Archiprint 7 - Influence & Inspiration

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Infl uen ce & Ins p irati on Archiprint April 2015 \\ Volume 04 \ Issue 01

Foto: Filip Dujardin


architecture is the most elementary issue this journal has ever devoted itself to. John Locke (1632-1704) once said about nature: ‘I conclude that there is no thing constantly observable in nature, which will not always bring some light with it, and lead us farther into the knowledge of her ways of working.’ The same applies to architecture; a work of architecture that is not

To what extent can a title be self-evident?

the product of influence or inspiration in any kind whatsoever is very unlikely to exist, and

This seventh issue of Archiprint goes under

as unlikely to ever be achieved. Professionally,

the name ‘Influence & Inspiration’, which at

we are influenced and inspired every single

first may seem rather remarkable to serve as

day. Deliberately and out of free will, or even

a singular theme. Yes, it consists of two words.

by compulsion and unconsciously. Consider

And yes, both phenomena are so relevant to

it as the course of an architect’s everyday life.

architecture as a discipline that they could

The chicken and the egg, so to speak. It’s an

possibly be approached individually, and

infinite loop. Something that happens to all of

suffice as themes for two separate issues. In

us. A vicious circle embedded so deeply in the

that context, this issue’s title may actually

very heart of our discipline that it constitutes a

require some explanation.

permeating and essential factor in the viability and progression of architecture.

Let us first recognize that we are not in any sense denying the singularity of both

So in fact, this issue may be the most

phenomena. In fact, they are substantially

ambitious of all of our past inquiries. How

different. However, even when we briefly allow

do you approach the notion of such an all-

ourselves to omit any level of nuance in our

encompassing theme? How do you grasp

perception, and consider the Oxford dictionary

something that has to do so much, with so

as an absolute truth, we have to admit to the

much? And the question most relevant to this

evident interference of both phenomena.

journal’s pursuit of a literary constructive

Influence is described as ‘the capacity to have

and objective contribution to the controversy:

an effect’, whereas inspiration is characterized

How can this theme successfully be addressed

as ‘the process of being mentally stimulated’.

without the issue becoming a mere collection

In other words, the one cannot practice its

of utterly arbitrary articles?

quintessential nature without the existence of the other. Joined, they become so compelling

We began with something close to our hearts:

that our editorial team chose to perceive,

the current changes in Dutch regulations

approach and elaborate the theme as a two-

that aim to exacerbate the requirements for

word totality.

eligibility to use the preserved title of architect. From 2015 onwards, graduated students of

This could induce the impression that the

architecture have to complete an additional

dilemma of influence and inspiration in

two year programme under the supervision of

a registered architect in order to apply for the

theories by Semper, Von Meiss and the latest

influence and inspiration on knowledge. By

official title.

Venice Biennale curated by Koolhaas, Van der

addressing the common misinterpretations

Westerlaken examines the influence of the

of theories by mid-nineteenth-century Italian

More than ever, a critical awareness prevails

digital era on architecture, and concludes that

architecture historian Manfredo Tafuri, van

among students, regarding the influence that

the physical elements our buildings consist

Bergeijk critiques – almost in the shape of a

all master-apprentice principles entrenched

of allow change over time, yet that in a most

manifesto – our ways of incorporating history,

in our educational system have on inspiring

general sense our profession consists of a

and translating it into specific but doubtful

the new generation. We discussed this issue

constant set of principles.

knowledge and awareness. Nearly counter

with Barbara Kuit and Mark Hemel, who have

to Vervoort’s inquiry into a level of restricted

both worked for architectural ‘masterminds’

However, despite this infinitely fixed set of

ignorance, van Bergeijk questions the frequent

and contributed to education at institutes for

principles, it does seem that occurrences in

desire among architects to use historical

architecture around the world. They argue

time on a more fundamental level contribute

theories as a kind of all-embracing source of

that in general, ‘friction’ during the design

to the way we are susceptive to actually being

inspiration or even as a means of influence.

processes is key to being sufficiently influenced

influenced and inspired. This is illustrated

and effectively inspired, and the master-

by Omayra Mingels when she uses today’s

Awareness thus becomes the more appropriate

apprentice orientated structure of architecture



should facilitate this friction.









answer, if there even is one. In the interview


with Chris van Duijn of the Office for


Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), this is

For Dekkers, friction lies in the general aim

graduated architects, of which she herself is

clearly empathized. Generally, van Duijn

towards a balance between ratio and intuition,

one. An event that ‘provokes and activates an

argues that for OMA: ‘Only the methods of

which merely results in what she describes as

extraordinary new input for creativity’, so she

our design and research processes can be

‘poetic engineering’ – a method that considers


considered generic,’ and clearly OMA has

buildings as the accomplished influences

excelled in these research processes to gain

deriving from a certain location, and coherent

All of the viewpoints so far have in common

influence and inspiration by the establishment

to that the inspiration at a specific moment in

their dependence on knowledge and awareness

of their counterpart AMO.


as key elements for being influenced and inspired, and it seems plausible that they are

Basically, what influence and inspiration means

It is no secret that architecture is not an

somewhat related. Anneke Vervoort attempted

– whether in architecture or in general – cannot

autonomous discipline. The notion of time as a

to designate the actual value of knowledge in

be self-evident. It cannot have an obvious

general phenomenon and all its adverse effects

the process of being influenced, by means of

answer. This issue of Archiprint attempts

have clearly been recurring throughout the

awareness. She organized a 24-hour design

to internalize these phenomena within the

entire theme. To what extent could influence

experiment with no other objective than

discipline of architecture. It is awareness of

and inspiration over time be univocally

that of an end product without restrictions.

the phenomenon that can change it from an

operating phenomena? And if they cannot –

Remarkably, the lack of influence incorporated

unobtrusive event into a notable and crucial

if the ways we are influenced and inspired as

in the brief transformed into a general influence

contribution to a future of better architecture.

creative individuals change over time – then

on the participants, and became a source of

what does that say about the qualities we

inspiration itself. Vervoort’s reportage of the

claim that architecture possesses? Max van

course of the experiment shows the strength of

der Westerlaken provides an unambiguous

ignorance opposed to knowledge.

statement in his essay ‘Persistence and

But Vervoort is not the only one with

Flux’; there is no one accurate answer. Using

legitimate concerns about the dependence of

Teije Hartman

Scaffolds A first Grasp at Influence and Inspiration


are the most frustrated

people in the world’



Most of the design projects I did ‘You imagine what you desire . . .’


‘ nfluence





– that is what

subject and I deal with it in a maybe

Herman van Bergeijk told us in his

irresponsible way, which is to really

lecture, and as I reflected on my

ignore it. It would be a nightmare if

own design practice, I had to agree

we started to really think about it;

with him. I’m never as frustrated

it would tie our hands, it would tie

as when I am designing, and it’s

everyone else’s hands.’

even worse when I’ve not yet

Rem Koolhaas, undoubtedly one



A quote by

at the university were powerfully

This was the title of the Biennale

found inspiration. For me, to find

of the most influential architects

inspired by texts. For example

of Sydney 2014, which already

inspiration is not to receive a vision

of our time. Architecture students

‘Mnemonia or Rhetoric’ by Ignasi

suggests a connection between what

that tells me what to do, or a sudden

admire him, his office and his

de Solà-Morales (1982) had a huge

influences us and what inspires us.

gaze at something that makes me

books, looking for inspiration. A

influence on my design project

The Museum of Contemporary Art

know what my design must be

large number of current and rising

‘Buckets and the Bandstand’, as ‘In

exhibited James Angus’s Orange

like. And it never means checking

‘starchitects’ have worked at OMA,

the Bubble’ by John Thackara (2006)

Beam Knot. A refractory piece of

out the world’s greatest designs so

resulting in an entire so-called

had on my undergraduate project

steel transformed into a composition

that I can start imitating them. No,

‘OMA-offspring’ generation, which

‘Architecture of Adoption’. After

of elegant curves; a knot. Influenced

to me, finding inspiration usually

includes names like Bjarke Ingles,

reading these texts many times,

by the natural character of the used

just means giving up the struggle of

Zaha Hadid and Winy Maas. In fact,

their meaning completely changed

material, the artist was inspired

finding ‘it’, taking a step back and

by continuously surprising us with

and it was at such moments that

toward image that contradicted this

looking at what is already there.

new refreshing ideas, Koolhaas

they became the breeding ground

character. In this context, the beam

Letting this struggle go makes me

and his office have an immense

for another design.

knot is more then an ambiguous

able to discover the hidden qualities

influence on architecture.

conception of material. It becomes a

in what is right in front of me.

representation of how influence and inspiration are themselves knotted. Paul Kersten

Teije Hartman

Margit van Schaik

Luuk van den Elzen


Buckets and the Bandstand [photo: Paul Kersten]


Orange Beam Knot. By James Angus. [photo: Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery] Retrieved from http://www.


Herman van Bergeijk, Lecture at TU\e 6th of January 2015.


Rem Koolhaas - Retrieved from


Archiprint April 2015 \\ Volume 04 \ Issue 01 Eindhoven Free publication ISSN 2213-5588 Journal for Architecture, created by students and graduates of the Department of the Built Environment, Eindhoven University of Technology and architecture study association AnArchi. Editor-in-chief Luuk van den Elzen

Final editor Teije Hartman

Editors Julie Bosch, Paul Kersten, Gregor Roovers, Margit van Schaik, Kavitha Varathan, Max van der Westerlaken, Peyvand Yavari Guest editors Herman van Bergeijk, Jeanne Dekkers, Chris van Duijn, Daniëlle Gras, Mark Hemel, Barbara Kuit, Omayra Mingels, Anneke Vervoort Advisory committee Bernard Colenbrander, Jacob Voorthuis, Gijs Wallis de Vries, Maarten Willems Layout design Luuk van den Elzen

Cover Design Margit van Schaik

Translation and language correction D’Laine Camp Printing Meesterdrukkers, Eindhoven Publisher AnArchi Eindhoven University of Technology Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning Vertigo Building Groene loper 6 5612 AZ Eindhoven The Netherlands Back issues Archiprint1 — Archiprint2 The Research Issue Archiprint3 It’s All About Competition Archiprint4 Show Us What You’ve Got! Archiprint5 Movement in Architecture Archiprint6 Creating & Experiencing Identity This magazine cannot be republished or reproduced without the permission of the publisher.


Inspiration? The Influence of Frition! An Interview with Barbara Kuit & Mark Hemel Luuk van den Elzen & Max van der Westerlaken


Observing and Listening


How Architecture Grows


Percistence and Flux


Chance, Time and Teamplay


History as an Intentional or Unintentional Counter Model


The Nexus of Research and Design; the OMA Approach



A Balance of Poetics and Engineering Jeanne Dekkers

The Post Recession Generation of Architects Omayra Mingels

The Core of Architecture Explored in the Digital Era Max van der Westerlaken

A 24 hours of Self-Organized Chaos Daniëlle Gras & Anneke Vervoort

An Interview with dr. Herman van Bergeijk Margit van Schaik

An Interview with Chris van Duijn Teije Hartman & Paul Kersten

An Objective of Influencing and Inspiring Students 6th board of AnArchi


Inspiration? The Influence of Friction! An interview with Barbara Kuit and Mark Hemel Luuk van den Elzen & Max van der Westerlaken


From January 2015, the Dutch Register

BK – On the other hand, the pun already hints

Mark Hemel and Barbara Kuit both graduated

of Architects introduced the Professional

at the fact that the process is very important

from Delft University of Technology. Mark

Traineeship, a two-year programme that

to us. During a project, you’ll dispose of more

Hemel went on to study at the Architectural

must be completed in order to obtain the

information if you’ve conducted research.

Association in London, Barbara Kuit to work

title of (interior) architect, urban designer

Next, we look for ways to inform our design.

for, among others, Philippe Starck and Zaha

or landscape architect. This Professional

To remain focused on the core of the project,

Hadid. In 1998, they founded IBA (Information

Traineeship strongly reminded us of the pupil-

we try to always look for feedback rather than

Based Architecture) together. In addition to

master relationship, a time-honoured tradition

just select a certain idea and develop it. This

their work as architects, Mark and Barbara

in architecture. In light of the theme ‘influence

approach offers opportunities to break ground

taught at various schools of architecture,

and inspiration’, we talked to Mark Hemel and

you wouldn’t have thought of beforehand. So

for instance at the universities of London,

Barbara Kuit about the influences of the pupil-

we use information to adjust the project.

Guangzhou, Delft and Eindhoven.

master principle, their teaching experiences,

MH – That information can be anything. In an

inspiring learning environments and the way

era of truly unlimited possibilities, you need

these informed their own work.

something to lead you through the design process and during the creation of architecture.




Information literally



The quest for that ‘something’ makes you go


back to the basics of what architecture means

architecture is information-based. Why

to you.

did you choose that name? The theme of this issue – influence and MH – Looking for a name for our office, we

inspiration – has partly sprung from the

wanted it to express the things we base our

recent introduction of the compulsory

architecture on. On the one hand, you want

professional experience period (‘Beroep

to take the liberty to choose as you please,


on the other you want a name to make sense

revives a time-honoured architectural

and call up the right associations. The name

tradition: the pupil-master principle. As

resonates with current times. This resonance

experienced teachers, how do you see

is with computer science, which uses the term

you own roles in this phenomenon?




‘architecture’ to describe how software works. The name Information Based Architecture is in

BK – The professional experience period is

that sense a pun. It refers to both software and

something you have to go through one way


or another once you’ve finished your studies,

whether it is compulsory or not. The period

be free in every respect, which would make

thinks ‘through other people’, so to speak.

is very valuable. The pupil-master principle

things a lot easier? ‘New learning’, for example.

BK – She doesn’t always conceive the best idea

reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright. The way he

I believe in the strength of individual coaching,

to subsequently hand out tasks.

set up his office, with everyone there working

but I also strongly believe in showing your

MH – We worked at Architecture Studio

according to a particular vision, shows that

vulnerability and demonstrating how you as a

Herman Hertzberger for a while as well.

it’s an important principle in architecture. The

teacher would do things. In that sense, you’re

What they all have in common is that a single

context within which the principle is adhered

an example to students and they can emulate

conversation of a couple of minutes every

to today is very different – with regard to the

you. So this is not about pure coaching, but

three month yields enough material to keep

available amount of time and commissions –

about making yourself totally available to the

you thinking and rehashing for quite some

but I don’t think the pupil-teacher principle is



less useful.

BK – and not the other way around, of course.

BK – Working with Zaha Hadid is very intense.

That you, as a coach, have your own views and

At times there’s a lot of friction or even rows

So despite the changed times, the pupil-

impose them on the students. This actually

within the firm, but often – especially when I

master principle remains useful and

goes back to your first question about the name

didn’t talk to Zaha in person, but by phone – we

valuable. Does your teaching, therefore,

we chose for our office. Our response to the fact

had the best of conversations. She would say

stem from a sense of responsibility?

that everything is possible is to always look

things like: ‘Barbara, sometimes you’re nothing

for a certain amount of structure, even when

but a Dutch hippy, but sometimes you’re so

BK – On the one hand, it’s disseminating

we teach. Within that structure, students must

right!’ ‘Thinking through other people’ is


have a certain degree of freedom, otherwise

what happens when the team generates ideas

MH – ...but on the other, it’s of value to us, too.

the communication would be one-way: from

and Zaha subsequently chooses the best. That

While you are teaching, you become especially

teachers to students. We have to engage in a

is not necessary an idea that she thought she

aware of the thought processes and theoretical

dialogue, that’s what makes it interesting,

would go for initially: it might just as easily

aspects involved in architecture. You have to

because dialogue involves unexpected factors.

be a completely different one. Other than one-

know exactly which ingredients can result in

way communication from master to pupil, this

a good project. Plotting and testing different

Where you’re concerned, we can also

relationship is mutually inspiring. That’s how

variants are therefore essential. Individual

turn the last question around. Mark

it works, which is as it should be. This way, as a

abilities and students’ preferences aside, you

graduated with Zaha Hadid and Barbara

pupil you’re in a position to develop and steer

gain insight in how certain combinations of

worked there for a number of years. Did

a course that you believe in . . .

ingredients result in certain values in a design.

you experience that relation as a pupil-

In addition, we are very interested in

master relationship at the time?






change. For instance, should design challenges

MH – The same thing happened, really. Zaha


Europe. Can you tell us more about the

BK – The cross connections between the

way educational climate can inspire or

different units are very inspiring as well. At

influence students?

presentations or interim evaluations, teachers from other units also come to watch and give

“Other than one-way communication from master to pupil, this relationship is mutually inspiring. That’s how it works, which is as it should be. This way, as a pupil you’re in a position to develop and steer a course that you believe in...”

BK – China is an exceptional case. From

advice. This way you know what is going

primary school on, teachers tend to approach

on in all other units of the school as well as

pupils and students top down. Students have

facilitating cross fertilization with respect to

very little freedom of interpretation, which is

content. I’d strongly recommend students to

why their development is profoundly different

visit presentations by fellow students of other

from that of European students.

disciplines. They are hugely informative.

MH – Of course there are differences between cultures, and your own point of view predisposes you to a certain method or way of teaching. In the end, this is about the definition of a successful education. If you judge success by the level of someone’s income in relation to the number of years they have studied, then creativity is not a major contributor at all. If, as a society, you want to educate people to be flexible enough to

“If, as a society, you want to educate people to be flexible enough to solve the problems of the future, the resulting educational climate is totally different...”

solve the problems of the future, the resulting

MH – My primary teacher, Jeffrey Kipniss,

educational climate is totally different. In

always said: ‘Good architecture should be

MH – A one-sided relationship between pupil

terms of the above-mentioned time-money

made in a place where there’s nothing at all

and master reminds me of how things are

ratio, this might yield unsuccessful people,

to do, an incredibly boring place.’ I think he

done in China: it’s something you don’t see

however a small percentage of these will

was right. He always used Italy as an example:

anywhere else anymore. In China, pupils try

eventually be able to actually solve problems.

you can’t build anything in Italy, because the

to equal the master. Imitation in that sense is

Considering all the schools we have taught

moment you start digging you’ll hit a ruin,

considered good; breaking the rules is not

at, I’m totally clear on which one I like best:

which’ll bring the project to a standstill because

appreciated at all. This is one of the reasons

the Architectural Association in London.

you’ll first have to find out what exactly

that the notion of ‘creativity’ is subjected

AA students are strongly motivated and AA

you’ve found. Now, turn that around. Building

to criticism. Disagreements or frictions are

is a hugely competitive environment, for

in a very trendy place – places like Amsterdam

not addressed, whereas these are important

both students and teachers, which makes

and New York come to mind – also makes it

ingredients of the innovative design process.

people quite individualistic. You really feel

very hard to do something interesting. So

This is precisely why teaching is of such value

like history is looking over your shoulder,

your learning environment does influence the

to us. It allows us to seek out friction; it gives

so there’s a great sense of expectation. All of

level of your work. The context in which you

us food for thought. That’s very inspiring.

this takes place, almost paradoxically, in the

learn influences the criteria you set yourself,

Friction is the key word.

rather informal, homely environment typical

the minimum standards you set yourself, the

of the AA. The combination of atmospheric

expectations you have of yourself. When your

You have taught at a lot of different

aspects and, simultaneously, the competitive

environment is really boring, that’ll help you

schools of architecture. Just now, we

and motivated character of the students and

focus on finding out what’s really important

spoke about the differences between

teachers creates a tremendously inspiring and

to you.

the educational climates in China and

successful learning environment.

BK – It’ll give you the freedom to develop

yourself. Everyone around you producing the

in a way: if I want to put up a poster on that

means you can skip the initial phase. As a

most wonderful stuff can really lead you astray.

glass, I have to push really hard. The result is

result, the strength of the connection between

The AA end-of-year show that facilitates cross

that everything is done – hands-off – using a

our teaching and architectural work has

connections between the different units is very

pre-programmed beamer. As a student, you

decreased. In addition, you’re bound by time

inspiring. The fact that universities organize

can’t present your work the way you would

and money in your work, while you have more

such events stimulates both teachers and

want to, simply because the facilities won’t

time to extensively explore and address things

students to make the most of their work.

allow it. You are losing control; it creates a

in teaching. In education, you try to stimulate

MH – Besides, the AA is not committed to a

distance. Working on a computer is similar:

the development of students and you will

single, ‘best’ teaching method. Everyone does

you type something on a keyboard, and as a

discuss every reasonable variety with students

it in their own, by definition individual, way.

result, something changes on the screen. The

whereas in your work, you’ll always want

information has to cover quite the distance

to elaborate on what you have done before

So context influences students. How

between you and the screen and you can’t

(for a client or otherwise). Which is why you

is this this expressed spatially? Can

control what happens en route. I believe that

sometimes skip something.

we draw parallels between different

as an architect, you have to able to work with

BK – To get it right anyway, we don’t see every


your material in a very direct way. Drawing,

project as separate, but we try to find a certain

for instance, works like that, though the

structure. You touch upon themes that you

MH – I believe that architecture can influence

same thing applies here: drawing something

find interesting, but turn out to work not so

your life. Intimacy and atmosphere are highly

digitally and projecting it at a certain size is

good in a certain project. We don’t throw away

influential and can have a stimulating and

not the same as drawing something at a certain

such themes, but keep them in mind to maybe

inspiring influence. One aspect of that is


develop them further in another project.

dimension, but it is connected with many other things as well. BK – You really ought to organize a student competition to design a learning environment in Vertigo, perhaps per floor, which would facilitate the road to inspiration that is so important in our profession. That’s putting it simply, but it does denote a very fundamental

“So the combination of atmosphere and practicalities creates the possibilities to bring out the best in the students... “


Finally the relationship between teaching

MH – At the AA, there’s this characteristic,

and architectural work: how do they

rough, purple carpet, the slightly angled

influence each other?

walls and next to them a bay window, which is entirely covered in boarding. That way, you

MH – I think that depends on the phase

can hang things everywhere. In a sense, it’s

your office is in. There used to be a more

very classic and outdated, but it does convey

direct connection between our teaching and

character and the spaces are very practical

architectural work. I think that connection is

and useful to architecture students at the same

weaker today. When you teach, you’re always

time. So the combination of atmosphere and

starting over: you begin designing again, meet

practicalities creates the possibilities to bring

a group of new students you have to get to

out the best in the students. Compared to

know again, and so on. At work, you develop

Vertigo, modernism dominates the AA: a lot of

a wide knowledge base and you know the

glass and austerity. This does create a distance

people that you work with on a project, which


Observing and Listening A Balance of Poetics and Engineering Jeanne Dekkers


While images or theories can in a sense

and unusual aspects of life are the basis of the

Jeanne Dekkers graduated from Eindhoven

provide us with inspiration for some or even

seeing and making.

University of Technology in 1978, where she

all of our work, inspiration drawn from places

returned years later as a professor. After

or programmes never fails to result in a unique

Observing and Listening

working for EGM Architecten she founded

design. Architect Jeanne Dekkers, who likes to

As a child in Zuid-Limburg, I learned to look

her own office Jeanne Dekkers Architectuur in

be inspired by travel and experience, explains...

and to think on the basis of place and culture. My family encouraged me to sketch, to paint

Delft. For architects to come up with new ideas,

and to build. During the holidays we went



outdoors, crossing borders. Sketching the

important. Day after day, they face reality

different landscapes, buildings and people, I



learned to observe. I noticed that a different

discover the essence inherent in the exterior.

landscape also implied different buildings and

Repeated observing and listening is essential

different people. Each landscape has its own

to philosophers, scientists, artists, writers,

material, architectural style and way of life.


and to



are and


designers and architects who want to create the world of tomorrow. The process unites reason

By travelling, I continue to increase my

and intuition, analysis and emotion to create

experience as an architect: by observing,

an optimal image of reality. I call this fusion

analysing and memorizing large and small

of the intuitive and analytic aspects of the

moments and monuments. Making travel

architectural discipline ‘poetic engineering’.

sketches ensures that all those moments touch my head, my heart and my hands. More than

The Sublime and the Ordinary

anything else, travelling makes me aware that

Observing and listening are the starting point

the buildings that I create are documents of an

of every creation. Observing the ordinary

era. Although perspectives on design progress,

repeatedly enables you to discover the sublime

a building is a static monument of the culture

behind everyday reality. While exploring and

and society of a certain time. A building is

designing, by contrast, it is often difficult to

subservient to the specifications of the client,

find the ordinary, because it is so self-evident.

yet at the same time it is autonomous. I want

Logical solutions are often found only through

my buildings to be powerful statements that

detours, though the best results are close,

contribute to the environment in which they

obvious and simultaneously harbour the


sublime. Observing and listening to usual

“Although perspectives on design progress, a building is a static monument of the culture and society of a certain time...”

I completed my first commissions: the building for Applied Educational Theory and Computer Science of the University of Twente and a post office in Breda. I sketched the details on the basis of a main concept. Mine was a total design: I designed both the interior and the outdoor spaces; I painted murals inside the buildings; I explored and drew

Art or Science

every proportion. The floor plan and the angular displacement of the

After finishing secondary school, I hesitated between enrolling at the Art

educational building for the University of Twente had a ratio of 1:2:√5.

Academy and studying Physics. I chose architecture. Being an architect,

The entire building, the floor plans, the façades and the environment,

I thought, would give me the opportunity to combine my passion for the

were composed of multiples of this basic size.

creative with my passion for invention and discovery. As it turned out, this reasoned intuitive choice was the right one, after all, the curiosity

Whereas my first buildings were particularly strictly geometrical, in the

associated with the investigation of each new design challenge is the key

course of time my work became freer under the influence of my free

to the creative process.

work. In my spare time I painted and sketched small and large works, I tried things out and came up with forms, meanings and colours. Though

Studying Architecture in Eindhoven, I developed the basic skills

I initially considered the technical side and the freer side two different

necessary to practice as an architect. I learned about techniques, about

worlds, I decided to connect these two worlds – which was the result

social and psychological processes; about the history of architecture and

of an inner struggle. It enriched my work indeed. I now know they are

about materials. The sketching and travelling that I did kept me looking,


discovering and observing. Sketching and painting allowed me to explore space, form, colour and proportions, and to express emotion. In

I always felt that designing and realizing buildings came with a heavy

everything that I did, my own observations led me and I allowed others

responsibility, and I still feel that equally strongly. I realize that a building

to influence me only sparingly.

will stand for a long time and that many people have to deal with it every day. Completing my first building, I was therefore very curious whether

After graduation, I was employed by a large architecture firm that gave

the spatial effect and the effect of colours and materials would be as I

me a thorough advanced training. Amid architects I didn’t feel like an

expected – after all, a sketch is transformed into a building of a hundred

architect initially: I was busy imagining a world, spaces that would make

meters. After completion, I saw that the actual spatial effect equalled

people feel comfortable and that would tempt them to use it for a range

the spatial representation I had made beforehand. And the same thing

of purposes. The people around me, on the other hand, were much more

happened in subsequent buildings. I gained confidence in my abilities,

concerned with technical details, with the use of materials.

so I became firmer and my approach became more confident as well.


“Though I initially considered the technical side and the freer side two different worlds, I decided to connect these two worlds...”

Creating a liveable place in the desert, you’d first put up walls. Next, the existing wind and sand would make beautiful patterns in the landscape, and then an oasis would start to form. This way, directly and logically, a natural, fantastic design would emerge . . . Designing this way, close to the commission and the given environmental elements, seems easier


than it is. You will only find the most obvious solution after a long

Sketching is an important skill for a designer. Sketching is a means to

search. It seems so far away, but it is often close by. The final solution is

visualize ideas directly and quickly and communicatively. Sketching

so obvious in retrospect.

organizes thought, it explores the mind, it captures experiences and teaches you to observe and remember. Sketches use spatial and visual


experiences from memory to construct a new reality. Sketching enables

Creative though processes based on respect for the location, the use of

the visualization of dreams, the creation of that which does not exist;

existing environmental elements and a focus on the commission ought

it directly connects intuition with ratio. While you are sketching, you

to be the starting points for every design. This approach, in which the

consciously and unconsciously analyse colours, proportions and textures.

design mode and attitude are always the same, renders designs that are

Everything you sketch serves as ready knowledge for designing. Spatial

always unique. Only such designs can specifically address the set task,

experiences, memories of buildings and landscapes and knowledge

the environment and the gift of the place.

of space, mass, material and detail are the ingredients of sketching. Sketches can capture different worlds and show different solutions simultaneously: from an urban planning scale to the smallest detail.

In education, therefore, sketching deserves a lot of attention. Sketching will train you to think spatially. Sketching will enable you to design and visualize different scale levels at the same time. Sketches allow the exploration and expression of the atmosphere that will subsequently be the basis for further development: from broad outlines to the smallest details. Thus, all the ingredients of a building are directly and integrally connected in a sketch. A good sketch is accurate and powerful enough to guide the design process. After all, the exploring lines harbour the essence of the design.

“You will only find the most obvious solution after a long search. It seems so far away, but it is often close by. The final solution is so obvious in retrospect...”

How Architecture Grows The Post Recession Generation of Architects Omayra Mingels

During the glory days of societal prosperity,

The New Generation

the adaptive reuse of historical buildings

The impact of the credit crisis has forced

at SATIJNplus Architecten, and former editor

and contextual thinking were commonly

people to share both risks and benefits. It has

of the Archiprint. In December 2014, during

perceived as a bit nerdy. Instead, architecture

triggered new ways of research and stimulated

a TEDX conference in Roermond, Mingels


socially distinctive designs. As a result, today’s

presented her vision on the role of architects

and was happily adopted by generations of


in times of economic crisis, which was food for

architecture students. The breakdown of the

‘carte blanche’ and learn to convince their

thoughts related to influence and inspiration on

economic system came as a surprise to Western

professors of their vision and the motivation

a more fundamental level.

civilization. In the case of the Netherlands,

of their decisions with the final design as a

within two years the amount of practicing

result. Reusing buildings, contextual thinking,

architects decreased by 52 per cent. As a result,

social patterns, craftsmanship and dynamic

architectural offices were compelled to make

atmospheres based on a sustainable concept

rational decisions in order to survive: no plan,

are no longer perceived as nerdy.

Background: Omayra Mingels is a Dutch Junior Architect








no vision. It is a remarkable mindset that most people Today, only 47 per cent of the pre-crisis number

still feel empathy towards young professionals

of architects still practice in the Netherlands. It

these days. From my own experience, I believe

is the beginning of an entirely new situation.

that many people underestimate the versatile

The credit crisis has forced both architects and

qualities of most young professionals. ‘How

students of architecture to think critically and

can this young generation develop if they can

to anticipate changes over time; to rethink

hardly get a job, they probably do not have enough

architecture, to become inspired and to come

money to buy their own house, or a good looking

up with innovative designs that connote the

car. How can they develop themselves if they do not

works of visionary architecture.

get the possibility?’

14.356 architects (NL) 1.6 billion euro turn-over 6.750 architects (NL) 0.725 billion euro turn-over


This common perception

of young professionals should be revised. As a matter of fact, most post real-estate-bubbleburst students have no familiarity with the feeling of easily getting a range of career


Diagram 1 Omayra Mingels, The amount of architects 2009-2014, 2014


Mingels, O., (2014, December 12), How Architecture GrowsAcquired through watch?v=wet_7ZAbHTo

possibilities. They don’t even have a clue how it felt to lose these possibilities. This generation has been forced to gain knowledge on how [1]



to create everything out of nothing. How to


is sometimes a privilege because it forces them

what I then called “context thinking” - that a new

to think outside the box. The current crisis

thing is to be thought through in the context of the

marks architects as designers of our future,

existing patterns. . . . it was taught that a design

not as designers of our building environment.

for a building . . . could not be evolved outside of

Initiating new ideals that result in social

context.”. It became a fashionable topic, and the

designs, this new crisis-raised generation

Smithsons induced that a design could not be

could play an important role in establishing a

evolved outside of context.’ 4

better world.

create a vision with possibilities: how to share, to reduce and to reuse. This is a rather generic perception, so allow me to describe some of my personal student experiences. When I needed furniture, I made it by reusing material leftovers from the workshop at Eindhoven University. Whenever

“As result of the credit crisis, a completely new conceptual framework has emerged, based on ‘more with less’ – more opportunities with fewer existing possibilities...”

The foremost importance of the work and thinking of Alison and Peter Smithson can be found in their reflections on the legacy of the Modern Movement. The Smithsons investigated possible connections between the universal claims of modernism and the singularities of historical experience, part of the contextual story. ‘Historical context’ was made a remedy for the issue of loss of identity and sense of place under the threat

I needed covers for my essays, I designed

This development shows similarities with

of modernisation.5 It was a natural extension

and made them myself, because conventional

the economic collapse in 1973, when the oil

of modern architecture in which context

mass-produced binders could distract the

crisis drew attention to subjects such as over-

thinking was the ‘result of a way of life’.6 The

reader from my hard work. Or for one of my

exploitation and insufficient use of natural

Smithsons believed that the task for architects

projects, I created an impressive architectural

resources. ‘People were forced to minimize

should be the creation of a context-responsive

skin with cheap plastic spoons, collected with

energy consumption which then triggered new

architecture, that a building is only interesting

help from the canteen at the faculty of the Built

researches that stimulated technical developments

if it is more than it self, if it charges the space

Environment. And when my fellow students

of renewable energy sources, and moreover

around it with connective possibilities.7

and I needed a stage in order to spread our

initiated new social experiments; thoughts that

thoughts and critical thinking, we established

today are still trending.’3 It can thus be implied

Their architectural language claims a better

this profession-related journal as a platform for

that the general nature of crisis, uncertainty

world, based on the interaction between the

disciplinary polemics.

and helplessness, provokes and activates

physical and the social context. The physical

an extraordinary new input for creativity. It

context is our building environment, the

As result of the credit crisis, a completely new

opens the field for those who have enough

things we can measure. The social context is a

conceptual framework has emerged, based on

spirit left to innovate. The oil crisis activated

more general approach to the setting in which

‘more with less’ – more opportunities with

an extraordinary flourishing of new creativity

people live, their culture, patterns, ethics and

fewer existing possibilities. In the specific

and more interaction between the building

so on. The Smithsons believed this interaction

case of the current credit crisis, many young

environment and social events. During that

between the physical and social context

professionals use their opportunities to put

time, the architect couple Peter and Alison

constantly changes and develops.

their ideas into practice. They know how to

Smithson introduced an architectural language

create possibilities out of almost nothing. In

in which sense of place and community could

Although the Smithsons built very little,

addition, they often create ideas depending

take place. ‘‘When I was teaching in a school of

their ‘context thinking’ is still inspirational.

only on their imagination or a vision and not

architecture in the mid-fifties the school’s syllabus

Their fruitful ideas on the environment,

on knowledge derived from experience, which

was reorganised in a very simple wayto induce

ecological urbanism and context-responsive

architecture should be extended within an

does not imply that architecture is static. It also

architectural language, a vision, on how to

does not imply that architecture is activated

create architecture in a better world.

by technological interventions. It implies that

Physical context

architecture is a building, part of a conceptual

Social context

framework, a network of social patterns, adaptive towards a moment in time and part of a vision. It leads to an intense, sustainable and flexible relationship between architecture Physical context

Social context


Creating Architecture That Grows The credit crisis forces us to think critically. To anticipate change. The Smithsons offered a belief on how to generate an architecture

and its context.

“...architecture is a building, part of a conceptual framework, a network of social patterns, adaptive towards a moment in time and part of a vision...”

evolving from these contextual changes.

Unfortunately, the importance of visionary

However, ‘context thinking’ does not consider

thinking is underestimated in turbulent times.

changes within society and even so, it does not

Nowadays, people are often rushed to achieve

give the possibility to anticipate change over

short-term goals; they desire to build fast,


faster, fastest or to make three-dimensional

People [10]

models and images even before creating a ‘At this moment in time, this model is incomplete.

vision or design. I believe that architecture

The model needs a catalyst that is able to activate the

grows in its entire lifetime: capable to develop,

interaction and influence the proportion between

to change, to become more evident and

the physical and social context. In my opinion,

to integrate modern social beliefs within.

people are this catalyst. They activate the relation

It allows reflexivity between people, the

and proportion between our building environment

physical and social context. This architectural

(physical context) and society (social context).

language is constructed by the current crisis

People influence their environment and thus their

and should be proved by the new generation.

environment influences them.’ 9

It should be proved in cities and injected in regions, realizing the potential and making

This architectural language leads towards

the most out of circumstances. Interested in

a more dynamic, intense and sustainable

the completeness, not in contrasts. Creating

environment depending on the moment in

architecture that grows, in our mind, on paper,

time. It leads to architecture that grows. It

during a discussion, within our profession,

breaks down boundaries and creates new

region and eventually in our world.

possibilities in order to realize a fruitful environment. Creating architecture that grows


Borasi, G., Zardini, M., Sorry, Out of Gas: Architectures response to the 1973 Oil-Crisis, (Corrani Edizioni, CCA, 2007-2008)


Van den Heuvel, D., ‘Another sensibility - the discovery of context’, OASE 76 (2008), page 22


Van den Heuvel, D., ‘Editorial, OASE 51 (1999), page 9


Van den Heuvel, D., ‘Another sensibility - the discovery of context’, OASE 76 (2008), page 35


Smithson A., Smithson P., the heroic period of modern architecture, New York, Rizzoli Internation publications, 1981’ page 13


Omayra Mingels, ‘Context-thinking’ the Smithsons’ - Omayra Mingels, 2014


Mingels, O., (2014, December 12), how architecture grows,], Acquired through https://www.

[10] Omayra Mingels, ‘How architecture grows’ - Omayra Mingels, 2014


Persistence and Flux The Core of Architecture Explored in the Digital Era Max van der Westerlaken


Very soon, our house might betray us, or

somehow exists an influence of this digital

Max van der Westerlaken is a Dutch student in

at least announce early bedtime in the

era on the architectural profession. How does

the master Architecture, Building and Planning

name of sustainability. Unless you pay

this influence exist and in what way might it

at the Eindhoven University of Technology. A

more, of course...

change our profession?

visit to the 2014 Venice Biennale di Architettura provided food for thought, which resulted in

- Rem Koolhaas, Elements (2014)

this essay about the current influence on the fundamentals of the architectural discipline.

The 2014 Biennale di Architettura in Venice, Fundamentals, was not – as previous biennales used to be – about architects or their current production of buildings. Instead, it was about history: the history of universal familiar elements and of the modernization of the built

“It is clear that we have surrendered to the comfort and benefits of the digital in our daily lives and cannot imagine a life without it anymore...”

environment and the architectural discipline.

Elements of Architecture

The research and exhibitions demonstrate

In order to answer this question, it is essential

how since the 1990s the digital era has

to explore the core of the architectural

become ubiquitous in our daily lives and

discipline. Looking at the very core of our

fundamentally changed our profession. The

profession would require abstracting it to its

digital era is characterized by technology and

essential, characteristic parts: its elements.

the increased speed and breadth of knowledge

Already in 1851, Gottfried Semper (1803-1879)

and data turnover within society. It can be

describes in his essay The Four Elements of

seen as the development of an evolutionary

Architecture how the essential, characteristic

system in which knowledge turnover is not

elements of the architectural profession and

only very high, but also increasingly out

fine arts can be distilled.2 He concludes that the

of the control of human beings or human

fine arts burst forth from the remnants of older,

interventions.1 It is clear that we have

indigenous and imported motives, divested of

surrendered to the comfort and benefits of the

their roots. Semper sees himself forced to go

digital in our daily lives (consider yourself for

back to primitive conditions to distinguish the

a moment...) and cannot imagine a life without

constituent parts of architecture.

it anymore. With architecture and the built environment providing the spaces in which

More than a century later, AMO (the research

our daily lives take place, this suggests there

counterpart of the Office for Metropolitan

Architecture, OMA), together with students of Harvard University

everything architects put together in a so-called ‘building’ is defined

Graduate School of Design, adopted the same approach to define the

by a small number of ancient categories: the ceiling, the window, the

elemental core of our profession in the 2014 Biennale’s main exhibition:

corridor, the floor, the balcony, the façade, the fireplace, the wall, the

‘Elements of Architecture’. A few years earlier, architecture researcher

toilet, the escalator, the elevator, the stair, the ramp, the roof and the door.

and professor Pierre von Meiss also used this same method of going back

It concludes that, while some of these elements have existed for over

to primitive conditions to define the elements of architecture. In 1990,

5,000 years and others were (re)invented yesterday, the number of these

he published his book Elements of Architecture, from Form to Place. This

elements stubbornly remains the same.4

essay compares both references regarding the influence of the digital era on the core of our profession.

Architecture Digitized? Both Von Meiss and Koolhaas come up with a set of elements every

Constituting Principles

architect will use or work with when designing a building. Although the

Out of the very broad set of references he deals with, Von Meiss distils the

approach in both writers’ research is the same – referring to Gottfried

themes he considers fundamental to architecture, reaching from visual

Semper – their attitude regarding the elements is completely different.

perception to spatial organization, from order to disorder, from city to

Koolhaas describes and investigates the elements of architecture on

object. Furthermore, he discusses space, place, measure and balance.

the scale of the fragments our buildings consist of. According to the

With this book he tries, from his perspective as a professor, to embrace

Oxford English Dictionary, we could call them components: ‘parts or

the whole field of architecture. Instead of a study of typical elements or

elements of a larger whole.’ Von Meiss, on the other hand, investigates

an in-depth analysis of several case studies, Von Meiss constitutes a set of

the fundamental elements in constituting our buildings. Again, the

general themes. He demonstrates the persistence of certain fundamental

Oxford English Dictionary provides a term for that; principles: ‘A general

principles of architecture in 5,000 years of history, his approach

scientific theorem or natural law that has numerous special applications

remaining pragmatic, but nonetheless critical and phenomenological.

across a wide field.’ As these men implicate, both components and

The demonstration with the variedly chosen examples bridges the gap

principles are fundamental to architecture. Their different attitudes,

between history and contemporary work.

however, appear rather interesting regarding the influence of the digital


era on the fundamental core of our profession.

Fundamental Components In the ‘Elements of Architecture’ exhibition and catalogue, every element is analysed from the beginning of time to the current moment. The exhibition brings together ancient, past, current and future versions of the elements in separate rooms that are each dedicated to one element. The research examines micro-narratives revealed by focussing on the scale of the fragment, the fundamentals of our buildings, used by any architect, anywhere, anytime. It shows that a surprising percentage of


OED Online. June 2004. Oxford University Press. 30 April 2007 <>.


Semper, G. (1851). The four elements of architecture and other writings. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Von Meiss, P., Frampton, K. & Oswald, F. (1990). Elements of architecture, from form to place. Edition 2011. London, New York: Routledge.


Koolhaas, R.L. (2014). Elements of Architecture, la biennale di architettura di Venezia 2014. Rotterdam: NAi booksellers.


“Of course many technical and mechanical inventions have played a role in this evolvement over history as well, but the influence of the digital era is strongly present...” Some of Koolhaas’s other components have been mute for thousands of years, which made them somehow trustworthy. Today, besides the ceiling, an increasing number evolved by the digital regime and started to collect information. The floor, façade, fireplace, wall and roof, for instance, have been ‘infiltrated’, so that they record inhabitants or outside

When entering the Central Pavilion in the Giardini della Biennale in

world’s data. The door may be the best example of how the digital era

Venice, the location of the ‘Elements of Architecture’ exhibition, the

influences the components of our profession. A traditional element

centrepiece of the exposition is immediately exposed. It consists of a

once invested with physical heft and iconography has turned into a

contemporary suspended ceiling – with the usually concealed ducts,

dematerialized zone, a gradual transition between conditions, which

electronics and machinery all exposed – hanging underneath a restored

is now registered by ephemeral technologies, such as detectors and

dome. This centrepiece shows how the ceiling evolved from a symbolic

scanners rather than physical barriers. Thus, the digital era transformed

plane, expressing beauty and meaning, to a thick volume of machinery,

the door into an element of utmost security, while paradoxically enough

often developed in far away laboratories and of which the architect has

its architectural application experiences aspirations for movement, flow

very little to say. Of course many technical and mechanical inventions

transparency and accessibility.

have played a role in this evolvement over history as well, but the influence of the digital era is strongly present here. In the case of the

A rather remarkable fact is the incorporation of the escalator and the

suspended ceiling, the desire for comfort, control and convenience made

elevator as elements of architecture. The escalator and elevator are the

the ceiling, as a component of architecture, a false, banal, uniform and

particular efficient symbols of the state of our global system, churning

modular surface.

with continuous dynamism. Therefore, they can be seen as the ‘most modern’ elements of the exhibition. In 1977, Charles Jencks published the Language of Postmodern Architecture, which focussed purely on the ‘traditional’ elements of architecture and ignored the more ‘modern’ elements like the elevator and escalator.6 They have never really been incorporated in either the ideology or the theory of architecture before, although they have become significantly important elements in our buildings nowadays. By incorporating these modern elements, Koolhaas states that architecture theory has not developed simultaneously with the evolution of the elements; it is lagging behind by at least two centuries. The principles of Von Meiss, on the contrary, are constant factors in architecture. This means that his set of elements does not change over time. As the word ‘constant’ infers, the digital era does not influence the constituting principles of our profession. Von Meiss explains this with a broad set of examples and references, often jumping through history. The best explanation of this minimal influence is probably given in the


chapter about space. Ancient treatises hardly talk directly about space.

Their theories bear more on the physical elements of the buildings than

of certain constant factors; the principles, with which our buildings are

on the hollow space they define. At the beginning of the nineteenth

constituted, remain constant over time.

century, the debate on architecture as ‘spatial art’ started to develop with historians such as Riegl, Wölfflin and Schmarzow. They shared the

What could this mean to the future of our discipline? Will our house

opinion that spatial composition is not, in the first place, a question of

indeed betray us like Koolhaas’s quote at the beginning of this essay


predicts? It is very likely that the digital era has only just begun to reveal some of its essences. According to Koolhaas, what is most insidious about

Although this debate started in the nineteenth century, Von Meiss shows

the digital regime is the fact that, once programmed and wired, there is

that the definition of space is a fundamental principle in architecture

no limit to quantity, duration and multiplication. The digital is essentially

at any time, no matter what era or influence is going on. Classic

robotic and therefore effortless, ‘beyond exhaustion’. What he is trying to

architecture, for example, intends to accentuate deep perspectives for

say by this is that the influence of this era is not likely to fade away in a

important interiors, urban squares and avenues when it comes to the

few decades. The fact that our lives have already fundamentally changed

constitution of space. Not only by it’s vanishing lines, but also by the

due to all benefits provided by the digital, supports his point of view.

profile of mouldings of the components constructing the space, which adds a gradient of texture. In the fifteenth century, Filippo Brunelleschi

How should we act upon this? The ‘Elements of Architecture’ exhibition

showed in his design for the Pazzi Chapel (Santa Croce, Florence)

aims to modernize the core of architecture and architectural thinking

that in the constitution of space the modulation of the floor, walls and

itself, because the discipline has not yet done so in order to adapt to

ceiling increase the density of the space by subdividing its depth. A few

changing times. As the components evolve, but the principles remain

centuries later, spatial constitution is taken to another level by modern

constant, the danger of architectural theory lagging behind is that we

architecture. Spatial continuity, even between interior and exterior space,

will be incapable of theorizing and thinking of the entire architectural

is achieved by continuous articulation of the floor, walls and ceiling. As

repertoire. Otherwise, like the example of the door shows, paradoxes

we can see, the components with which a spatial composition is created

might exist between the component and constituting principles of the

and (therefore) the space itself evolve over time. But the composition of

discipline. We have to maintain a critical spirit in order to constantly

space in architecture is always there and will always be there, no matter

modernize architectural thinking. Writing this essay made me, as a

what influence or era is taking place. The same goes for principles like

future architect, aware of this need and will definitely influence my

‘measure and balance’ and ‘order and disorder’, explained with many

thinking and future work.

more examples in different chapters.

“As we can see, the components with which a spatial composition is created and (therefore) the space itself evolve over time. But the composition of space in architecture is always there and will always be there, no matter what influence or era is taking place...” A Critical Mind towards the Future As we can conclude from the exhibition ‘Elements of Architecture’, the digital era influences the components of which our buildings consist. The components change, new ones are invented and some may disappear over time. However, Von Meiss proves that our discipline also consists


Jencks, C.A. (1977). The language of post-modern architecture. 6th edition, 1991. New York: Rizzoli.


Ceiling. Elements of Architecture. Image [photo: Sergio Pirrone] Retrieved from: http://archrecord.


Chance, Time and Teamplay 24 Hours of Self-Organizing Chaos Daniëlle Gras & Anneke Vervoort


At night, 04:10, sitting down with the film

would have to represent different disciplines;

On 14 and 15 October 2014, an unusual design


young and old; male and female. They would

experiment was carried out in the context of

“How are you doing?” – “Fine”

need working space, food and drink; finally

the exhibition ‘Tilburg ontwerp+Eindhoven

- “What are you doing?” – “We have an

pens, paper and cardboard, music and for

design’, which showcased the diversity of

idea and now we’re going to implement

the adherents of a couple of hours of sleep, a

Tilburg and Eindhoven design practices. Central


number of camp beds.

to the experiment was the question of what

- “What’s the idea?” – “We’ll start with

would happen if 13 enthusiastic designers from

a lovely baby and have it gradually

different disciplines were to be isolated in a

transform into a hamburger . . .”’

building for 24 hours with the aim of producing

“The participants would have no other goal than to conceive a ‘product’ within 24 hours...”

‘something’ in the broadest sense of the word.

Like many architects, Anneke Vervoort of

The group of designers’ only point of departure

Tilburg-based PANplus architecture is familiar

would be that after the experiment, a number

with design marathons: in a limited amount

of invitees would come to look at the ‘end

of time, a team of designers has to conceive a

What Might It Yield?

product’. The end result would perhaps also be

design on the basis of a specific assignment.

Anneke Vervoort: ‘I had no idea what the

included in the Designhuis exhibition during the

‘But what would happen if the goal that was to be

experiment might result in. A solution for

DDW 2014.

achieved was chiefly determined by the variety of

overpopulation or a new musical composition

disciplines and characters composing the team?

based on the brick positions of the Designhuis:

Would providing that much freedom yield an

anything was possible. However, I was sure that

interesting end result? How would the process

it would yield insights in the way people conceive

develop?,’ she wondered. There was only one

and develop ideas. How they divide tasks, manifest

way to find out. Just do it.

themselves and organize. I am interested in the way design processes work and wanted to go back to their

Points of Departure

most basic form to optimally facilitate creativity

The experiment would take place in the

(and chaos) during the process. I’m intrigued by

Designhuis in Eindhoven. The participants

the interaction between people during and after the

would have no other goal than to conceive

design process.’

a ‘product’ within 24 hours. What would that take? First, a group of people that could spare 24 hours of their time, people curious about an unpredictable experience and the role of chance. In addition, these makers

18:00 Launch

prior to the exhibition. ‘So much for our reset . . .’

People trickle in, a little late due to traffic jams and diversions. The

Product: disappointment, a growing visual report.

launch is not very sharply delineated – coffee, tea and an introduction.

Process: whole group.

The illustrator that will capture the entire process in a visual report sticks a piece of paper measuring approximately 1.5 x 2.5 m onto the wall and starts to draw.


The first fragmentation

This is somewhat daunting and the first steps towards group



fragmentation are taken. Doers get to work by themselves to further

Getting started

an individual creative experience, though willing to consider whether

We have to begin. Someone suggests having short brainstorm sessions

initiatives can be combined afterwards. Others take a more cautious

in twos to conceive fictitious companies and their business plan/


corporate philosophies. This works well and after an hour, each team

Product: individual design processes based on the central theme.

presents its idea. One story stands out.

Process: individual or small groups.

Product: the idea to reject contemporary society including all restricting rules: ‘We get off the grid and take a fresh look at the world.’

Process: whole group.

02:00 Individual fusion Overall, the group process is on the back burner. Some of the

21:00 Context

individually initiated processes come together. Some group members voice disappointment: is the project failing because some people are

At this stage, we would like to begin working together. This is what we

taking an individual approach? But things are also beginning to move,

come up with: the visitors of the exhibition should also have a reset-

because everybody can now do as they please. We’re going into the

like experience before they get to view the exhibition.


Product: the reset experience is combined with the context.

Product: two people are working on a reset film, people are working

Process: whole group.

on a table; on a large, three-dimensional object; people are thinking and writing.



Process: individuals are beginning to grow closer, some people seem Reset the building!

to find it quite hard to join in.

Inspired by the building we design new routing, new spaces. How can we reset the experience of this building? A separate cardboard entrance; something with cardboard and the prominently present (and


Nightly collaboration

absent) stairs. These ideas are axed owing to pragmatic considerations.

Some people have gone to sleep, the space is dark, cold and

In connection with fire safety, we would have to remove the cardboard

appears larger. Almost surreal, especially when you’re tired. The


in capturing this. Good to see that most people (those who want to) continue to actively explore possible connections.

Product: reset film, three-dimensional object with film projection, stair parts.

Process: two main groups and some individuals.


Action and relief

New ideas are consistent with the existing processes. Everyone is busy. At this stage, the atmosphere mostly resembles that of a normal day. filmmakers work on unperturbed, the writer listens to their humorous

The participants are being themselves. Nearly everyone seems to have


found a place for themselves and their disciplines.

Product: the film progresses. The three-dimensional object, an

Product: reset film, three-dimensional object with projection, the stair

arrangement of upright white cardboard panels, is positioned on the

parts that are being expanded, people conceiving the idea to create a

table. Someone thinks of using the object as a projection screen for a

herbal drink.

second film that directly refers to a previous, personal reset experience

Process: three subgroups.

of one of the participants.

Process: two main groups, some individuals and some sleepers.



The deadline approaches

Rush hour, required skills are activated in the right places.

Slow awakening

Product: local herbs are used to make lemonade concentrate at the

Gradually, participants wake up in every nook and cranny of the

last minute. People produce a digital template that will ensure that the

building and re-join the group. It’s like joining the traffic driving onto

projected images and text will fall precisely within the contours of the

the motorway: it takes time to get used to driving at a single speed.

projection screen. The stair parts are being mounted.

Product: the subprojects still have to come together. More work is

Process: three subgroups.

done on the building by an animated individual who adds separate stair parts.

Process: two main groups and some individuals.


Finishing touches

Product: someone writes a text that could perhaps be read at the

09:00 Concern There’s a short period of concern. The deadline approaches and doubt

opening of the exhibition. The last of the stair parts are mounted, things are tidied up a bit.

Process: one group

strikes. Will this be a group effort; have I had sufficient opportunity to contribute? More personal stories come out; some disciplines seem to get overlooked. People are feverishly looking for solutions.


The end

Product: reset film, table and three-dimensional object progresses;

The experiment is officially over. The atmosphere is genuinely cheerful

projection film progresses, the visual report is expanding further.

and we are pleased with what we’ve accomplished.

Process: two main groups and some individuals.

Product: a film, a fragmented projection object, a film with text projected upon the object, by extension, a table with designer food



from the surrounding area and a number of stair parts that are literally

Visual reflection

It remains difficult for some to connect. The visual report succeeds

linked directly to the building. A single drawing that is a visual report of the whole experiment.

The Results Described in Greater Detail The film Reset Call: A huge amount of images from the Internet edited into a stop motion film. Occasionally a discernible word of text flashes by. The inventor of the main theme, ‘Out of the Grid’, is one of the two makers of the film. Using the technical knowledge of a third participant, Reset Call has become a confrontational animation about sustainability: What are we doing to the planet, what are we feeding our children? 1 A projection screen on a table and a film with a short text: The screen consists of a three-dimensional object made of pieces of white cardboard. This section follows the other project components: it serves to carry the main


theme. Here, several ideas have come together. A table has been built; a cardboard object made; a text written. A fourth participant had brought a personal film that had a special ‘out-of-the-grid’ meaning to him. The digital template that ensures that the film with text is projected exactly onto the cardboard object and not on the wall behind it is a technical tour de force. Local food: Here, the ‘Out of the Grid’-theme – the idea of the ‘prep’-bag that was part of the business plan from the brainstorming phase – has been implemented literally. Leave the system, society, the grid and find your own food. The product consists of lemonade from a concentrate made from plants growing in the immediate vicinity of the building


(mint, rose hip and so on). The lemonade is ready-made, presented in cups on the table, for the visitors of the exhibition. The herbs used to prepare the concentrate are shown in wooden frames next to the cups. This subproject was realized in the last few hours of the experiment. The stair parts represent the theme ‘Out of the Grid’ in relation to the building: its striking features have been further magnified. The cardboard stair parts are meticulously made and give the illusion of a continuation of the stairs, to scale. Impossible structures that end in a vacuum. Some stair parts are accessible (passable), others are out of reach (mounted on a higher floor, suspended in a void). The project was initiated by a one of the participants and implemented with the support of other participants.


The visual report shows the entire process we have gone through. With the participants, which each have the symbol of a chemical element assigned


The film Reset Call and stills of the experiment can be accessed at:

the group, the night, the coming together of the different products and


Final design result projection screen [photo by Anneke Vervoort] 2014

the final sprint to the presentation.


Final design result local food [photo by Anneke Vervoort] 2014


Final design result stairs [photo by Anneke Vervoort] 2014

to them. The introduction, the phase of confusion, the fragmentation of


What Did It Yield?

wonder whether the experiment would have been more satisfactory had

A 24-hour marathon design is by definition a step out of one’s comfort

it been more guided, or taken place in a clearer context.

zone. The fact that this experiment gave complete freedom made that step significantly bigger. Add to that the constant awareness of group processes and individual processes. A creative process involves moments of making, reflecting, despair, exchange and consideration. In a group process, these moments sometimes coincide, but just as often they don’t. This kind of laissez faire requires surrender and confidence in one’s own abilities and pace, and one’s position in the whole.

“...due to the experimental nature of the gathering, failure is not a problem. That’s precisely what yields the most interesting insights...” According to Anneke Vervoort, the next edition will be more contextualized to better guide the group process, but the formula

The experience, inquiry among the participants teaches, has yielded self-

involving the absence of a specific design brief and barely any external

knowledge about their own performance within a group and about the

control will remain intact: the group remains at the mercy of itself. And

use of their own discipline within a multidisciplinary project.

due to the experimental nature of the gathering, failure is not a problem.

“A creative process involves moments of making, reflecting, despair, exchange and consideration. In a group process, these moments sometimes coincide, but just as often they don’t...” Finally, it is interesting that a kind of small economy developed within the group. There were thinkers, doers, supporters, and so on. Skills are attributed a value and are used specifically. There were people who could easily get things going again and enthuse people or even save things by fast action just before the deadline.

Conclusion ‘It’s always good to try working within the framework of a design marathon by way of “pressure cooker for design”. ‘Under pressure, everything becomes liquid,’ says Jan Doms, organizer of the exhibition and co-organizer/ participant in the experiment. Most participants concur with this. Some

That’s precisely what yields the most interesting insights.

History as an Intentional or Unintentional Counter Model An interview with dr. Herman van Bergeijk Margit van Schaik


6th of January 2015, Dr. Herman van

carries fewer memories. History as a model for

Bergeijk’s class on Manfredo Tafuri sent a

the future has already served its turn.1 That’s

historian and writer. He studied in both

clear message. The influence of theorists isn’t

a good thing, for the past is far less certain

Groningen and Venice, has been teaching in

always all that desirable or justified. The use

than we want to admit and therefore it has

different countries and now works for the

of history and theory to impress or inspire isn’t

no use or value as a dependable model. The

architecture department of Delft University

necessarily a good thing: in many cases it can

past is constantly being changed and adjusted

of Technology. In January 2015, he was a guest

even be seen as misuse, to justify the design. In

from the present. Pieces of it are removed or

lecturer in ‘Architectural Theory’ at Eindhoven

the shape of an interview, Bergeijk explains his

disappear from view while there is no univocal

University of Technology and talked about the

perspectives at length.

reason why they would. Creases are ironed out

Background: Dr. Herman van Bergeijk is an architecture

and adjusted to whatever people think they

various interpretations of theories written by the mid-nineteenth century Italian architecture

What do you think is happening in the

have to say at a certain historical place and

historian Manfredo Tafuri.

fields of architecture history and general

time. The violent denial of history – similar to

history? How would you describe your

the denial of negative events or experiences

discontent with them?

from history – has led to monstrosities and deformities that may be ushered into the

The place and importance of history within

city triumphantly under the banner of ‘new

the curriculum of architecture students has

urbanism’ today.

changed quite a bit over the last 20 years.


On the use of models in historical science, see Kees Bertels and Doede Nauta, Inleiding tot het modelbegrip (Amsterdam,1974), 86-89. On the use of models in architecture, especially the most recent, see Antonino Saggio, ‘Modello’, in: A. Saggio, Introduzione alla rivoluzione informatica in architettura (Rome, 2007), 78-90. On the use of models as design tools, see Christian Gänshirt, ‘The Model’, in: Chr. Gänshirt, Tools for Ideas. An Introduction to Architectural Design (Basel/Boston/Berlin, 2007), 149-159. In recent years, a lot has been written on models that is hardly worth reading. However Rassegna magazine number 32 from 1987 (‘Maquette’) is a useful introduction.

It’s common knowledge that no one is really

On the whole, architects respectfully talking

restrained by their history, but those who

about history usually amounts to their brutally

don’t know their history have no past. History

and unintentionally assaulting it. This is

is merely more or less useless baggage that

undoubtedly part and parcel of the profession.

restricts our freedom to develop. This may

Architecture and science make a troubled pair,

sound extreme, but there is undoubtedly an

especially since 1900. The one has to support

element of truth in it. And even more than

the other, which has distorted the relationship.

that. We may well wonder why anyone would

Again and again, the almost proverbial

attempt to present themselves as a tabula rasa

short-sightedness of architects results in the

and deny their own memory in the process. The

operationalization of the now and the then on

more the future explodes, the more the sense

behalf of visions of a future. The urge to update

of the past seems to implode. Nevertheless, it’s

everything prevails. Personal memories and

also a fact that ultimately, everyone cares about

forced interpretations are more important

the past. The future remains less certain and

than the philological study of historical facts.


Fantasy and history do not go well together,

Kubler wanted to draw attention to the things

whom various ‘religions’ see as the pope of

however. And yet, architects often present

themselves. By now, history has taught us that

architecture history, theory and criticism.

themselves as amateur historians. They need

we always need more heroes. They are the

But the subversive and disruptive character

history – as Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in

role models that help us get our bearings and

of Tafuri’s studies is hardly recognized.

Jenseits von Gut und Böse – for their costume

guarantee future consumption.

In the Netherlands and the USA, Tafuri is

storeroom. Architects expect historians to legitimize or affirm their work. Things get even worse when historians get involved in designing because they believe they somehow need to take some responsibility. This often results in transdisciplinary studies that are neither here nor there, yet find appreciation in official circles. History as a construction knows or knew

“By now, history has taught us that we always need more heroes. They are the role models that help us get our bearings and guarantee future consumption...”

misunderstood the most by a group of pseudoleftist intellectuals who thought they could administer his ideas, but were poor judges of the kind of complications Tafuri was dealing with.4 His architecture criticism was separated from his historiographic interest (naturally, Tafuri knew Kubler’s book) and celebrated as exemplary, but nobody could follow him and explain what was specific to his method. Frampton (to some extent), Hays and more

various laws and guidelines. Witness the

How do the misinterpretations of Tafuri’s

recently Vidler are wholly or partly exponents

many historiographical studies, an abundance

texts fit into this picture?

of a typically American machinery for the processing of Tafuri and other European

of which have been debated for centuries. One of them was: go back to the source, to

Until postmodernism destroyed the balance,

celebrities, but the element of crisis that Tafuri

the original material. This healthy principle

architecture history was characterized by

himself incorporated and reformulated again

was often abandoned in the 1960s and 1970s.



and again totally escapes them.5 Their use of

The debate was dominated by the fascination

methodology and ideology. The collapse of the

Tafuri – as a model – was accompanied by a

for methodical and methodological issues on

grand narrative was announced... and the time

dash for ‘intellectual’ power in a country where

the one hand and supported by ideological

of the even greater narratives commenced.

in the eyes of many, the status of an intellectual

positions on the other. In art history, George

Perhaps with different accents, as Richard

is no higher than that of a McDonalds’

Kubler’s The Shape of Time rocked the boat.

Kearney argues, or from plural perspectives.3

employee. Though they are prospering, their

The writer tried to come to terms with the way

In that respect, postmodernism is completely

positions are – in a completely different way

art history classified itself. Time and change

in line with modernism; both illustrate the

than Trafuri’s – tragic and traumatic.6 They are

were central to his study, which is still worth

same mentality. We talk and therefore we are:

also less involved in resource analysis, they just

reading.2 Kubler’s provocation amounted to

it’s true now more than ever. In retrospettivo,

love to come up with new interpretations and

his offering an alternative for a history on the

one of the biggest casualties was and is the

insights and they are much more dependent on

basis of a chronological sequence of ‘heroes’.

Italian architecture historian Manfredo Tafuri,

the information drip that is the Internet.



Many people still think Tafuri too politically

Crucial of course is that the extraordinary

history, we must also realize that we have to

explicit – the fact that he was exploring what

narrativity of Tafuri is unique and personal

continue to question both ourselves and the

actually constitutes the contemporary polis

and that he went out of his way to emphasize

reliability of the historical material available to

and what the role of architects, planners and

the complexity of history and the fact that the

us and that we have to refrain from any kind of

urban designers in the social system is and can

sources conveyed mixed messages. ‘Things

schematic processing. This doesn’t imply that

be eludes them. It’s the only perspective that

aren’t as simple as they seem’ was a motto

we can only address an architecture history

makes his studies on Alberti, Giulio Romano,

close to his heart.

à la dérive, but rather that we will have to





acknowledge that the power of history over

understandable. However, these are seen as

This is one of the reasons why Tafuri cannot

us is greater than we think and that every

less provocative than his book Progetto e Utopia

be counted among the narrative historians:

theoretical statement will be incorporated by

(Design and Utopia), in which he denounces

his writing style is too rich, to emotionally

time and therefore by history, its as yet unclear

the architecture of twentieth-century capitalist

charged and too concentrated. He wants to

society. It should be noted that precisely these

create rifts. Narrativity determines the delicate

studies haven’t been held up to the light in

balance of ‘storytelling’ and discovering,

a critical manner yet. Those who have the

dissecting an analysing facts. It separates the

knowledge to do so lack the necessary courage

subjective from the more objective approach

and don’t see the need for it. All Tafuri’s texts

and shifts the emphasis from ‘me-time’ to

are cryptic, which makes linear interpretation

history as a bigger occasion with a longer

difficult at least. Rather than having a

duration. Narrativity can compensate for a

beginning and an end, they’re cyclical. He’s

lack of topicality; however this shouldn’t be

been pulling out all the stops to increase their

necessary in the case of scientific contributions.


Nevertheless, architecture history as the art of





storytelling is increasingly valued.8 The stories

‘monographic’ interpretations from the very

get more and more exciting and tailored to

beginning of his career. Tafuri had an eye for

‘effectiveness’, which increases their market

both the big picture and the small details. As

value. We are making ever stronger appeals

far as he was concerned these were mutually

to history to help us get to know the time we

competitive, yet had equal rights to exist. A

live in: that’s food for thought and betrays the

detail could be the key to a world and a world

uneasiness we live with. There are currently

could provide clues for finding a key. This

too many problems and too many definitions

aspect is deserving of deeper analysis, which

of problems. If we acknowledge that we work

has never been carried out.

with history and are simultaneously part of






For the discussion, see George Kubler, ‘The Shape of Time Reconsidered’, Perspecta. The Yale Architectural Journal 19 (1982), 112-121.


See Richard Kearney, On stories (London/New York, 2002), 141ff.


For a more positive view, see Diane Y. Ghirardo, ‘Manfredo Tafuri and Architectural Theory in the US, 1970-2000’, Perspecta 33 (2002), 38-47.


A possible exception being Hélène Lipstadt and Harvey Mendelsohn, ‘Philosophy, History and Autobiography: Manfredo Tafuri and the “unsurpassed Lesson” of Le Corbusier’, Assemblage 22 (1994), 59-103. They also focus on the Tafuri of the 1980s.


For an attempt to see the influence of thinkers such as Derrida, Lyotard, Deleuze and Guattari in a different light and save, as it were, their critical content so it won’t lead to ‘escapism, blindness, or endless deferral’, see Sande Cohen, History Out of Joint. Essays on the Use and Abuse of History (Baltimore, 2005). However, Cohen is too much of an active player in the game. His book is a biased response to Keith Windschuttle, The Killing of History. How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past (New York/London, 1997). Cohen, an expert in French theory, falls into the pit he has dug and continues to cling to ‘schematic’ thinking that is separate from the object.


See with regard to the crucial problem of narrativity, initially: Jörn Rüsen, ‘Narrativität und Modernität in der Geschichtswissenschaft’, in: Pietro Rossi (ed.), Theorie der modernen Geschichtsschreibung (Frankfurt am Main,1987), 230-237.


See, for instance D.Arnold e.a., Rethinking Architectural Historiography (London/New York, 2006), xvi.


narrative style.11 And neither do we believe

politically engaged and historically oriented

in the usefulness of ‘processing’ most recent

Tafuris didn’t mesh. He was quite aware of

history. History is a reflective discipline that

this. Over the years, his interest in politics

cannot and must not have an explicit goal and

waned, perhaps because he was disappointed

that cannot underpin the present. It is time to

in it, and he increasingly focused on historical

read Tafuri from the perspective he revealed in

research, on the building of bridges between

his last books, which emphasized his work as

superficially divergent matters. Overall, he

a historian rather than a spectator of his own

considered his work that of a detective, of a

time. This avoids a dogmatic interpretation

Sherlock Holmes, trying to solve mysteries

of Tafuri and turns the usual interpretations

on the basis of small, seemingly insignificant

purposes assessed. We must remain critical of


clues. The history of mentality was a point of

our own actions.

‘interpretations’ have been operational by

“If we acknowledge that we work with history and are simultaneously part of history, we must also realize that we have to continue to question both ourselves and the reliability of the historical material available to us and that we have to refrain from any kind of schematic processing...”







nature. No-one has ever explored the reasons why his insights changed. This also explains why attention has been fixed on Tafuri’s works of contemporary criticism, which usually don’t attach much value to the creation of a broader context in which things are being interpreted and words are being said. Tafuri’s reputation


“The dissection of history merely served to explain its various viewpoints and complexity....”

as a leftist or even Marxist critic and historian

The book La sfera e il labirinto (The Sphere

has stood in the way of a proper appraisal.

and the Labyrinth) marks the shift in Tafuri’s

Only a dogmatist would highlight this political

interests. The obvious rift between the

and hardly professional moment of the Italian

‘contemporary’ Tafuri and the ‘historical’ Tafuri

architecture historian. Tafuri himself was not

is fundamental. The context in which this took

a proponent of any kind of dogma. He never

place has to be explored and historicized. This

committed to a specific methodology: to

requires more than a sociological or purely

connect the facts, he used everything that came

architecture-theoretical perspective. Chiefly, it

in handy.

requires historiographic precision. More than

Many of Tafuri’s words are lost on architects and

ever, Tafuri realized that he was under threat of

architecture critics. They need something solid

An important point was that Tafuri turned

being instrumentalized by architects fascinated

to guide them as they scrutinize the present

against ‘operative criticism’, which is currently

by his way of looking. The superficiality with

and use what looks interesting. However,

being questioned. He opposed the direct,

which he was read had nothing to do with

reading his more historiographic texts can



the thorough study of history anymore. In

provide bearing and enlightenment to those

history; he found the use of history in design

this light, his explosive 1968 book Teorie e

looking for a way out of the unilateral, future-

practices an abomination. He was averse to

storia dell’architettura (Theories and History

oriented education of the architect, and put its

developing particular visions of the future on

of Architecture) also gains a surplus value,

enormous pretensions into perspective. The

the basis of his own research. The dissection

which was and is hardly noticed.12 In his last

many recent Tafuri studies seem to confirm

of history merely served to explain its various

book, Ricerca del rinascimento: Principi, città,

this, even though the focus is once more on

viewpoints and complexity. This did harbour


his ideas on twentieth-century architecture.

a certain contradiction, for Tafuri did see

Princes, Cities, Architecture), Tafuri warned

This doesn’t mean we contemplate a revival of

himself as a ‘left-wing’ historian who wanted

us that it is not up to history to mend what is

Tafuri’s historiography or his specific, cryptic

to contribute to social change. However, the

broken or identify with victors and heroes,13









but to report on the shock waves of exploding

A first, but important step towards a more

knowledge. Some people find this hard to

comprehensive and insightful perspective


on Tafuri is taken by Carla Keyvanian. She rightly notes, at the end of her fascinating

Was Tafuri influential in areas other than

article: ‘. . . returning to a more careful reading

architecture history and theory?

of his writings might help us to construct a frame of reference, useful in understanding

I wouldn’t like to say. It wasn’t his goal,

his work and its significance, in light of the

even though he was interested in more than

various labels that have been heaped on him

architectonic objects or existing studies on

(Marxist, nihilist, etc.).’18 Unfortunately, as

architecture. But he never lost sight of the

many ‘studies’ show, her advice is largely

fact that the study of architecture was the

ignored and the perspective of Tafuri mostly

point of departure. His historiographic eye

narrowed by fashionable questions. Both the

had been sharpened by a comprehensive yet

knowledge and will are lacking. Perhaps we

professional study so that he could unravel

should ask ourselves whether architects, as



she optimistically thinks, still benefit from

reconstruction with zest. From the very

reading Tafuri at all. The gap between doing

beginning of his career, he illustrated how

and thinking cannot be filled by all the words

history, religion, philosophy and architecture

in the world.











problems and issues of an era. Unfortunately, 14

this aspect is little addressed in the latest Italian reflections on Tafuri, most of them by friends and coworkers.15 His knowledge of theology, for instance, goes unnoticed. Sadly, most contributions aren’t more than reverent and subjective contributions that hardly add any profile to the image of Tafuri and don’t address the way he confronted fields of knowledge.16 At the Tafuri conference in 2006, not much was said about the influence of the Italian historian outside the architecture scene. Jon Goodbun mentioned this in the magazine Radical





entirely ignored by the event, however, were questions concerning Tafuriʼs reception in bodies of thought not entirely situated within architectural culture – a reception marked in Radical Philosophy by recent contributions from David Cunningham and Gail Day.’17


Notably, Andrew Leach also tries to update and operationalize Tafuri in an article by scrutinizing his work from the 1980s. This means he both ignores the position Tafuri himself will later occupy with respect to his previous work and once again emphasizes the Marxist background of the Italian historian. Leach fails in his duty towards Tafuri when he portrays him as a historian who wants to enter into a dialogue with architects. See Andrew Leach, ‘The Conditional Autonomy of Tafuri’s Historian’ in: OASE 69 (2006), 14-29. A complicated operationalization of Tafuri, which we won’t discuss here, can be found in Felicity D. Scott, Architecture or Techno-utopia. Politics after Modernism (Cambridge, MA/London, 2007).

[10] We don’t mean his provocative study Progetto e utopia, but Manfredo Tafuri, ‘Architettura e storiografia: una proposta di metodo’, Arte Veneta (1975), 276-282; the enigmatic and turbulent ‘Il “progetto” storico’, first published in Casabella 429 (1977), 11-18, which was meant to clarify a previous contribution to Casabella 423 (1977); however especially the introduction to his books about the Renaissance since 1983. That the pretensions of architects are still excessive in the ‘post-ideological era’ needs no clarification; architects see themselves as ‘global players’ capable of creating identity. The sociological focus of the 1960s and 1970s has been replaced by a philosophical focus. Architecture is no longer explained by outsiders, but is supposed to explain itself. Phenomenology has replaced statistics. Architects’ delusions of grandeur and political urges are humorously censured in Jörg Mauthe, Der Weltuntergang zu Wien und wie man ihn überlebt (Vienna, 1989), especially 124-127. [11] Although it was a relief that Tafuri rarely used the word ‘critical’. This in contrast with many ‘theorists’ that can’t stop using the word ‘critical’ and, partly mistakenly, rely on the ‘Kritische Theorie’ of the Frankfurter Schule. By now, the word ‘critical’ is so devalued in the Anglo-Saxon world that the word ‘criticability’ was recently introduced to salvage something at least. [12] It is remarkable that though the importance of this book has been recognized – there have been several translations – its resonance remains negligible. However, today’s architecture theorists – who have no sense of time and place – have counted Tafuri among themselves: probably on the basis of the title. [13] The fact that the English translation of this book had an introduction by Michael Hays is a both ironic and outrageous sign of the universal power of the American theoretical discipline. Though Hays is interested in the narrative characteristics of theoretical writing, he lacks Tafuri’s profundity. He’s like a cook that only heats up TV dinners and certainly doesn’t know the first thing about the Renaissance. [14] A case in point is, for instance M. Tafuri, ‘L’ambiguità del Guarini’, 5-18. [15] See O. di Marino, Manfredo Tafuri. Oltre la storia (Naples, 2009). This book contains contributions by M. Cacciari, F. Dal Co, M. Morresi, T. Stoppani, M. Biraghi and others. [16] Tafuri recently received ample attention in the American magazine Log, however here, too, the contributions get stuck in superficial contextualization, see for instance Pier Vittorio Aureli in his sketchy text ‘Recontextualizing Tafuri’s Critique of Ideology’, Log 18 (2010). The text focuses on Tafuri’s idea of ‘intellectual work’ and discusses the work of ‘leftist’ intellectuals like Tronti, Fortini and others. [17] See John Goodbun, ‘2006 The Assassin: The Critical Legacies of Manfredo Tafuri’, Radical Philosophy 138 (July/August 2006),, first published in Radical Philosophy (July-August 2006), 62-64. [18] C. Keyvanian, ‘From the Critique of Ideology to Microhistories’, Design Issues 1 (2000), 15.


The Nexus of Research and Design; the OMA Approach An interview with Chris van Duijn Teije Hartman & Paul Kersten


Nowadays, it is difficult to think about

these two commissions differ in nearly every

Chris van Duijn is one of ten partners at the

influence and inspiration without considering

possible aspect. Their scale, location, function

Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). Van

some of the world’s leading global practices.

and client seem to have nothing in common,

Duijn, based in Rotterdam, joined OMA in

In the context of understanding the correlation

and in that sense it is interesting to see how the

2000 and holds a Master of Architecture from

between the two, one globally-oriented office

inspiration for one could be derived from the

the University of Technology Delft. During his

tends to stand out; one that has excelled in its


many years at OMA van Duijn has worked

efforts to fluctuate between what influences

on projects such as Universal studio’s, several

and what inspires them to the extent of setting

‘It’s not our usual way of designing,’ Van Duijn

Prada stores, Casa da Musica in Porto and

up a complete corporate counterpart that

emphasizes in an interview with our editors,

China’s CCTV headquarters. During the 2014

specializes in research. Indeed, we are referring

‘but most of our projects do tend to capture

Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven van Duijn

to OMA and its renowned research counterpart

some sort of an invention or discovery that

held a lecture on Architectural accoustics at

AMO that emerged from the office in the

intrigues us. Over time, we try to elaborate

the Eindhoven Music Hall, in which our editorial

late 1990s. Celebrating its fortieth birthday

these findings. Not in every case, and not on

board discovered an understanding on the

this year, OMA has evolved into a well-oiled

every occasion, but only when we acquire

connection between influence and inspiration.

machine employing about 350 people that

evolution by bringing relevant ideas to the

adheres to its research-based design methods

next level.’ In the case of Casa da Musica in

to the tiniest detail. Archiprint was happy to be

Porto and the Y2K house in Rotterdam, this

welcomed at OMA’s Rotterdam office, and had

finding occurred in the form of a scheme. The

the opportunity to interview Chris van Duijn,

Y2K house dealt with an overly orderly client

who was promoted to the position of partner

who requested a design of strictly ordered

in September 2014.

space in which his family could live together, as well as apart. This resulted in what OMA

During Van Duijn’s lecture in the Eindhoven

describes as ‘a house where everything that

Music Hall in the middle of October 2014,

is necessary in a house (kitchen, bathroom,

some aspects of the phenomena of influence

etc) surrounds a single space, resulting in a

and inspiration seemingly came together. Van

tunnel-like design with a central space where

Duijn explained how the requirements of the

the family could get together if and when they

design brief for Casa da Musica in Porto led the

wanted to’.1 Y2K was never built, but the main

architects on the team to be inspired by their

discovery of the project was revived during

findings from an earlier residential project in

the design competition for Casa da Musica.

Rotterdam. A remarkable course of design,

Looking back on the evolution of this idea Van

as from a generally rational point of view

Duijn concludes that: ‘It was at least rather

consistent. At a certain moment we became aware that this clean living room surrounded by necessary functions is quite comparable to what we tried to achieve with the concert hall.’ Ironically, the connection between the commissions did not rely on a similarity of rational context, but on how OMA’s hyper-rational approach translated this context into similar disciplinary aspirations. Van Duijn seems to refer to these aspirations as the ‘main theme’ of the commission. ‘In the most basic and general sense,’ he explains, ‘commissions are never that different from each other. There is always


a client, always a location and always a programme. Designing and building the requested amount of weatherproof floor space is not that hard to achieve.’ Clearly, OMA aims for higher goals in its architecture.

“Most of our projects do tend to capture some sort of an invention or discovery that intrigues us. Over time, we try to elaborate these findings. Not in every case, and not on every occasion, but only when we acquire evolution by bringing relevant ideas to the next level...”


Around the time Van Duijn joined OMA, the office started its long (and still ongoing) collaboration with Prada. In 2000, the Italian luxury brand commissioned OMA to research proposals for three new stores in New


Werlemann, H. (1998, January 1). Y2K HOUSE, NETHERLANDS, ROTTERDAM, 1998; a Private Residence. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from


Prada store New York by OMA [photo: image courtesy of OMA]


Prada store Los Angeles by OMA [photo by Phil Meech, image courtesy of OMA]


Prada store San Francisco by OMA [photo: image courtesy of OMA]



USA, and discovered most of them approach the theme of flexibility as the designing of space that can function as anything. Most of them even use the same grid. Everything becomes the same and hence this kind of flexibility loses its value. We questioned whether this kind of solution can even be perceived as truly flexible. It became our main theme, and the dilemma to solve. As a result, we ended up using a tiny detail in the numeric book regulation system.’ Here, Van Duijn refers to the US library numeric ordination. Books are numbered 000 to 999, and for growing collections, books on the same topic are found in different sections. ‘Fair and well when initiated,’ Van Duijn argues, ‘but a system like that tends to evolve over time. It either grows or shrinks out of its own logic, and the space that is reserved for it.’ As a solution to that specific type of desired

York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. For this brief, rather than being

flexibility, OMA invented ‘the Book Spiral’, which is a continuous ramp

just one of the commissions’ traditional force fields, the three locations

of shelving through the middle section of the building that, as OMA

became the origin for OMA/AMO’s research. ‘Location, of course, can

describes it: ‘forms a co-existence between categories that approaches the

comprise specific preconditions of the plot, the city or even the country,

organic: each evolves relative to the others, occupying more or less space

but it can also consider the cultural contexts of that location. That is why

on the Spiral, but never forcing the ruptures within sections that bedevil

we have approached these commissions individually and why each

traditional library plans.’ 5

of the three designs responds to the characteristics of the city where it is built. In New York, for instance, we designed what we think of as a representation of the easy, approachable character of the city, as the curve in the floor either functions as a pedestal for mannequins and shoes during the day, or as a podium for fashion shows at night. In Los Angeles we designed ceremonial stairs with a far more Hollywood-like theatrical

“So before finding the solution to a dilemma, OMA makes it its priority to discover the right dilemma to actually respond to...”

experience to them and a roof terrace with a glass roof to respond to the

However, architecture as a profession is highly reliant on its ongoing

local weather. And San Francisco was the most urban project of the three,

polemic in numerous disciplines. Finding the right dilemma within

but sadly was not built.’

a commission is no humdrum task. ‘Sometimes, the most potential is hidden within a popular “side-theme”. It may seem like there is not

So before finding the solution to a dilemma, OMA makes it its priority to

much to contribute anymore, but in fact it just needs better research. If

discover the right dilemma to actually respond to. ‘The right inducements

you think about a popular theme like the modern-day workplace for

need to be defined,’ Van Duijn resumes. ‘You need to develop the

instance, a myth that exists is that there are a lot of developments and

capability of sensing the right dilemma. The hard thing is, it can be in

changes taking place. Numerous researches are conducted, initiated by

the tiniest detail.’ In 1998, for instance, when OMA was commissioned

corporate stakeholders, from architects to real-estate and IT consultants.

to design the new Seattle Central Library, scepticism prevailed on the

Mostly they use case studies as their methodology. Of course all of them

right of this building typology to even exist. ‘Today, nearly everything

pick from the same projects and surprisingly they are usually projects

can be reached through the Internet, and we couldn’t be sure whether

finished within the last two to three years. There is a serious lack of

book collections would grow or shrink over time,’ Van Duijn explains.

awareness of the typologies that really have been ground-breaking

‘It imposed the theme of flexibility. And though that doesn’t seem like

throughout history. That is something which isn’t referenced anymore

a very sexy theme, once researching it, we could not help but notice

and as a result we are stuck in a conversation about a large list of clichés,

that a somewhat generic perception of modern flexibility prevails in

such as “the workplace has changed” and “the current offices are boring”.

our discipline. We felt flexibility should be case-specific. To learn more,

Nine out of ten boxes these researches tick are the same. They repeat

we decided to visit the ten biggest, most recently built libraries in the

each other. So what is new then? As a result, our clients have a desire for

“the new future workplace”. So we ask them: What exactly is that new

York, Beijing, Hong Kong, Doha and Dubai and has, on average, between

future workplace? Through conversation we try to select the appropriate

30 and 40 different nationalities working for it. ‘We consciously attempt

typology. We attempt to work with those elements within the brief that

never to have a majority of one nationality working on one project,’

are specific and to find the right balance with the generic elements of the

Van Duijn explains. ‘We long for this kind of interaction, in order to

project. We are influenced by the programme, but our procedure is to

shed local conventions. To guarantee a combination of both local and

place the programme in a wider context.’

global. To achieve a sort of balance in autonomy. That is also why we do not operate as the classic architect who puts a final sketch on paper.

It is common knowledge that this research-based design is what has

We need sufficient know-how within our contexts, which is why we try

put OMA on the map as a world-leading architecture office, but in

to bring together interests and curiosity by acquiring the right experts

the context of the phenomena ‘influence’ and ‘inspiration’, it seems

early on in the design and research processes. This kind of openness

that OMA possesses the Rosetta Stone for translating one into the

and cooperation is what we stand for.’ And then of course there is the

other. ‘Only the methods of our design and research processes can be

influential and inspiring personality of the founding partner, who has

considered generic for our projects,’ Van Duijn explains. ‘We begin by

been involved in most of the office’s projects during its 40-year existence.

putting aside the traditional aspects of client, location and programme

Van Duijn describes Rem Koolhaas as an embodiment of most of OMA’s

for a while. By doing so, we take a step back in order to define the

and AMO’s projects and their findings. ‘All our desired diversity in the

essence of it all. The main question then becomes: What is the project

office comes together in one person. He is an incredibly valuable, uniting

really about? We strongly value the research that we do in the context of

force in the office that brings together many of the themes and solutions

that question. It reminds us to be critical within our disciplinary bubble

that we work on.’

and to ask ourselves as architects whether we still have a clue of what our architecture is really about. In answering that, we allow ourselves to

OMA’s approach inextricably links design and research, no matter the

discover what we find significant. Without this basic fundament, there

complexity or circumstances. As seen in the relation between the Y2K

is nothing we can respond to. Research can be done for each and every

house and Casa da Musica, the knowledge gained by both OMA and

project individually, but at a certain point you start to notice significant

AMO is subjected to an ongoing evolution, stimulated but never limited

similarities between the different researches. It creates a sort of database

by different projects. As in the case with the Prada commissions, rational

of valuable ideas and findings. That is why we established AMO. To

contexts are used as generators for inspiration. The hidden dilemmas

give both architecture and research their own dynamics, yet to generate

within this rationality, such as the theme of flexibility at the Seattle

input and inspiration for each other.’ While OMA practices within

Central Library, when revealed, can function as inspiration. Moreover,

the traditional field of architecture, AMO works in areas beyond that

rather than responding to the obvious within architecture’s chaotic

traditional boundary, such as media, culture, energy, policy and fashion.

polemics, OMA finds inspiration by taking a step back and elaborate

“The main question then becomes: What is the project really about? We strongly value the research that we do in the context of that question. It reminds us to be critical within our disciplinary bubble and to ask ourselves as architects whether we still have a clue of what our architecture is really about...” It is not only AMO that helps the office bridge the gap between influence and inspiration. The firm is currently represented in Rotterdam, New

on less defined issues, for instance within the research on the modernday workplace. ‘Our solutions are always specific. They’re different for each and every commission. It is always the hidden contexts within the traditional force fields of architecture that have to be discovered and revealed.’ Evidently, this is a clear representation of how the phenomena of influence and inspiration are linked, as far as they can even be perceived as individual phenomena within the discipline of architecture. The one, it seems, cannot exist without the other. ‘Both have their own dynamics,’ Van Duijn concludes. ‘OMA influences and inspires AMO, and vice versa...’ [5]

OMA. (n.d.). SEATTLE CENTRAL LIBRARY, USA, SEATTLE, 2004; New public library with welcoming, intuitive public spaces and uniquely flexible shelving system. Retrieved February 21, 2015, from http://


AnArchi An Objective of Influencing and Inspiring Students 6th board of AnArchi

The theme of this edition of Archiprint is

first, but in addition it appears to be a chance

influence and inspiration: two words that

for the commencing architect. As the board of

define the daily experiences in different

AnArchi, our role is to inform students and

situations all around us at the university.

answer their questions. To monitor the quality

As a study association, our main goal is to

of this period we have been actively involved

organize inspiring activities for our members.

in the process of shaping this professional

The values of influence and inspiration can

traineeship period.

be found in our excursions, lectures and workshops.

Also, this issue’s theme can clearly be seen in our new event: the AnArchi Architecture

ReView is a good example of such an activity.

Awards. These were created with the purpose

During these excursions, students visit projects

of presenting and collecting material made by

and discuss the design with the project’s

students so that their work is not forgotten (or

architect. Another example is the expert

even worse: thrown away) and it can inspire

meeting at which the experts of Reynaers give

other students. By organizing the AnArchi

advice to students experiencing problems in

Architecture Awards, AnArchi emphasizes

their projects. Architectural professionals share

that you can learn most from your fellow

their stories and ideas with us to educate and


invigorate us. Archiprint is another example of the way This year, two developments clearly illustrate

AnArchi tries to help students in the world

the theme influence and inspiration. The first

of architecture. By addressing several themes

is the professional traineeship period, in which

throughout the issues over the past four

all of us who are graduating after 1 January

years, Archiprint aims to show students a

2015 have to participate in order to receive the

critical point of view on current topics, and by

title of architect. During this period, graduates

doing so help students develop themselves as

will acquire additional relevant skills as an

architects and architecture critics.

apprentice under supervision of a mentor. These are skills that enable you to function

All of AnArchi’s activities focus on influencing

within an architecture office and that you

and inspiring our members. By organizing

need to start your own (architecture) firm. The

these activities, we hope to inspire the next

prospects of this period can seem daunting at

generation of architecture students.

Would you like to respond to an article? Or are you interested in writing your own? Do you have other talents we could use? Let us know:

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