref@cca.qc.ca for more information. Access by appointment only.

Conditions governing reproduction

  • For copyright information or permission to reproduce material from the fonds, please contact the CCA (reproductions@cca.qc.ca).

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Gift of Kas Oosterhuis on 30 May 2013.

Custodial history

Prior to transfer, the digital files comprising this fonds were on ONL’s servers at their office in Rotterdam. The files were then copied to a 16GB SDHC memory card by the firm for transfer to CCA.

These records were acquired by CCA as part of the Archaeology of the Digital project. Selected items were displayed in the show Archaeology of the Digital: Media and Machines, May-October 2014.

Archivist's note

  • A single-level record for this archive was created by digital archivist Tessa Walsh in August 2016. The archive was processed by digital processing archivist Stefana Breitwieser in September-October 2017, at which time the fonds was arranged, existing description was updated and multi-level description was created.

Credit line

When citing the collection as a whole, use the citation:
ONL [Oosterhuis_Lénárd] NSA Muscle project records,
Collection Centre Canadien d’Architecture/
Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.
When citing specific collection material, please refer to the object’s specific credit line.

Language of material

English, Dutch

Related units of description

  • As part of the Archeology of the Digital series of exhibitions, interviews were conducted with the related architects and published in an ePub format: Canadian Centre for Architecture. Archeology of the Digital 05: Muscle NSA, ed. Greg Lynn (2014), ISBN 9781927071168.

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