__MAIN_TEXT__

Page 1

THE END OF THE PERPETUUM MOBILE, OR:

THE SELF DESTRUCTION MACHINE WOUTER VANSTIPHOUT

Engl is Edit h ion

A publication by WWW. DESIGNASPOLITICS.NL


This Publication is Based on Wouter vanstiphout’s reading during the practice session ‘The New Commissioning’ (‘Het Nieuwe Opdrachtgeven’) 4e EU Aanbestedingendag / De Olifantenkooi Thursday 22 nov. 2012 Schieblock, Rotterdam


THE END OF THE PERPETUUM MOBILE, OR:

THE SELF DESTRUCTION MACHINE WOUTER VANSTIPHOUT


City Shop A few weeks ago, I had my last public meeting with the Rotterdam Economic Growth and Wealth Committee. After having seen hundreds of architect presentations in three years, I witnessed something that was completely new for me. Reinier de Graaf of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) used his firm’s considerable arsenal of rhetoric and presentation resources, not to convince us of the desirability and beauty of his project, but rather to warn of an extremely troubling development that was threatening his design. Using maps and PhotoShop images, de Graaf displayed the possible elaborations on the municipal office building (Stadskantoor), which was already under construction at that time. Although these elaborations could be disastrous for the building, the architect may be forced to make them anyway. What was the problem? When OMA won the competition for the Rotterdam city offices in 2009, it was largely due to the eloquent concept that formed the basis of the design. The actual building, consisting of offices and homes, would take on the form of a cloud rising from the bricks and concrete blocks that make up this part of the city. The cloud-like character is due to the formless accumulation of transparent and translucent cubes, as well as to the way in which the building rises up off the ground – floats – thus creating a free zone that dissolves the boundary between inside and outside, between city and building. This space would house the most important component of the project: the City Shop – the place in which the public and government encounter each other, close up and together. By drawing a modernist link between transparency and democracy, the architects of this space provided the jury the best reason to award the contract to them. Just how well the jury received the image and the notion of thecitizens’ hall is clearly revealed by placing the statement that Rem Koolhaas made to accompany the design alongside the statement made by the selection committee, which was chaired by Ole Bouman, the director of the Netherlands Architecture Institute at that time.

4


Rem Koolhaas: ‘Our Structural system – a three-dimensional Vierendeel structure in steel – enables us to improvise and to liberate the ground almost in its entirety, to interpret the City Shop (Stadswinkel) as an unencumbered public space, in which we arrange the interaction between citizen and city in a dignified, spacious urban landscape, with an almost “Roman” scale and materiality.’ Ole Bouman: ‘One important argument that led the committee to select the design by OMA is that it radiates optimal openness. The interior of the future City Shop seems to spill over into the public space. This will provide the residents of Rotterdam with an attractive pedestrian area, while making the City Shop optimally accessible’. This design was to shape the local democracy in Rotterdam. Instead of forcing citizen’s to enter humbly, with cap in hand, through a back door in City Hall, only to wait to be received by an official in a monumental citizens’ hall, they would simply wander effortlessly into the City Shop. The city government would become a part of the city; barriers would no longer exist, and everything would be visible and accessible. This is truly an ideal worth striving for with regard to the relationship between government and citizens. It is an idea that would more than justify an extremely complex and expensive construction. Several months ago, when the construction work had already begun, the City of Rotterdam decided that, due to its financial situation, the functions of the City Shop would not be relocated to the new city offices. Although this was indeed likely to save hundreds of thousands of euros, it would largely gut the logic of the investment of tens of millions, which had already been made. It is now too late to adjust the design to suit the actual project: a relatively prosaic combination of office space and housing, with some space below for shops and restaurants. Although OMA had already experienced many setbacks involving features withdrawn during the specification phase, this setback was exceptionally painful. Due to its enormous size, the urban plaza that would now become available under the building would be suitable only for housing very large

5


stores (such as Mediamarkt) or being subdivided into compartments. Both of these options would have disastrous consequences for the architecture. Even with these functions, the space would not recover its intrinsic investment. Later, upon completion, the town hall will constitute the ruins of the impressive concept. It will be a reminder of a time that still cherished the illusion of a confident public sector, of which the architecture was a monumental expression. The ‘Roman’ scale to which Rem Koolhaas referred in his statement would thus indeed be realised – a crumbled, ancient forum amidst an inner city dominated by traffic and shops. The story of the city offices is an example of the instability of the public sector, as well as of the problems of adapting architecture to it. It represents all municipalities that are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain the resources that they need in order to perform their public tasks and that are being confronted with the true costs of their construction projects.

Perpetuum Mobile Closer examination of the reasons why all of these municipalities are no longer able to find the funds to complete the construction of their agoras and forums reveals something disturbing. For more than a decade, the regular revenues from municipal taxes and governmental grants have been insufficient for carrying out even the most basic tasks. For staffing libraries and developing cultural programmes, as well as for constructing and maintaining parks, boulevards, pavements and squares, municipalities became dependent upon revenues from the land-development activities of construction projects, some of which required risky investments. The result is that municipalities have become dependent upon growth and capital appreciation in order to carry out their public duties. They are eager to participate in major projects, under the assumption that the value of commercial programmes will increase, thus making it possible to pay for the unprofitable (i.e. public) programmes. The housing corporations play (or have played) an important role as well. Using tens of thousands of

6


their homes as collateral, they were able to borrow huge sums of money, while ongoing mergers allowed them to progress further in terms of professionalisation and diversification. With their money and expertise, the corporations became increasingly able to take over tasks from the municipality, including the construction of schools and the maintenance of public space. My own agency was also able to benefit from these developments over the eight years during which we contributed to the transformation of the postwar satellite city of Hoogvliet. With the support of housing corporations (e.g. Woonbron and Vestia), school organisations (e.g. Boor and Zadkine), the City of Rotterdam and the then Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, we were able to realise new, experimental architectural forms for core public facilities. These were funded as ‘frontend costs’ of the restructuring, which yielded extremely lucrative land development in some cases, due to the expected appreciation of assets. In many different ways, through many different channels and at many different scales during the past decade, the daily maintenance of the welfare state was made dependent upon a perpetuum mobile of appreciation through growth. The perpetuum mobile is that utopian mechanism that produces an infinite flow of energy without requiring any energy itself. ‘Serious’ attempts to realise such a mechanism include the efforts of Leonardo Da Vinci, although the most convincing was that of MC Escher in his 1961 lithograph entitled Waterfall. The work depicts a cyclical construction in which a perspectivist trick produces an endless downward flow of water. What had started with a financial windfall for the municipality – involving a housing construction project that would have to be built anyway, in order to meet the demand for housing – ended with projects that had become ends in themselves. The financial windfalls eventually became a structural part of the budget. Construction was necessary in order to keep the mechanism working, even without an immediate need, and even when there was actually no money for it. But borrowing was always an option.

7


Circular Accounting The perpetuum mobile also had a substantial impact on architecture. The past 15 years have seen the emergence of an entire generation of buildings whose character, scale and programme were not determined by new answers to contemporary questions, but by the manner in which they were financed. The many combinations of cultural or other public facilities with homes and offices are products of ‘circular accounting’ and the distribution of risk amongst the various partners. The role of the architect is similar to that of an insurance consultant, devising ingenious combinations to entice investors with office storeys that will generate money for the cultural facility located on the ground floor, which the municipality had relocated away from the inner city in order to make it more attractive to residents, thereby justifying the investment of a housing corporation as well. But the architect/insurance advisor does more than simply assembling the package. He must create an illusion of naturalness with which to surround it. A building without an inner necessity, whether functional or cultural, must be retroactively provided with an external necessity. This is also known as architecture. The image of the building is random, with ‘recognisability’ and reproducibility as the only criteria. It becomes more complicated, however, when a major public programme is located within the building. Such cases must be retroactively provided with an image of ‘the public’. Buildings must radiate the impression that they are there for the city, leading to an appliqué of architectural forms that suggest urban embeddedness. The most famous of these is obviously the plint (ground floor level). In this city, and even on this very location – Central District Rotterdam – a battle is waging in order to have the developers allow a portion of their building to function as a public, transparent zone. Instead of referring to something involving the inner logic or typology of the building, it has to do with something that must be added later, as part of the deal. In fact, the notion of lifting up the municipal offices, thus making way for a massive public agora, is also an example of this struggle that architects must wage in order to provide buildings that are created as mathematical problems with at least some architectural relationship to the real, existing city.

8


The odd, often unclear, complex architectural and urban projects, in which too many interests are brought together in a way that has nothing to do with a real question, is a good metaphor for the current state of the public sector. The interweaving of public and private interests, even to the point of making the public dependent, is bad for the legitimacy of the government. The municipal policy has thus become the sum of deals and structures over which there is little possibility of democratic control and that the citizens do not understand. Moreover, the government has lost its dignity as the only party with democratic legitimacy, with which it must justify its monopoly on money, tax levies and even the use of force. One underrated obligation of the government involves its predictability and reliability: it must always be there to perform its core duties, for everyone and in equal measure. This predictability and reliability are placed in jeopardy when some key duties must be funded from profits generated by land speculation. The most important danger for the evolving government, however, continues to rest in the fact that it is very difficult to think about the future of the city, determine which priorities should be set and what we should share with each other in an open and collective manner. If the city is bound hand and foot by contracts with private parties, with whom are we, as citizens, actually speaking when we talk to the councillors, aldermen and officials about the future of our cities and towns? By extension, if architects say that their projects are good for the city in some way or another – enhancing life on the street, creating a unique identity – on whose behalf are they making these claims, and what is the exact value of their words?

9


A Public Profession? It is my belief that the architectural profession is primarily a public profession and that the primary responsibility of the architect does not consist of representing the interest of the client, but of representing the public interest. Moreover, the profession has had deep ties with the government for centuries, and it is these ties that distinguish it from other design disciplines. This began with the construction of palaces for kings and emperors, proceeding through the design of the entire infrastructure of the welfare state to arrive at the public buildings that continue to be highly valued in architectural portfolios. On a more modest level, I have never known of a student in Delft who would take the initiative to design an office building or a store building as a graduation project. At the same time, however, we can observe how the architectural profession has suffered – in commercial terms and, even more severely, in substantive terms – due to the fatal intertwining (or more accurately, the fusion) of the public with the private. More specifically, architecture has played an important role in making the public interest dependent upon financial appreciation, particularly through its central role in real estate deals. The fact remains that this has led to enormous investments in the quality of the area over the past fifteen years. Architects, and all of us, have obviously benefited in this regard. Without the perpetuum mobile, we would now be deprived of innumerable cultural buildings, town halls, luxurious public areas, drastically restructured working-class neighbourhoods – and thus also dozens, if not hundreds of designs that have made their way into the international media – and, finally, hundreds of architects would have otherwise never had a job, or may never have even chosen the profession.

The Self-Destruction Machine But now the perpetuum mobile has become jammed. Indeed, the frictionless inner workings have begun to resemble a Self-Destruction Machine. You know what I mean – those kinetic sculptures by Jean Tinguely, with their insane palisades of bicycle wheels, barrels, motors, chains and rockets that are designed in such a way that, once they have been turned on, they demolish themselves with spectacular violence.

10


What we are experiencing now could later be understood as the violent selfdestruction of the insane machine that we have built ourselves – with bits of public tasks, bits of the private sector, bits of speculation and bits of the financial industry – and which we we thought would keep running forever (with a few repairs now and then). We are now hearing about municipalities that have had to halt expensive construction projects and about how the negative returns on land development from these projects are now impinging upon their ability to provide for their own citizens. Many municipalities are tens of millions in the red with their projects which had been expected to yield millions. According to its own accounting office, Rotterdam does not number amongst these municipalities, as it had already written off the losses (amounting to hundreds of millions) in a sly, non-transparent manner, such that they did not appear on the books for the projects, although they could obviously be deducted from the general operating funds. We are also hearing dramatic messages about how the profits of architectural firms have been cut in half, even as the number of firms has doubled. This doubling obviously reflects all of the architects who lost their jobs and started their own firms. We are witnessing how the housing corporations have seen their own capital disappear – through their own ventures with insane projects or perilous financial products – and how they are now so constrained by the new coalition that they are warning us about the end of the public housing. Amidst of all this misery, we are seeing how municipalities are continuing to carry out large-scale, monumental semi-public projects. These projects can be compared to the banks that failed during the first years of the crisis: projects that were too big to fail, in which the fusion of various financial and political levels grew so dense and imperceivable that municipalities do not even know how to stop, even if continuing means making drastic cut-backs on much more basic amenities. Stopping could mean that the municipality would be left with a bill for € 18 million for a municipal office building in Deventer, which was designed by Neutelings Riedijk, but which was never

11


built. The best example, however, is the Spui Forum in The Hague – also designed by Neutelings Riedijk – that is being set forth even as the nearby libraries are disappearing, and which is giving this firm the status of the gravedigger for the municipal property and cultural politics. This battlefield also exudes the scent of greater and lesser scandals, SunKing behaviour, self-enrichment and corruption, but most of all, conflicts of interest. For example, it amazes me when I see the directors of major health insurers or presidents of construction-industry interest organisations appearing in the Senate, where they speak about legislation that directly concerns the interests of the organisations for which they work. In many places in the Netherlands, we are seeing how healthcare, education and housing are suffering the consequences of the risky – and sometimes immoral – behaviour of their directors, or the consequences of the generic sanctions that it draws from the national government. I have experienced this first-hand: of the five directors of large, wealthy, semi-public and public organisations for housing and education with which we have collaborated in the urban renewal efforts in Hoogvliet, three have since been forced out of their positions because their ventures had plunged the organisations into deep trouble.

Seismic Given the state in which the construction, housing and architectural industries now find themselves, it is not surprising that they are coming to the government in droves, asking to be rescued. They are asking for tax cuts, additional investments, fewer regulations, public procurements, sectorspecific policies and many other measures. The new government is currently not answering the door. Most requests for help actually involve restoration or compensation for the damages that the system has accumulated. The real question that the industry is asking is, ‘How can we get the machine – the perpetuum mobile – up and running again as soon as possible?’

12


But what if this machine is simply beyond repair? What if it is permanently broken, economically, politically and spatially, as well as morally? What if the ‘business model’ with which we have managed to build and maintain the welfare state for the past fifteen years no longer exists? What if we are not going through a rough patch – even a double or triple rough patch – and instead are experiencing a seismic shift that is far from complete and that will soon leave us with a world that looks very different, but which also offers many new opportunities for our orphaned citizens and, indeed, orphaned architects. A week ago, a short distance from here, in the town hall, the urban sociologist Arnold Reijndorp received the Grote Maaskant Prize. On this occasion, he delivered an address about the possible restoration of civil society. He illustrated this by quoting the English political thinker and theologian Philip Blond, who argues that public tasks, like education, care for the poor and the sick, and social housing have actually undergone two consecutive operations by the government. First, the Labour government extracted them from community organisations, scaled them up, professionalised them and bound them completely to the state. This led to public university education, the National Health Service and a massive production of housing that was designed, constructed and rented by the state. Because all of these matters were no longer dependent upon community organisations, but on the state, however, the Margaret Thatcher conservatives were able to throw these services en masse onto the market, where they now – as it turns out – are even further removed from the influence and the needs of the citizens than the bureaucratised hospitals and schools had been under the Labour regime. In the Netherlands, the welfare state was transformed in a similar, yet slightly different manner. In the 1950s and 1960s in our country, we had never heard of the civil society of healthcare funds, housing associations and nationalised school boards that had existed in England. Our government has drawn these ties with the civil society more and more

13


tightly, increasingly intertwining itself with the civil society and bringing it closer to the politic realm. The result was the emergence of a complex system of a civil society consisting of local authorities and the state, organised along confessional lines. Within this context, the associations grew larger, more professional and increasingly political. The Netherlands was also not unaffected by neo-liberal violence of the 1980s. Although the corporations, healthcare funds and schools were privatised, they were primarily placed under a market regime. At the same time that the New Public Management was being introduced within public service agencies in order to make them decomposable, customer-oriented and operating like businesses, the housing, healthcare and education sectors were being rolled into self-contained and profit-making companies. Unlike in England, politics and operations in the Netherlands remained intensely intertwined, although market-like arrangements were now being set up, and deal after deal, development project after development project was now taking shape. An increasing portion of the welfare state was being funded by proceeds from speculation with money and land. The ultimate effect is a civil society that is so large, professional and institutional that it can hardly continue to call itself ‘civil’ or ‘social’. For citizens, it continues to form an inextricable tangle of government institutions and large market parties, which are also exhibiting increasingly more pathological traits in financial terms.

14


A New Civil Society But let us assume that this construction is now definitively collapsing. What would we like to see in its place? More specifically, what role might architects and their clients play within it? First, in the best avant-garde tradition, I think that we must take a giant leap beyond the present to an idealised past, where we can draw the inspiration for our future vision. This idealised past, a strong and diverse civil society, in which many activist, religious and idealistic groups, social movements, artists and, indeed, architects carried out experimental projects and ensured the public good. We could point to the first Garden Cities envisioned by Ebenezer Howard, which were built and developed completely outside of the government. We could talk about Rotterdam’s first experiments with cutting-edge workers’ housing, or we could mention Outdoor Schools in Amsterdam or housing cooperatives established by workers. The suffragettes, garden-city prophets, Theosophists, modernists and Montessorians could provide us with an entire arsenal of new ideas, images, techniques and spaces. It would not be until after the Second World War that they would be encapsulated by the government and implemented on a large scale, using the monopolies possessed by the state. The true invention of the modern welfare state, however, took place without the state. We should start our search by looking for the social movements – the anarchist, political or spiritual initiatives of that time. We should seek the new prophet-designers who were politically engaged but disillusioned by politics. There are still enough to be found in the Netherlands. For example, we could look at what ZUS has realised in the Schieblok, which was started privately but which is now raging throughout the city as a public project, through a sometimes Alien-like tentacle structure. On its own initiative and without a commission, it is bringing significance and spatiality where the municipality, the corporations and the developers do not come. But you have obviously heard this tale before: the romance of the do-ityourself architects, the pop-up projects, bottom-up, ‘with the people’, without

15


the government and, preferably, with sustainable urban farming and, of course, temporary. Philip Blond and others in Cameron’s United Kingdom, who thought that they could return to a strong civil society, were immediately embraced by the Conservatives. Blond was even a guru for what Cameron called the ‘Big Society’: an ideal of a fully self-sufficient society. Blond and other believers quickly turned away from this flirtation with the government. The Big Society projects in many British cities were hopelessly politicised from the start, and they were used largely as a marketing ploy for a radically receding government. It looked like a new social movement of authentic engagement and empowerment, but it was not.

Big Society = Big Government Here in the Netherlands, we should be apprehensive about something like this. I think the greatest fallacy behind the Big Society is that it leads to a Small Government. What is needed for a Big Society, and thus for an authentic and strong civil society, is precisely a strong and self-confident government. This is illustrated by what I consider to be one of the most interesting experiments in the Netherlands, both politically and spatially: the expansion of Almere, led by Adri Duijvestein. The Homeruskwartier and (even more so) Almere Oosterwold, as well as other expansion areas are rooted in Duijvenstein’s much older quest for the democratisation of the housing. Wild Living provided him with a typological instrument to this end. A crucial element for his work in Almere involves using all power and all monopolies to neutralise the middlemen – to pull the carpet out from under the housing corporations, developers and large construction companies, thus placing the control and responsibility for housing construction in the hands of the citizens, possibly in organised collectives. The Almere example demonstrates that such an emancipation project can succeed only if the government interferes with the process in an almost aggressive manner. It is nevertheless important to emphasize that the example

16


of Almere is primarily a political example. It involves the political craft; content remains extremely limited. The city-planning results are limited to a residential area, a grid of streets with private homes, and it offers no further solutions or even new ideas for complex questions with regard to public services, education, public transport or the local economy. Thinking about a new role of the government has yet to begin in Almere. The city should clarify exactly what it is that distinguishes it from social organisations, collectives, citizens and market participants, and then become extremely good at it. This would thus imply the opposite of development planning and a government that works in an entrepreneurial and projectbased fashion. If market players and citizens exist for specific interpretations and programmes, the government exists for the general. If markets and collectives exist for projects, the government exists for the maintenance of the entire system. If markets exist to make money and to create differences, the government exists as a referee. The government should also ensure that the citizens of the Netherlands receive much more direct and more recognisable power over the spatial layout of their streets, their cities, their villages or their regions. This would require much consideration of processes and forms of planning that would allow a more direct democracy, obviously breaking the power of the institutions as well. What I am suggesting is a stronger government, but primarily in order to concentrate on creating freedom for citizens, collectives, entrepreneurs and community organisations. The government should also become more substantive and develop a much stronger self-image of what it does, what it does not do, for whom and why.

17


Facts on the Ground The real task lies elsewhere. What do we think of when we consider what should rise up from the smoking ruins of the growth-addicted public sector? Which form and character, which scale and materiality will the democratic, emancipated and honest Big Society of the future have? I believe that such a question must be answered by trial & error, by groups of people trying out ideas independently of each other, sometimes complex and artistic, sometimes almost primitive, but always in the attempt to work together to make something better than that which is being offered to them. Is the Luchtsingel and Schieblok a model for the city as a whole? We have seen how the architects managed to entice hundreds of Rotterdam locals into providing the crowdfunding for this project. Within the framework of the Urban Initiative election, they subsequently managed to convince tens of thousands of Rotterdam locals to vote in favour, thereby securing a municipal subsidy worth several millions. Would it also be possible, however, to achieve direct, collective consultation and financing for projects in a less incidental and less anecdotal manner? Would it be possible for such consultation and financing not to involve ‘extras’, and not only the exceptional, photogenic ideas, but to involve fundamental interventions and choices? Hidden behind the Luchtsingel and Schieblok, there remains an invisible world of agreements between municipal authorities, project developers and owners of real estate in the area (e.g. BV Hofbogen, the organisation responsible for the re-operationalisation of the 19th-century railway viaduct of the Hofplein line, on which my own firm is in charge of content). How could the the money flows within projects once again be made so simple and transparent that we spend what we have, know exactly what it will cost and on which everyone can agree? Urban projects are currently so dominated by the complexity of the political and the financial process that this has become a major obstacle to an effective collective and public debate on the future of the city. Citizens are brought in only when an existing long-term project suddenly needs to gain a hint of participation or democratisation, or if resources have been found for ‘icing on the cake’, as with the Urban Initiative.

18


Ideally, the money flows and responsibilities behind construction and public space projects within a city should be so transparent and obvious that the citizens could make collective political choices about them. This would allow the formulation of ‘common-sense’ proposals (for the current system of spatial planning, housing and other matters of public interest) that would not be dismissed immediately due to the complexity of the system. This is a prerequisite for both democratisation and public control over the expenditure of public money. One such proposal could thus be as follows: Let us use the radical drop in housing prices that could result from the dumping of corporation houses to rebuild true cooperatives. With such low prices, we could start over, as it were, in some cases using the same homes as in the beginning, but bigger, more spacious, less populated and merged. The collapse of the corporation system, the housing market and even the construction industry – if it should happen – would thus eventually have a positive effect: a major shakeout that would result in a clearer and fairer system, and even a more liveable city, with better homes for broader layers of the population. Another question concerns why the law on freedom of education is not used for its intended purpose more often – so that groups of citizens can start their own schools. Why is this possible only for a group of dogged progressives with money to start a mixed school in Kralingen because they do not wish to send their children to either a black or a white school? Why aren’t we chopping the school boards – which currently consist of CEOs – into pieces and distributing their schools across the citizens of our cities and countrysides? If the Inspectorate would focus on actually monitoring education, independent schools would be quite capable of funding, building and organising their schools themselves. This would require municipal and national governments to take on the role of a strict referee, overseeing the fairness and quality of the education (or housing construction) that is being delivered, while freeing the citizens from the dictatorship of semi-public monopolies.

19


You may be surprised at the naivety of such proposals – I could easily think of ten more, the one more simplistic than the other. If we try to imagine how difficult it would be to carry out such ideas, however, we would actually come upon only a jungle of self-created obstacles, and not any substantive counter-arguments. We would encounter a thick, filthy crust created by decades of vested interests and institutionalisation. What we need in order to break this crust must come from both sides. First, we need a government apparatus that would be able to cut itself loose from its conflicts of interests with private concerns (possibly the most painful surgery ever) and that would kick the habit – preferably cold turkey – of business models based on growth. Once it was ‘clean’, this government would have to focus on the radical clean-up of civil society, making it as transparent and accessible as possible to citizens and their initiatives. On the other hand, it would also be necessary to realise the public aspect by creating facts on the ground: concrete, realistic, well-embedded spaces and initiatives that could triumph over the status quo through the tremendous efforts of a group of pioneers. The young generations of architects obviously play a crucial role in this regard, most likely without any client at all. They prove that it can, in fact, be done, that it is not impossible, unsafe, unprofitable, implausible or foolish. Nevertheless, somewhat older architects, consultants and researchers – like myself and my firm – have also become dependent upon the perpetuum mobile of growth, and all of the fun little projects and generous subsidies that emerge from it. Cutting loose is perhaps most difficult for our generation of forty-somethings, as we came of age during the heyday of this system, thus making it the most difficult for us to kick the habit. In contrast, it could be to our advantage that we – unlike the younger generation – still have a latent confidence in the key role of governments, of greater bureaucratic relations, of democratic legitimacy and of collectivity.

20


For young and less-young architects, as well as for ordinary citizens, the greatest challenge in the coming years will be to develop radically different and specific places and programmes at the same time, transcending the differences in the process and being able to something that will draw us all together and that will protect us from the mechanisms of trivialisation, alienation and exploitation.

21


HTTP://WWW.DESIGNASPOLITICS.NL

Profile for Design as Politics

The end of the Perpetuum Mobile, or: The Self Destruction Machine  

This Publication is Based on Wouter vanstiphout’s reading during the practice session ‘The New Commissioning’ (‘Het Nieuwe Opdrachtgeven’) 4...

The end of the Perpetuum Mobile, or: The Self Destruction Machine  

This Publication is Based on Wouter vanstiphout’s reading during the practice session ‘The New Commissioning’ (‘Het Nieuwe Opdrachtgeven’) 4...

Advertisement