Bnieuws Volume 50 Issue 05 21 February 2017 Contact Room BG.Midden.140 Julianalaan 134 2628 BL Delft email@example.com Editorial Team Nadine van den Berg Ruiying Liu Noortje Weenink
Where We Started
Tap of Bouwkunde
Editorial Advice Edo Beerda Contributors Maurice Harteveld Jamal van Kastel Pierijn van der Putt Cover YOU are Bnieuws by Ruiying Liu see also p. 03 02
Editorial Advice Board Robert Nottrot Pierijn van der Putt Marcello Soeleman Ivan Thung Linda van Keeken Next Deadline 21st of March 12.00 Bnieuws Volume 50 Issue 06 28 March 2017
Artifact: De Facto Artifact
What Do We Write For
Printed by Druk. Tan Heck 1.350 copies ÂŠ All rights reserved. Although all content is treated with great care, errors may occur.
The Importance of Writing
SINCE 1966 Dear reader, It is our birthday! To celebrate this, we have created a special issue filled with articles about our history, the Faculty and the importance of writing. The issue is split up in three parts: Before, Birthday and Become. These three Bâ€™s will take you to the past, present and future of our periodical. We will start our Before part with a collage of previous issues of Bnieuws that were published in the past decades, from the beginning of Bnieuws up to 2017. How did we begin? What were the biggest changes throughout the years? In the Birthday section we will dive into an interview with Klaske Havik and her book Writing Place. Besides that we of course have our typical Bnieuws features like the Artifact and the Cartoon, although all themed around our celebration. Finally, we arrive at Become. This part was difficult for us. What do we want for the future of Bnieuws? One thing is certain: Bnieuws will always keep evolving. It is meant to change and to adaptâ€”may it be because of the current events from around the world, developments in technology, or something else entirely. An article from our Dean and a cartoon of what a possible future BK City might look like and how we would fit inside it is how we conclude this special issue. We may not yet know what the future holds, but we do know that we, (future) editors and readers, hold the future. That is why we decided to dedicate this cover to our readers. It is because of you that we have been able to exist for fifty years now. Thank you for that. Love, The Editorial Team
Back in time
WHERE WE STARTED Words Nadine van den Berg
The predecessor of the Delft University of Technology was founded in 1842, but it wasn’t until 1966 that this faculty founded Bnieuws. BK City, as we now also call it, always had a big community of students and teachers who were strongly opinionated. It was only a matter of time before Bnieuws became much more than the announcement publication it originally was intended to be. We’re celebrating our fiftieth birthday this year, so let’s go back in time to where we started and discover the developments Bnieuws went through.
Back in 1966, when Bnieuws was founded, it was just a weekly publication full of timetables, exam schedules, lecture information and other Faculty happenings. In those times without the internet, Bnieuws provided all the necessary information for students that otherwise could only be required on the announcement boards. Students received this publication at their home address. 06
Bnieuws didn’t stay like this for too long. Soon the ’70s arrived, and with that Bnieuws started to go through various developments. For instance, a change of layout happened, the content was more heavily focused on politics than it is now, and in addition to timetables you would find activist pamphlets made by students. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s several more changes in layout occurred, the first graphics were added, and new rubrics were introduced. We now arrive in the ’90s, the time that marked its influence on Bnieuws by changing it into a smaller magazine that came out every fortnight due to budget cuts. The name briefly went from ‘Bnieuws’ to ‘Pentagram’, referring to the five master tracks back then, but was changed back to Bnieuws in 1993. The increased usage of digital publication techniques introduced more possibilities for the use of graphics and colours. Now Bnieuws could be printed in black, white and the additional TU Delft blue. The more common use of the computer also marked the new millennium, although it wasn’t until 2009 that Bnieuws was published online. The more recent years introduced several social media platforms. Our most recent development took place in 2015, when we went from a layout associated with newspapers to that of the magazine as you know it today. A lot happened in these past fifty years. Where will we go next?
Some snippets from our past
TAP OF BOUWKUNDE Words Ruiying Liu
When architecture students start swigging beer, they’ve either accomplished some serious hard work, or preparing themselves for exactly that. “Just another day at BK,” right? Thankfully there’s an official tap for the spiritual well-being of students and staff. This tap has been kept running for 43 years come March, by nothing but voluntary work, smart management and a shared passion for faculty life. To a stranger it seems a wonder that this should work so well; but to us it’s not, because a family will always have a living room to share music, laughter and that golden bubbling bliss.
THE YELLOW SUBMARINE Bouwpub has always been crammed with crowds spilling onto the front yard and the sidewalk, submerged in the warm light and pop music. This interview is the first time that I’ve ever entered into a quiet, empty Bouwpub. A thick, damp, beer-ish smell drifts off every inch of the wooden cladding and fills the inside ceiling-high. I feel like walking, no, swimming through beer. Shafts of light beaming through the high windows cross the heart of the hall, painting it full and round, almost church-like. The intense work atmosphere still has its hold on the brick castle. Within the hour five eager-faced volunteers will come and report themselves to their lieutenant for the night’s work running the tap. Among them are often first-timers, who, for some reason, want to set aside all other engagements for about 8 hours of unpaid hard work. “Why are there so many volunteers?” I ask. “Well, they get to play their own playlist, invite and serve their friends, and drink free beer themselves!” Jelmer says. But imagine, there could be another level of satisfaction achieved: hundreds of glittering glasses at hand, frothy golden liquid smoothly
<< Image by Kseniya Otmakhova
running at your command as you stand in the spotlight answering every request of an appreciative audience. Meanwhile the team work with a rapport that no outsiders intrude on: pouring, serving, collecting glasses, washing, laying them out, and doing it again—almost like a dance without a choreographer. But before the team reaches that fluidness, you must have had some adventure. You’ve had to drink four or five yourself (not unwillingly) as you failed to produce the perfect pouring. And it’s good that they switched to digital payment otherwise handling money would be too delicate for the moment—might throw the coin instead of the cap into the garbage— such things did happen, you know. After the customers clear out, the lieutenant has to try a bit refreshing tactics on the droopy band, because there is still quite some cleaning-up to do. They wash, stack, splash and sweep while the lieutenant makes sure everything is covered and the revenue is correctly logged—just one month’s salary when you get out of here, just that. Three-time bartender M. V. says: “When you do a bartending night with friends it’s a great, new experience. And because you’re in a friendly environment, you don’t worry about lacking experience. So it’s not really so much hard work as
“Joep” provided by Olaf IJzerman; other images by author.
enjoying ourselves.” “Ah so are you planning more bartending sessions?” “No, not really. The first time was all excitement; second time is satisfying as you have mastered the tricks. After the third time, it sort of becomes a job. We’re just there for the beer now.” Well, indeed—now you have to find out other collective adventures with your friends, M. AT THE HELM The board consists of two tiers: those who manage the business (secretary, policy and finance—staff members) and those who run the business (five barkeepers—all students), and in between is the chairman. Current chairman, Paul, is doing his master in building technology after a seven-year bachelor marathon. By the way he swaggers across the hall you can tell who’s the captain. Barkeeper Jelmer is half a year into his master in architecture. His most recently enlisted colleague, Sam, is a third-year bachelor student. Ex-barkeeper, Olaf was the old Jelmer, now finishing up his urbanism master. How to become a barkeeper? J: During my introduction days my two student mentors introduced me to this bartending action. I did it many times, and when they were looking for a
replacement for a leaving barkeeper, they just approached me. [Everyone has about the same story, where they were “promoted” after faithful long periods of bartending, at the leaving of an old barkeeper.] P: Then you have a two-month probation. You get safety and social hygiene lessons and you play apprentice under everyone; after that you’re voted in. O: You’ll also learn to take up a special branch of board duties. Mine was keeping the stock filled, namely, ordering the beers/spending the money... The rules are passed from predecessor to successor; people in other branches are not familiar with them. J: And the trick to shopping for the right beer is... just follow your heart—and the seasonal mood! Is it challenging? [Everyone having a hard time remembering] S: In the beginning it can be. You have to make sure every link is covered. I used to stay at the bar too long and then—OMG, the glasses have run out. You can feel the pressure coming from the crowd
It was the 70s folks! Staff just couldn’t stand the boredom so they set up a bowling ramp in the basement—and on the ball started rolling! Until the 2008 fire, the basement housed the tap of Bouwkunde. After the fire, Bouwpub went on camping (upper left). Then for a short while, it was a guest among the halls of the brick castle (lower left).
(left) First draft adds a cylindrical shell roof and divides the hall into intimate spaces, which would have suppressed today’s cozy, brawlig atmosphere with its civil, classy style. (down) The final design also ensures much a lower cost.
building up at the bar as you try to collect the glasses... It takes four to five times running the show to get used to the lack of a safety net.
history book of Bouwpub. (People say she can type live meeting records, listen to the phone and talk to you at the same time.)
J: It also depends on the bartenders because you need them to be able to finish all the work. It’s part of the job to keep them cheerful—but not too drunk!—and at the end motivate them to finish the clean-up.
“I studied in this very building before I worked as a secretary in urbanism in the old BK building. After the fire, we moved here, and that’s a full circle for me.” Linda says. “Later I was asked by Bouwpub to become their secretary—and it’s been 25 years now.”
P: At the busiest times it certainly becomes challenging. We have four events every year, the March anniversary, the summer event, Octoberfest, and the winter event. Still, the busiest time is the first week of the academic year. More customers— everyone is having a slow start and meeting up with friends—and few volunteers. Then it’s definitely all hands on deck! [O: Because no one can subscribe during the holiday, and the first night’s subscription isn’t enough to fill the next night.]
Has the Faculty supported Bouwpub after the fire? L: Well, Bouwpub exists to serve the students and staff of BK, but it has to manage on its own. After the fire, the Faculty had to finish re-construction before September opening, so they had to spend all the money on the main facility. Bouwpub was designed and built by volunteers, including students and construction workers on-site. [“So how were they rallied?”] I asked workers and managers to have coffee at the Espresso Bar and pleaded for them to contribute their time and resources to Bouwpub. In return we would put them on our honoured sponsor plates... And they just came through for us!
What’s the fun? [Everyone thinking hard, again] J: Well... It’s cool. When most of your friends all appreciate this place so much, working here becomes a privilege. S: Yeah. And you get to meet a lot of different people. [Not the kind of people you politely pass by in work, but people relaxed and open enough.] P: It’s like a family for us. We help each other out in other aspects in life, including study. The big space we have here is very useful for studying together! KEEPING THE TAP RUNNING Our cozy little submarine swims freely as long as the sea is not dried. The tap of Bouwkunde has been running for almost 43 years, during which the board has changed countless times. But working along them is always Linda, secretary of Bouwpub (concurrently, to the dean)—the closest thing to a
< Images provided by Olaf IJzerman
What do you find unique about Bouwpub? L: All the people who run it and all those who visit are friends and colleagues. It’s never quiet like some other facilities on the campus, nor is it far from where you work so you can have a good time with colleague–friends. There’s a great atmosphere that comes by itself: cozy, relaxed, just like in a family. LEGENDS AND ANNIVERSARIES Bouwpub, magic secretaries, Bnieuws... they are all classics of BK. But there are still so many incredible legends hidden here, waiting for us to uncover! An anniversary occasion gives such perspectives reminding you of all the evolving, extraordinary things around us, masked by daily routines. In that sense, it’s worth of celebrating not just because of accumulated history, but also for the delightful new opportunities it brings to an old world.
BIRTHDAY Bnieuws and BK City have been through a lot during the last 50 years, especially in the last decade. As you can imagine, we didn’t have the heart to light a real candle. But since we couldn’t do without a BK Birthday Cake, we followed in Prometheus’ footsteps and stole the Olympic flame. May it burn on and on! Happy birthday to our Bnieuws!
DE FACTO ARTIFACT Words Maurice Harteveld
It was at the end of a day that friends and colleagues from abroad came to visit at our house. While having stormy discussions and chats about people we knew and didn’t know, basically we joined in daily adventures. The world always seems sizable in our bubble, especially now. We got a calm focal point in our midst. At night, I checked my phone to see what happened elsewhere and what tomorrow may bring. What would I be without this compass? “Could I survive in our galaxy? iWonder?” My thoughts paused as I swiped my phone to do earthly things. I got a message in my mailbox: an invitation to write a short article for the Artifact column, in the Bnieuws B’day issue. Reasoning started again. What’s my artifact? I immediately thought of the non-natural—objects shaped by humans. Pure art! I watched my phone again. This object? It may not be art or wonder; fair design at the most… I opened my browser and started associating. After a few clicks I knew. Briefly combining all perceivable, or even imaginable, I found a way to answer the question, but it needs time. I closed this app and almost randomly opened another. —There’s nothing to like, so another click before I call it off. Into my view entered a snapshot I took today… The following days, the question remained. My answer will not be my phone. Objects as such will be too soon of archaeological interest. Some phones— not mine—will end up in a museum, where mankind artificially preserve them from the intrusion of new ways of living. In my view highly interesting, but not yet my call for the best that humans make. What then
< Image by Maurice Harteveld.
is my proposal for the piece de resistance? An epistemological, near existential sequel followed. As an architect and urban designer, I’m trained to learn from historic paradigm shifts and, who knows, to create one. As an academic I’ve learned to question this. Everything needs an update and all we make is temporal. At best, an object enters into humans heritage. Such may be the value of any artifact…Then, I remembered the snapshot taken so quickly with my phone. Can I keep this as well? Digital images won’t have extreme longevity as resolution increases. Printed it may fade as well. Then, I started to understand: my search has expressed permanent temporality. Exemplified by this picture, one of the thousands I have, it all comes together. However, although close, my artifact is not so much the snapshot itself, nor the device used, but the object of the image. It is a portrayal of a single person—center in the hurricane of thoughts, special as well as random—a human in time. One of the many in the world. In search for my artifact, I got it: Being an incredible creation without necessity to be made, it is there. It evolves every second, and we cannot act around it. With its galactic complexity, it is the core of life and profession, and premises of any artifact: the archi-‘artifact’ itself. The best that humans make is humans itself—my call. I swiped and clicked again: There must be at least a birthday like…
In conversation with
WRITINGPLACE Words Noortje Weenink
Although writing is certainly present in the realm of the built environment— countless magazines, websites, weblogs and books account for that—within the profession and education there is little attention to the active use of literary fiction. Writingplace, a self-proclaimed “laboratory for architecture & literature”, tries to dissolve the boundaries of the current notions by reconsidering the interrelations between architectural culture and literature. In honour of the release of their book Writingplace: Investigations in Architecture and Literature, Bnieuws decided to catch up with one of the editors of the book and members of the collective, Klaske Havik.
Dr.ir. Klaske M. Havik has an impressive track record when it comes to writing and architecture. She has studied architecture in Delft and Helsinki, and for some time literary writing in Amsterdam. Immediately after graduating in architecture, she became full time editor of architecture magazine ‘De Architect’. Nowadays, Havik works as an associate professor of the chair of Methods & Analysis at our faculty. She has written and co-edited several books, initiated and organised conferences on topics related to the bridging of literature and architecture. For her contribution to the architectural debate, she received the Dutch Architect of the Year Award in 2014. Klaske Havik continues to be part of the editorial board of DutchBelgian architecture journal OASE, as well as the platform Writingplace.
Cover from the book Writingplace: Investigations in Architecture and Literature.
It is not the most obvious choice for an architect to study the topic of literature. What motivated you? It was a very personal choice. The interest in both writing and architecture started mostly before my student years. I happened to go study architecture, but I always kept writing poems and stories. At some point—around my third year in Delft—I decided to to apply for the Literary Academy in Amsterdam, to take
myself more serious as a writer. I thought: “If writing is something I will always keep doing, maybe it’s good to force myself to do it seriously.” I didn’t connect it to architecture immediately. It was just something that I had always been doing and I thought it would be helpful to follow a literary education that would allow me to further develop my writing skills. I never finished the school, because I went to live in Finland, but retrospectively my time at that school has been of utmost importance for defining my professional direction: somewhere between architecture and literary writing. When I was about to graduate in Architecture, I thought: “I will work at an architecture office and maybe write next to it.” And then, when I was finishing my diploma work, De Architect had a vacancy for an editor. I wrote them a letter saying: “I’m about to graduate in Architecture and I like to write. I would like to write for you every now and then—not necessarily as an full time editor, but now that you have a vacancy I just figured I’d send this letter.” So the letter was very open: “I’m interested and let’s see.” And then they gave me the job. As a full time editor for De Architect writing and architecture really came together. It was nice to have an open view towards the architecture world directly after my graduation. I visited a lot of projects and did a lot of interviews with architects. The diploma project was really focused on “What is my own position,” on my own architecture, et cetera. But when you work for a magazine you really have to engage yourself with the most diverse architects with different approaches and different backgrounds. Around the year 2000 I went back to practice, because I felt that even if I wanted to continue as a writer focussing on architecture, I needed to gain experience as an architect too. I joined the office of some friends in The Hague [Architectuurwerkplaats de Ruimte, ed.]. We did some quite big projects, mainly in The Hague and Amsterdam. The nice thing was that that they were quite alternative, cultural projects; for example the skate park in the NDSM-
Wharf in Amsterdam. Having our own office allowed us to explore our own ideas and to write and reflect about it. During this time, I occasionally still wrote for De Architect and some other journals. At the same time I was teaching in Delft: theory seminars, essay writing— things like that. At some point I was asked if I was interested in doing a PhD and to become part of the chair of Public Building, which was then under Prof. S. Umberto Barbieri. He had been my mentor for the graduation project as well. I said yes. That was in 2004. My proposal was to write a PhD on exactly this relationship between architecture and literature.
“ARCHITECTURE IS A FORM OF FICTION.” How did you think about investigating this balance between architecture and literature? I was writing and reading literary work and articles about architecture, and I noticed that in literature the descriptions of architecture and the way people relate to it were much more evocative. In literature the descriptions were much more atmospheric than in architecture magazines or in architecture theories. In novels and poems you find more about the experiential qualities—the user aspects of architecture, imagination, the relationship between subject and object, between the designer and the user, between the reader and the writer, between reality and fiction, et cetera. Indeed, as an architect you always have to deal with an uncertainty or indeterminacy: you make a design for an unknown future. It’s a form of fiction. So these were topics in which I was really interested, and that architects seem to avoid. Atmosphere, and experience are “vague and subjective”, or at least they contain some aspects that you can’t easily grasp or quantify within a formula. These ungraspable aspects of architecture are for me the most intriguing ones. I thought: “If these topics are under addressed at our faculty—at least at that moment in time—then maybe through literature I can find ways to address
them.” So in the end my PhD resulted in the book Urban Literacy, which became a proposal to address experience, use and imagination through the lens of literary writing.
When Bnieuws last spoke to you (Bnieuws 07, 2011/12), you had just finished this dissertation. How did you proceed? I continued the path of connecting architecture and literature. In my PhD I sketched three perspectives— description, transcription, and prescription—to address the notions of experience, use and imagination. In each of the three perspectives there were some clues with which I continued. In the past few years, for instance, I worked a lot on the theme of atmospheres, which followed almost immediately from the path of description in my PhD: it’s about experience and phenomenology. It also came back in my work for OASE, for example in the issue with the debate with Zumthor and Pallasmaa [OASE #91, Building Atmosphere, ed.]. There are some other aspects, for example another issue of OASE [#85] which was called “Productive Uncertainty”. This issue was published on the side of imagination and fiction. Actually it was more or less at the same time as the PhD, but it goes to show that there are different directions or themes present within the work that allowed me, or gave me clues, for further exploration. In that sense my PhD was not a closed topic, but an introduction to an approach that could be further developed. To explore the bridging of theory, research and design further, the collective “Writingplace” was formed. The collective aims ‘to explore alternative ways of looking at architecture, urban places and landscapes by the means of literary writing’. It initiated as a spin-off from the MSc2 course City & Literature. The course was, according to Klaske, “a laboratory to test how literary tools could be useful for architects.” Several students from the course turned out to be interested in continuing this exploration. Three students, together with Klaske
and Jorge Mejía Hernández, decided to create a website. The platform of Writingplace was born. Havik: “Every month or two we would have a new theme, thereby forcing ourselves to post some of our own writing. It could be anything: a poem, student work, our own reflections, et cetera. We kept doing that and some more people joined. Our first big public event was a cultural event in 2012. It was called Het verhaal van Nederland [The Story of the Netherlands] and took place in Paradiso, Amsterdam. During three Sundays, we addressed the story of the Netherlands on three scales: landscape, city, and architecture.
“IMAGINATION IS THE CORE OF OUR WORK.” The next step was to organise a conference. We started with the ideas for this Writingplace-conference [On Literary Methods in Architectural Research and Design, 2013, ed.] and wrote a call for abstracts. We thought we were in a niche of architecture, so initially we expected to have a small conference; maybe a one day-seminar where we’d have some people to discuss the topic. But apparently worldwide there were a lot more people in this niche. We were amazed to receive over 150 entries, and instead we organised a three day-conference here in Delft. This was the first academic event of Writingplace. We had keynote speakers such as Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Wim van den Bergh—who are key figures in the field. They all immediately agreed to come—we were very positively surprised by that as well. After the conference we decided to make a book. One thing would be to collect the papers, make a thick book and be done with it, but we decided to do something that would be a step further than just conference proceedings. On the one hand the book offers a retrospect to the conference, but what we found more important was to introduce some themes for the debate. So that’s what we did.
The conference led to the making of the book Writingplace: Investigations in Architecture and Literature. It distinguishes five themes: imagination, memory, openness, complexity, and inclusivity. In short, the books moves from an academic and theoretical approach, to a more experimental and practical manner. It starts with a theoretical introduction on narrative imagination, and then shifts to architectural history and the presence of narrative and poetics in architectural writing under the theme of ‘memory’. Via the theme of openness, the book drives along the realms of experiment in education and practice, towards the complexities of architectural investigation, only to end in a mergence of the whole premises of architecture in literature, architecture, building and teaching under the notion of “inclusivity”. The papers in the book are strongly related to each other. They often use the same terminology, and sometimes even the same references, therefore making it very coherent and easy to follow as a whole. How was this achieved? By time [laughs]. You could say that it was a slow accumulation of knowledge. First there was the selection of abstracts, which we did together with an academic committee—experts in the field. We had the well-structured themes of the conference. Each chapter of the book is actually introduced by one of the keynote speakers. The other papers we selected from the conference as well. We asked all the authors to rewrite their papers, and then we had a whole series of selection rounds to come up to the chapters. We then read and re-read the papers with our own editorial team. We also went back to the authors: “This is your paper for the conference, this is the idea of the book. You will be in a chapter together with these people, and this is what we are addressing. We find the notion how you use this word interesting: can you elaborate on that? Maybe you should use that source.” It was a long round of editing. Some articles went through three versions before they arrived here. So I’m glad you noticed.
What is the reasoning behind the five themes of the chapters (imagination, memory, openness, complexity, and inclusivity)? Initially we wanted to split the book into three sections: research, education and practice. But after many discussions we realised that one of the strenghts of a literary approach is actually that it merges the three. So instead of making such a big distinction, we decided to make it more thematic. The five themes are all potentialities of a literary approach, themes that literature might have to offer architecture. They are ambiguous and difficult to address with conventional architectural means. Hopefully this book is an opening or inspiration for using literary approaches to address these themes within architectural practice. We took the theme of imagination as a starting point, because it’s such a fundamental notion of why we use literature: the imagination or narrative in literature is what we could use as architects. Imagination is the core of our work, architects and writers alike, and in the first chapter we speak about what this literary imagination means. The theme of memory is obvious: it relates to the layers of temporality which are at stake in architecture as well as in literature. Openness is about the opening of a process and about the experiment—in education, but also in practice. Stories can be open-ended, but an architectural project is often presented as something closed: it is finished at some point. In the book we approach architecture as a more open process. This actually goes back to what we discussed earlier, about the role of the user. A building is not finished when the building drawings are finished. That’s when it starts: it’s when the interaction with the users comes into play. But openness is also about the experimental, about having an open mind-set to experiment and thereby achieve new insights. We address for example some experiments confronting architectural spaces with unlikely events and programmes, and exploring the borders of architecture.
Complexity has to do with the multilayeredness of architecture and architectural investigation. There is a kind of complexity and ambiguity in and between issues that you address as a designer. You can’t always grasp them immediately, even if the issues are sometimes very important. For example when speaking about atmosphere. The final chapter, themed around inclusivity, is about diffusing the boundaries between the different aspects of architectural practice, research, and education. The closing text by Wim Cuyvers merges the whole premises of architecture: it is not completely clear if what he’s doing is architectural practice, research, or education. He lives on a mountain and is building a hut, but then he’s doing it with students, and also writes about it. The other two texts in that chapter also explore the boundaries of a “textural” practice.
“THE POWER OF WORDS IS THAT YOU CAN PAINT IN SOMEBODY ELSE’S MIND.” We discussed how the five themes of the book relate to its structure, and how they were formed. How do the themes relate to the design process? All themes are at stake. There is always an imaginative act when making a design, because you design something for a yet unknown situation. Memory of course has to do with an understanding of the historical layers of the site you are working on, and the ability to deal with different temporalities. About openness: I believe we should take an open attitude to each design task. Don’t use exactly the same approach for each design task, or come to the same solution every time. But the openness also has to do with the process and the involvement of other actors. I think in our master studios [of Methods & Analysis] the notion of the “commons” also has to do with the idea that there is no single authorship. As a designer you have an important role to play, but the design is not closed and you are not the only author of the final built result.
Complexity is by definition part of the design process. The challenge is to tackle very complex issues and have an in-depth understanding. At the same time you have to translate this into something that seems clear and communicable. And finally, inclusivity is about how a design process is closely related to research. Also, inclusivity means taking into account other perspectives—other disciplines for instance. Would you say you need words to describe an experience or atmosphere in a building or space? Not necessarily. You need words to practice architecture: you need words to express what you’re doing and why. You sometimes also need words to tell a story. But you can just as well evoke an atmosphere with means or art forms, such as drawing, painting or sculpturing. For me, it happens to be literature. The power of words is that you can paint in somebody else’s mind and that it’s not only limited to the visual—or in case of cinema, to audio and the visual. In literature you can write about taste or smell or other senses. As architects we are trained to think about architecture only visually. In writing you don’t have that obstacle. Is the interest towards the literary approach in architecture or design in general increasing? Absolutely. That doesn’t only have to do with my own work, I think it also relates to what’s happening in practice in general. Around the late 1990s, early 2000s, it was the time of the building boom with Superdutch, and the one-liners of MVRDV, and such ambiguous themes were less addressed. The book indeed mentions (p.5): “The interest in literary sources in architecture [...] had been overshadowed by the global, image-oriented tendencies in architecture around the turn of the millennium.” Yes, exactly. It was a period with a lot of great architecture, but there was also a lack of reflection. It
Excerpt from the book (p. 171). Example of student work from the seminar Transdisciplinary Encounters, taught by Klaske Havik in 2015.
was too image-oriented, and architectural statements were sometimes rather superficial. If you look at the current offices you notice a counter-reaction. There is more interest in craftsmanship, site specificity, and also in the stories that belong to this—narration, as well as themes as atmosphere and experience. I spoke of the reality, fiction and indeterminacy of architecture. In the late 1990s you didn’t have to worry so much about the uncertainties regarding the future of a project. Nowadays you never know at the beginning of a project if the idea will stay the same during the later stages. You have to be much more aware of future changes and you need to be able to imagine different scenarios, also in terms of assembly and in economic terms. The logic of architectural practice changed from a time when everything was possible, and images and one-liners would count, to a time to be more careful. In times that are more uncertain, there is more need for reflection. 24
Would you say it’s important that the user understands the theoretical complexities of a project? There is a difference between using literary methods as a creative tool in your process, and telling a story to a user. I don’t think a building should tell a singular story. In a way you wish that a building can accommodate different narratives, and that people fill in their own details of these stories. Depending on the project, a literary approach could offer you—as an artist, designer or writer—modes of reading spaces and situations in more interesting, complex and social ways than if you only look at the visual and spatial dimensions of a project. The theories help to consolidate your own ideas, to understand how others have done something and why that would be relevant. By thinking of different characters or time frames, by experimenting with the borders between reality and fiction, you allow yourself to see your task from many different perspectives. That’s fruitful to use in the process. The design methods don’t matter so much to the user of the building. The design needs to be communicable, but it doesn’t need to communicate
your theoretical and methodological background exactly. You mentioned the story of a building, and that a building shouldn’t have a singular story. Can you design a narrative within a building? Two things. One is the rhetoric of the architect: you have to sell your project. Of course that’s where stories are used: you use a different rhetoric and tell different stories to your clients or someone else. These marketing stories are important, but I’m more interested in the artistic or literary narratives. Can a building tell a story? Yes. There are many examples of buildings that tell a story very explicitly. We were discussing the period of the one-liners, when a building had a certain iconic idea that could be explained in a diagrammatical way. Sometimes that can be very powerful. But in social and spatial terms I am more for complexity and openness, in the sense that a building shouldn’t prescribe the behaviour of the user too much. Of course a project has to have some clarity or a main idea, but the story of a building will be broadened and changed by stories of the users. So if a project would only convey a singular story, I believe it would be a bit superficial. There should be different layers and different possible stories—stories that you as a designer don’t yet know, but will happen over time. The book speaks about literature regarding landscape, urban and architectural design. How can the literary approach be used in other disciplines, such as building technology? One of the interesting things about the literary approach is that it goes across scales. If you read a poem, it could be about a minor detail—a material, a colour or a scent. In novels you can find very detailed descriptions of these architectural or technical moments, for instance the influence of time or weather on materials. If we’re talking about education: there is a role for literature in enabling students to become more aware of material, tectonic, and haptic aspects
of their work. It could be through literary exercises such as describing a site, a project, materials or different sensory perceptions. How does this translate to practice? Do you have any tips for design students? The literary approach can help you look at your project from other perspectives, to step out of your bird’s-eye or architect’s view, both in the analytical and design phase of a design project. There are very simple exercises you could do. If you try to describe a site or design project from the point of view of a child or a blind person, you will see the place in a different way. And you will make design decisions differently. You will think differently of materiality, routing or where the entrance is situated, because you try to experience it. You could also isolate different senses. For once, describe the places in the building only by sound. You will notice things that you were not aware of: because your sound is your starting point, you will evaluate the dimensions or the reflections differently; you will become aware, for instance, of the material on the floor, what’s under your feet. Another exercise would be to use different time frames. Presentations of projects are always very positive. The sun shines, it is spring, and there are children playing. Try to describe or visualise your project in different seasons and different moments in time: at night, in the rain, or if you’re in a hurry. Try to describe it in 50 years. Use what-if scenarios. These could be writing exercises or visualisations, but in any case they make you see your project through a different lens.
the work, by letting the material form itself and by not too quickly deciding on the structure I think the project became stronger. Also the collective ambition to do this: working with the whole team, discussing it and taking the time for it. The book became slow journalism in that sense. So what I learned was as much about the process as the content. Although, of course, you learn about the content as well. Otherwise we wouldn’t have picked these articles. I had read and written a lot about architecture and literature, but then there is for instance Bart Keunen who has a background in literary theory, or Alberto Pérez-Gómez, who has an historical approach. We use words like “narrative” all the time, but how is it framed in literary theory? What are their references? To think about this sharpens our use of terms. Did your use of the word “narrative” change? Not that much, but it is good to have a more solid foundation and to be more aware of the meaning of terms. Sometimes you have to be more precise about how you use it. Nowadays storytelling and the narrative seem to be very fashionable. The terms are used almost too broadly: everything is suddenly a narrative. I learned for example from Bart’s article that you can’t just use the same term for everything. So if people want to know how to properly use the terminology, they should read the book? Probably, yes [laughs]. Together with ARGUS Architecture Student Association, Writingplace organises a two day-event with a seminar and workshop, exploring the literary approach towards
What did you learn while working on this book? [Long silence]. I learned something about openness, or about trust—in the sense to let such a project grow as it grows, or develop as it develops. We took a lot of time for this book, which mainly had practical reasons: we needed to have funding, and we all had very busy jobs. But by taking the time and re-reading
architecture. The event will take place at 30 and 31 March 2017. Stay up to date via argus.cc. Writingplace welcomes new members. Students and staff members who are interested can contact Klaske Havik.
SERENADE Er is een voor de hand liggende reden dat architecten hun ideeën in woorden moeten kunnen overbrengen: bij de totstandkoming van een gebouw zijn talloze mensen betrokken, in tal van rollen, die allemaal op de juiste manier moeten worden aangesproken. De architect heeft met al die mensen te maken. De toon tegenover een opdrachtgever is totaal anders dan die tegenover een aannemer of een technisch adviseur of een mede-architect. Logisch dat-ie dat moet kunnen. Maar persoonlijk denk ik dat er een belangrijkere reden is om met het gesproken en geschreven woord goed uit de voeten te kunnen.
Ik hoorde een keer iemand vertellen over haar ruziënde buren. Zonder het zich te realiseren gebruikte ze het zelfverzonnen woord ‘scheldserenade’. Ze bedoelde waarschijnlijk ‘scheldkanonnade’ maar haar prachtige vergissing leverde een woord op dat dynamiek van de door haar beschreven relatie beter beschreef dan welk bestaand woord dan ook. Woorden sturen het denken. Ze zijn geen labeltjes die je op de dingen plakt om ze te kunnen benoemen, nee, ze máken de dingen. Woorden bezitten nuances die het denken over iets beïnvloeden. Ze zijn dus niet de registratie van het denkproces, ze zijn déél van het denkproces. Een grote woordenschat hebben, soepel met woorden om kunnen gaan, verschillende toonaarden beheersen, snel kunnen associëren: het zijn voorwaarden voor het denken zelf, niet alleen voor het communiceren van het denken. Zoeken naar het juiste woord behoort tot de belangrijkste taken die je als academisch geschoold mens hebt. Ik durf zelfs te zeggen: als mens überhaupt. Daartoe schrijf je dat je je vaardigheid vergroot om het juiste woord te vinden, om je eigen ideeën tegen het licht te houden en kritisch af te wegen. En om het juiste woord te pikken uit de woorden van een ander. Scheldserenade: een juweel.
Pierijn van der Putt / Docent Architectuur
WHAT DO WE WRITE FOR Words Ruiying Liu
“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” This remark from Douglas Adams expresses a sentiment familiar even to designers. In fact, we may have more in common with writers than we know. But if they write for a living, what do we write for?
Compelled to Write “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.”—Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing We just have to write. We write when we make new findings, trivia or insights. We write when we’re confronted with new realities, shocking or inspiring. We write when we want to clear our mind of exactly the things we write about... Because writing is a way of capturing the ephemeral world, but not only—it is a way we capture what the world projects into our mind before chaos takes over, so it can be packed into words set aside for later scrutiny, another revisit, or given to the river like drifting laterns until someone picks them up and bear their complexity with us. As designers we write down the urges that motivate us through a project. We ponder “what has happened there” as we hand in our report. But in this hectic, projectoriented environment, the writings in our works are more than that. The only way we could retrace the course of our career is to flip back the pages and read the words of reflection instead of gazing upon the realistic photos. Through words we weave a meta-narrative of how our frames of the field came to be, and as we revisit them each time we gain strength from our old selves, or find room for betterment. That’s why we write, not for our professors, but for ourselves and the unknown readers that will find inspiration in our words. Write for the Written A good book has no influence until it’s read and reviewed. An idea has no weight until it’s digested and responded to. The dialogue is never over, for neither side has the truth, and truth is only in the dialogue. I remember being captivated by the caricature flyers in the corridors of BK, portraying studio directors as saints. Fully ignorant of the factual basis, I have appreciated its artistic execution for expressing a criticism so vividly and relentlessly. Apparently such
criticality is a general attitude, for the work was well-received among students. Yet the critical audience all seem to find entertainment in ridiculing a disappointing tradition, instead of seeing something relevant for their future. Were there a counter caricature, it should pose the question: “So who among you will become the next generation’s saints of nightmares? Could we become wiser, or are we only capable of laughing?” It’s a natural instinct of intellectuals to critique the object. Books are written, papers published—the air in a university buzzes with ideas. We are good at critical thinking and formulating smart arguments. But so often we think critically, yet forget to critique the criticality. So many of our ideas end with one-sided shallowness, because we have neglected to write for the written.
Write to Build The discourse within a discipline and its structuredness are a measure of that discipline’s knowledge of its own subjects. I’ve often wondered if professional design is the smartest way to do things. I’ve wondered if 50 years from now our profession would be liberated from its tormented existence of imagining the imagination of millions of others. I’ve wondered, in fact, if one day the urban/architectural designer, at least in the current sense, would not be replaced by devices empowering individuals to make spatial decisions for themselves.—But then, what would be we be? And what does that mean for us now? However bottom-up design and planning becomes, it could not escape the need for spatial knowledge. We as a discipline, have been accumulating experience in socio-spatial handling for centuries—experience that has proven to be indispensable and irreplaceable. No one can deny that there can be a science of spatial phenomena and a math of spatial design. The only thing that prevents our experience from turning into
formal knowledge is its implicitness and detachment from systematic facts. But we are getting there. The stress on design reflection and education has been on the rise, as are the efforts to build up frameworks to absorb idiosyncratic concepts and lessons from separate projects. So when you write today, you could be laying down the building blocks of the future of our discipline. Write Not to Be Read “Half of what I say is meaningless; but I say it so that the other half may reach you.”—Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam At the first stage of my writing education I learnt to describe and express, and I was taught not the power but the limit of expression and words. At the second stage I learnt to narrate and persuade, and I was humbled by my many failures to tailor-make frames of reality to suit my target audience. And even now as a designer, I still cannot escape the two lessons. We cannot write enough to capture and cast in words the complex thoughts and dynamics of reality. But we try anyway, not to record as it is, but to remind ourselves and others that there’s more to it. We can maybe frame the situation well enough for one group of audience/clients, but it will always be read and judged by more to come. Either way, writing seldom achieves the end in itself; rather, it’s a channel to something more. So when you write, write not to be read, but to be seen as your honest self.
BECOME We know you have much to say about the futureâ€” So we dedicate this page for you, dear reader, to write down your thoughts. Hidden in the lines is a letter crane, the bearer of good wishes and luck. If you can give form to this messenger, and send it back to us at Room BG.Midden.140, you will help write the future of Bnieuws!
THE IMPORTANCE OF WRITING Words Peter Russell
Congratulations Bnieuws! Another milestone is reached. The Faculty can be really proud of this event, because the continuous production of the Bnieuws is something that has taken dedication and diligence! As an independent journal financed by the faculty, Bnieuws has continually showed the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment from the student’s perspective. It has been critical, candid, funny, functional, informative and informal. Bnieuws has profiled people visiting and people staying. It has opened critical discussions and remembered the fallen among us. It has been reformatted, redesigned, rewritten and resurrected—all by students. Of course, anniversaries are a time to reflect on what has gone on in the past, of the successes (and failures), of the hard work and the fun times in producing a journal like Bnieuws. It is also a time to look forward to new possibilities, new ambitions and new ways to continue the journalistic tradition that has built up over the years with Bnieuws. And although I am a huge fan of technology, I must admit that the physical copy of Bnieuws is irreplaceable, just like my pen. And speaking of pens, maybe we should look at their use in this profession. An architect without a pen is like a knight without a sword. Architects are trained and taught (or brainwashed) to think visually, so having a pen at hand is essential if one is to think as an architect. However, drawing and sketching is only half of the task. Architects create essentially four kinds of drawings: sketches, architectural drawings, working drawings and renderings. Each is necessary, because they each address different audiences. They can be understood in the following matrix: Low Abstraction High Abstraction High codification Working Drawings Architectural Drawings Low codification Renderings Sketches Let us start with sketches: they are hardly codified but with a high level of abstraction. There is so much abstraction, that they are rarely understood by anyone except by the author. They actually are only done for the author, as part of the process of visual thinking. Renderings, on the other hand, have no level of abstraction at all—they are simple pictures we make for non-architects (usually the bank to convince them to invest in the project).
The architect’s drawings (plans, sections, elevations, etc.) are the opposite. They are highly codified and highly abstract. They use the graphic language that we as architects have developed over 2000 years. These are the drawings we make for colleagues to discuss our buildings (or at least our design intent). They are the mainstay of our profession. Lastly, the working drawings explain how to build the building. They are part of the documentation and so have very little abstraction as we do not want ‘interpretation’ on the building site. They are for the people constructing the building. But none of these can stand by itself. They all need explanation. They all need words to convey what is meant. They all need writing.
An architect’s sketch is hardly self-explanatory. In fact, sometimes the author will forget the original intention of a sketch, or by looking at it differently, re-interpret its meaning. This fuzziness of meaning is what makes design so fluid—the lack of sharpness is an advantage during the design process. There have been studies made (e.g. Gabriela Goldschmidt 1991) to understand this process where architects will speak out loud as they sketch and draw. It becomes apparent in these studies, how the narrative that the designer is thinking is so embodied in language. The architects did not give a running commentary (i.e. “I am drawing a line”) as much as a story about their design intentions (i.e. “The wall will impart its massivity on the space”) Even the lowly rendering, a picture postcard of architectural thought, if you will, needs language to embellish and explain it. We convey our intentions with the pretty pictures but cannot truly know the design will be conveyed by the image alone (it cannot). Here too, we use language to explain the design and the impact on the immediate environment. This is especially so because often the renderings are intended for non-architects and so the finer aspects of design need to be spelled out—literally. The same goes for architectural drawings. Even though they are dense, highly codified carriers of information, the written word is needed to clarify the why behind the what. Even the best architects cannot explain their buildings without telling a story. This is clearly evident in the school of architecture where the design review consists mostly of standing by the drawings we so lovingly create and then explaining them with language—with a story. The working drawings especially need writing—lots of it. In fact, the bulk of the description of a building’s construction documentation is written. Specification writing is an art in itself with most offices having people who do nothing but that. The specifications form the legally binding description of the construction process and the expected results. The working drawings do not need a story as architectural drawings do. Instead, they require instructions: a different kind of story.
Thus, architects and planners need to write as much as they need to draw, if not more so. We need language to make the ideas clear through sketches, explain to clients the impact of the building, convince the banks of the soundness of the design, explain to colleagues the intentions behind the design, tell the people on site what to do and how to do it, and to let everyone know why a certain design matters. It has been said that architects donâ€™t write, they draw. That is nonsense. What might be true though, is that they do not write well. And perhaps architects do not write well because they do not read well. Now, to be fair, a lot is written about architecture and planning and a lot of it is written badly. It is therefore not always pleasurable to read about architecture. But perhaps that is a good thing. Read about something else. Read about history, read about other fields, about other interests, about other places. Travel literature is particularly interesting for architects as it shows how to describe places and atmospheres. Travel literature encourages our mindâ€™s eye to visualize real places. I would also encourage you to simply read fiction. My own personal taste is for science fiction, but pick your genre. The fact is, that the more you read, the more you will find yourself forming words into a narrative that makes sense. Sentence by sentence, you will gain the ability to build a deliberate solid argument for your position and design is nothing more than taking a position on something. This skill is essential to be successful in the built environment. Writing is an essential skill. Of course, platforms like the Bnieuws can provide a place to hone your writing skills. The Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment is a much richer place because of the Bnieuws. It is an important vehicle for student opinion. If you worked on this issue: thanks. If you are reading this issue, maybe you would like to contribute. The Bnieuws needs continual renewal, just as the Faculty itself does. As someone who worked on our own guerilla newsletter back in Halifax where I studied architecture, I can sympathize with the long thankless hours (I did the comics among other things). I also appreciate the effort it takes to get each single issue written, edited, designed and printed. I encourage you to continue to be critical, continue to be curious and continue to write. Our sincere thanks to the Dean. As we move forward, we would like you, dear reader, to join us on this journey: write to us about your interaction with the Faculty; help us write reviews on new books and designs; send us your travelling sketches/notes. Bnieuws can be so much more with your participation, and through Bnieuws, you can find the fun of writing.