Centre of Applied Research Technology

Circular transition at the Johan Cruijff ArenA: a unique reception desk

A custom design out of residual wood, made with industrial robots


Since summer 2020, special guests invited to the VVIP Lounge on Level 6 of the Johan Cruyff ArenA are welcomed at an eye-catching reception desk, made from residual wood. The desk was designed and manufactured by the Digital Production Research Group (DPRG) together with its partners at the Robot Studio, and then shipped to the ArenA. For DPRG, the reception desk is the first showcase in public space of the potential of digital production for a circular transition.

The desk is made from residual hardwood – small left-overs pieces which remain unused after sawing wood to size. Normally, such pieces end up burned. With digital production technologies, they can be used for meaningful applications. To make the ArenA desk, more than 200 pieces of wood were custom processed at the Robot Studio, while being of different size, colour and type of wood. ‘This project showcases how digital production technologies can be applied for circularity, on the scale of a desk, yet with a huge potential for upscaling’, says Marco Galli, project leader of the desk, and teacher-researcher at the DPRG.

Digital production of a reception desk

The design process started with digitizing the available residual wood. Each piece was automatically 3D scanned and photographed using an industrial robot, creating a database with the dimensions and colour properties of every available wood piece. Parametric 3D modelling supported a form finding process of designing a preliminary form for the desk and fitting it to the available material, adjusting its shape to maximise wood use and to prevent the creation of a secondary waste stream. The 3D model of the desk was also used to program the actions of the robots to create each singular wood element (by tagging, cutting, milling or other).

Revalorize top-class residual waste

The objective of the project was to research how digital production can help to revalorize a top-class residual waste like hardwood, that otherwise would have been burned. Through the project, it became clear what innovations are needed to handle the complexity of a material stream which comes in variable shapes and dimensions. All production processes developed in the project to deal with these innovations can be integrated in an automated production line.

‘Processing residual wood into new objects is generally expensive, as it implies a lot of manual labour and craftsmanship. Even more so, when it is residual wood of different types, with varied properties and dimensions. These wood pieces generally end up being burned as firewood or in the municipal incinerator, thus our work with advanced design and robotics can really make a difference’, explains Marta Malé-Alemany, Head Lecturer in Digital Production.

A conversation piece

Installed at the VVIP Lounge of the JC ArenA, the reception desk stands as a unique and beautiful piece to welcome special guests. It also connects to the sustainable goals of the ArenA, by showing the source of material and how it was produced on an integrated display. The desk demonstrates what is possible/needed for upscaling circular use of residual materials. It is an attractive ‘conversation piece’ for stakeholders from Research, Practice and Education, such as companies with other waste streams, designers and architects who want to instigate circular practices and educational partners (like HMC) who want to join AUAS in creating intensive learning experiences for their students.


The project demonstrates applications for residual material streams using digital design and robotic production technologies - a critical aspect of the Circular Transition challenge, which is a profiling theme of the Faculty of Technology and a main focus of its Urban Technology Centre of Expertise. Design and production of the desk was coordinated by DPRG. The desk was made by a team of researchers and intern students at the Robot Studio, home base for all digital production-related work within the Faculty of Technology. Many of the robot tools and material developments involved in the process were co-created with interns of various HBO Engineering disciplines (Mechatronica & Robotica, Mechanical Engineering, etc), assisted by MBO students from the Hout en Meubilerings College – Amsterdam.


JC ArenA has been a partner of the DPRG in several projects, including research on the upcycling of their old stadium seats. This collaboration has extended over the years, sharing a common interest for developing more sustainable solutions. In fact, the JC ArenA has been applying many important measures to become one of the most sustainable stadiums in the world. As such, it received the Green Apple Award for Environmental Best Practice and the Most Sustainable Stadium award from the World Stadium Congress in 2019.

Heineken Interior Design and Nijboer Interieur are, respectively, the designers and interior constructor of the VVIP Lounge on the Level 6 of the Stadium. In collaboration with them, DPRG aligned the design and construction of the desk to the specific look & feel of the lounge. Finally, lumber yard Amsterdamsche Fijnhout donated wood to make the desk, in order to explore future applications of their residual wood using digital production.

Photo credits: Sander Heezen

The reception desk is digitally designed and robotically produced @ Robot Studio – Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, with waste wood from Amsterdamsche Fijnhout, and the support of Johan Cruijff ArenA, Heineken Interieur Design and Nijboer interieur.

Published by  Centre for Applied Research Technology 30 November 2023

Project Info

Start date 01 Jan 2020
End date 01 Sep 2020


Erno Langenberg
Liselotte van Dijk
Sebastian Yap