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Architecture Two Dot Oh

Rem Koolhaas

Friday 9 November 2007 more than a thousand Dutch architects gathered in De Doelen theatre in Rotterdam to hear Francine Houben, Wiel Arets, Ben van Berkel, Willem-Jan Neutelings, Winy Maas, and Rem Koolhaas speak - all the big names of the SuperDutch generation, plus Rem Koolhaas. The name of the conference: Architectuur 2.0. It was a remarkable day in many ways. For me it was the first time I saw so many architects together. The sheer mass of the public, combined with a dream team of lecturers made an atmosphere emerge that was actually thrilling. There was tension. And not just because of Rem Koolhaas, who was strategically put at the finish of the program. He had to share the attention with his colleagues, and was eventually outshined by WillemJan Neutelings who halfway the day won over the public and set the tone of the debate. Koolhaas, half an hour too late, not only ended the debate between the speakers that had just started, but also killed it by ignoring the debate to talk about his own problems. So in the end it would be SuperDutch + 1. In this post I will summarize the lectures shortly, in chorological order, beginning with the opening of the new director of the Dutch Architecture Institute, and former editor-in-chief of Archis, Ole Bouman. The agenda of the day, Bouman promised, was to optimistically speculate about the future. That doesnt happen anywhere in the world, and wouldnt happen that day. There is no future, just today. Some of the speakers, Ole Bouman said, organize space (Ben van Berkel, Winy Maas, Rem Koolhaas), while others design space (Francine Houben, Wiel Arets, Willem-Jan Neutelings). Which is only partially true of course. Francine Houben, of Mecanoo, gave the most corporate presentation of all. Starting with the one-liner, you can only go somewhere if you know where you came from, she stated that

she was born in the hilly south of The Netherlands, and therefore imagines cities and buildings like mountains. Francine Houben likes that kind of simple logic, she also talks like that about her designs. This, because of that. Simple, effective. With an office of 80 people Houben currently does a huge amount of projects. Most of the projects are in Holland, but the most prestigious ones are located in Taiwan and Spain. Houben criticized the projected Gazprom tower in St. Petersburg, because it would not be suitable for the city, but later honestly admitted she started to feel the temptation herself, because success is addictive. Worth mentioning was Francine Houbens argument for the winning design of Mecanoo for the new railway station in Delft. The railway tracks are relocated underground, which makes it basically an underground station. So Mecanoo looked at the architecture of the metro stations in Moscow. Now big vaulted forms are being thought-out for Delft. Moscow, Delft, whats the difference? Wiel Arets talk featured all his fascinations high density, stacking, and abstraction but also surprised by the vastness of the portfolio of his office. A new element in his architecture language is the stack of shifted boxes - very fashionable. He finished with a laugh: Because of regulations Arets had to build the demanded museum in Wijlre underneath a stable/greenhouse for chickens and orchids. Bureaucracy, that is also Holland. Ben van Berkel (UN Studio) also talked about his familiar themes, but cut some new stuff in there too. He started with an isolated quote from Baudrillard: Do we always have to look at the value, of architecture? And is that value simply commercial? Then the lecture really started with the image of box-blob, an image that in my view has become the central obsession of Van Berkel. The box-part of this design model is the utilitarian part, Van Berkel analyzed, while the blob-part is the infrastructural part. Most of his work can be related to that image, I would say. And now in Graz, he is actually going to build it. On the renderings it looks horrible, but who knows I hope it works out. The Moebius House and the Mercedes-Benz Museum on the other hand remain amazing. The complicated forms of the Moebius House look calm by using only angles of 7, 9, and 11 degrees, Van Berkel claimed. (Research shows a limiting of roof-angles also calms the look of a neighborhood) It was a design that emerged from the ambition to build a house without dead ends. (Next: a house with only dead-ends?) The Mercedes-Benz Museum remains astonishing with its diagonal views from the ramps on the cars and from one floor to another. Absolutely devastating is the tornado (!) in the central void that can be created on command to forcefully ventilate the building in case of fire. Normally compartments are needed for such a building, but Van Berkel wanted an unobstructed view so came up with this solution. UN Studio had to do four demonstrations before the authorities accepted it. But the solution is now added to the building-regulations in Germany. (More tornados to come.) Willem-Jan Neutelings, partner of Neutelings Riedijk, was introduced by Ole Bouman as one of the best columnists on architecture around, and then proved that point with a terrific plea for a return to the discipline of architecture. To illustrate the subversive content of his

lecture he told anecdotes instead of presenting images. The PowerPoint simply showed the names of his chapters. There are architects today that claim to be scientists, but architects are mediocre scientists. There are architects today that make photographs in foreign countries, and then say they make architecture from it, but architects are mediocre photographers. There are architects today that use statistics to generate buildings, but architects are also mediocre in statistics. Architects should just talk about buildings, Neutelings theatrical polemic sounded. The rhetoric became a bit shallow when he compared the title of the conference, Architectuur 2.0 with software that periodically needs updating. But the statement stayed crystal clear. Buildings are heavy, blunt things, and, without a shared language, we cannot criticize each others work, and without critique there is no discipline. Knowledge, skill, and evocation are currently evaporating into Wiki, modeling software, and Photoshop, Neutelings complained. The new generation is lost, he added. (I dont agree on that one). Everybody seems to think the world has become too complex to design, Neutelings continued, and therefore have discarded urbanism as irrelevant. But a lot has stayed the same, and urban plans can still be used to design the future. The hotel room has remained the same in the last hundred years. Architecture is still architecture. And we should not try to make a city made of icons, but should design mainly background, more silent architecture, Neutelings finished. (But, well, how much background architecture have Neutelings Riedijk build?) And without more arguments: We should not build for the Louis XIVs in Dubai. Instead we should design the normal. (But even the normal can be iconic, shows Rem Koolhaas n Dubai.) Architecture is an old and slow profession. It has been practiced for 5000 years. We have to build on that tradition. A thousand architects applauded. It almost was a standing ovation, Ole Bouman had to admit. The agenda was set. Winy Maas (the M in MVRDV) took his turn after the lunch. We can either be fatalist or constructivist, he said. And Maas obviously takes the opportunistic road. Everybody copypastes from each others work, and that is a good thing, Maas continued. Everybody does commentaries on everybody. Architecture is about constructing the visionary, being endlessly experimental. And then: What to do after KM3? A self-sustaining city mainly consists of forest and agriculture, so there is an enormous green agenda, Maas analyzed. Cities have become collectioneurs of icons, and MVRDV works with that, mainly from the ideal of a 3-d city. It is a city with humor. We have finally put our IKEA-model in the city; Maas laughed on his design for a table-shaped extension to a museum in Rotterdam. And the pig-city skyscrapers have already been called Stack-Attack, he proudly recalled. That design also proved that architecture can still be hugely political, Maas finished. The themes of the SuperDutch generation corporate, stacking, diagrams, doing your job, and density all continue the legacy of Delirious New York, S, M, L, XL and OMA in general. In contrast the master himself talked about something completely different: partnerships.

Rem Koolhaas, founding partner of OMA: Partnerships is an underestimated theme. Rems Rule: always set new agendas, in architecture, on conferences. Globalization before 9-11 equaled Americanism, after 9-11 the direction has changed, Koolhaas stated, the current world is Europe Middle East Russia India - China. Strong language. After a partnership in China (CCTV), and the partnership with Cecil Balmond, the third partnership Rem Koolhaas named was that with the director of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Mr. Petrovsky. The failed and much laughed-on design of the Hermitage in Las Vegas was actually a success, Koolhaas said, as a partnership. Because afterwards OMA was asked to work on the extension of the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. In the case of Lagos the (incidental) crucial partnership was that with a Dutch filmmaker. While Koolhaas simply enjoyed the esthetic of the city, without the need to come up with solutions, the documentary made of his visits, which was first shown on Dutch television and later came out on DVD, had an enormous resonance in Lagos itself. An impact Koolhaas had never imagined. While Koolhaas was slowly writing his book about Lagos, film proved a far more effective and faster means of communication. (The saying when you research, you change never was more real, I would say.) In the case of Koolhaas the irony is that while the book is not even out, the city of Lagos already has realized something has to be done, and has already started planning. Koolhaas himself has been asked by the governor to redesign a central bus-station. After a long list of partnerships Koolhaas concluded his talk with an image showing George W. Bush behind a stand on which the OMA-designed flag for Europe was shown. We have penetrated that world, Koolhaas proudly said, the partnership with Romani Prodi provided us with the opportunity to think about Europe. And then there were drinks, joy, and laughter.

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Comments are currently closed on this entry. 1. moritz 11.29.07 / 5pm hey, i was wondering if there is any site with Dutch lectures/symposiums, where you can look up the dates and locations for these events? i just seem to miss every event! thanks a lot, moritz 2. Michiel van Raaij 11.29.07 / 5pm There is no such website. So you gotta be smart and get noted by email on such events, check websites like Architectenweb, and so on There is no easy way around. 3. moritz 11.29.07 / 5pm

i see - to bad, but i guess, it would habe been too easy after all! ;) but its a shame there isnt a platform for these events, because most universities/institutes organise quite interesting discussions/symposiums, but one just never hears of them anyway, thanks, and keep it up! 4. Darrel Ronald 12.05.07 / 6am Michiel, Thanks for the great write-up. Not having been there I was anxious to know what went down. Im surprised that it seemed to be more of a talking-session than a debate? One problem with the admirable Neutelings proposition of background architecture is that Nederlands Architectuur 1.0 is based exactly on the opposite: foreground architecture. There would be no famously flamboyant international Dutch architecture if it was all conspicuous. Perhaps it would be more Swiss, and architects worldwide would be less enthusiastic? So in the end, was there any consensus among the presenting architects about what Dutch Architectuur 2.0 could be? Perhaps they dont need to have a consensus of course As for a calendar of events, this is one of them: http://www.dysturb.net/calendar/ 5. Michiel van Raaij 12.05.07 / 5pm What in potential could have become a debate at the end of the day was disrupted by the arrival and subsequent presentation of Rem Koolhaas. But then again I do not think a real debate could emerge. The speakers were very polite to each other, and talked about each others work in admiration. That is not a fertile ground for discussion. And no, there was no notion of what Architecture 2.0 could be. It started as a hollow phrase, ended like it. What do you mean with Architecture 1.0, Darrel? 6. Thomas Stellmach 12.06.07 / 2pm Moritz, I secon Darrel - we try to keep the calendar on dysturb.net complete. If you know of some event which should be on it, just email m@dysturb.net and we add it. You can also subscribe to our cal via ical or google calendars etc. As to architecture 2.0 - architects seem always to be late to jump on the bandwagon of a hype. The term web 2.0 was coined a few years ago, and has by now been so widely abused, that you only get funny grimaces as an answer if you use it among web-ophiles. And then use it for an architecture conference? A conference where you let the established stars (1.0!) speak, and not the upcoming generation?

7. Darrel Ronald 12.06.07 / 8pm My guess is that if we say Architectuur 1.0 in the Dutch context, it would be the Superdutch era? Perhaps at the conference, they use Architectuur 2.0 as a conclusion to the Super Dutch era? I had the impression the conference implied version 2.0 as the future -direction seeking? Can you clarify what was said at the conference? My reading is that Superdutch = Architectuur 1.0, which isnt necessarily fair to all the previous architects and spatial thinking in the Netherlands prior to the 1900s, and following with De Stijl, Hertzberger, Van Eyck, Constant, etc. It would make sense that the Superdutch architects would declare themselves the 1st generation given their marketing and public relations strategies -and tendency to overemphasize. Whats interesting is that some key people of the Superdutch era werent there, important people. Kas Oosterhuis especially comes to mind. Regardless of what anyone thinks about his aesthetics, his technical innovations are unique for the entire world. He is exploratory, and that is a fundamental characteristic of the superdutch qualities. If we are going to talk about Dutch Architectuur 2.0 - what is its innovation? Perhaps the conference was created in order to look at a new direction for Dutch architecture -if so, this is greatly important. We can sum up the Dutch architecture scene with The party is over from OASE; but the scene is still very creative, talented, and intelligent. Clearly the direction is a bit weak at the moment, and that is what is critical for Dutch architecture (it seems) the defining new projects. But will it come from the architects at the conference? Or should we look to a new generation of designers? So then, is it fair to use version numbers for the history of Dutch architecture? I doubt it, but it is a nice marketing tool. Too bad the conference didnt really come up with something. Maybe there will be an aftermath? 8. Michiel van Raaij 12.08.07 / 3pm One conclusion was up front: the party is far from over! I did not read that issue of Oase magazine, but it seems like they were completely wrong. But the party is over could also mean the limiting of possibilities of the new generation. The elevater pitches of young designers at the conference were nice, but at the end not all that convincing. If Architectuur 1.0 was SuperDutch, then Architectuur 2.0 is SuperDutch International. All the firms have a great portfolio, with big commissions in the Netherlands, but even bigger commissions outside of the Netherlands. The party continues oversees. 9. Darrel Ronald 12.10.07 / 9pm Michiel, very nice summary, and very nice optimistic view. I think I agree with you for the most part -that the Dutch party continues internationally, at times overseas . But I think that one thing missing still are the defining new projects (if they are

necessary?). I think that UN Studios Mercedes Benz project could be seen as defining, especially in terms of their office. Could we say that the CCTV by OMA is also a defining moment? And what else do you see/think? What still concerns me though is, which offices are going to contribute to the next generation of architects in the Netherlands? It seems that the Architectuur 1.0 architects still control the architecture debate 10. Michiel van Raaij 12.11.07 / 5pm That is huge problem: Where are the young architects in the Netherlands? I dont see much in your suggestions of the defining moments of UN Studio and OMA. You suggest their biggest projects are their defining projects. I would rather look in the opposite direction. For UN Studio the Moeubius House could have been defining, for OMA is it much more difficulut. Maybe S,M,L,XL or even Delirious New York, instead of a single building.

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