Originally published by the European Commission as part of their “Digital Minds for a New Europe” series, this article is an edited transcript of a talk given by Rem Koolhaas at the High Level Group meeting on Smart Cities, Brussels, 24 September 2014.
I had a sinking feeling as I was listening to the talks by these prominent figures in the field of smart cities because the city used to be the domain of the architect, and now, frankly, they have made it their domain. This transfer of authority has been achieved in a clever way by calling their city smart – and by calling it smart, our city is condemned to being stupid. Here are some thoughts on the smart city, some of which are critical; but in the end, it is clear that those in the digital realm and architects will have to work together.
The Brussels-based design initiative MANIERA invites emerging architects to design series of limited edition furniture. This April, their first show opened with works by the Belgian architects OFFICE KERSTEN GEERS DAVID VAN SEVEREN and the Dutch artist and architect Anne Holptrop. The objects are on view in the loft-like living space of Kwinten Lavigne and Amaryllis Jacobs, the couple who founded MANIERA. Since both have a background in the art world, it’s not surprising that the design objects shown at MANIERA are more than just furniture, but rather a deliberate search for collisions between the realms of architecture, design and art.
The United States has an architecture school in almost every major university in each of its 50 states. And while it’s true that the choices seem endless, it is also true that there are certain values and approaches that dominate. Ecological architecture, for example, is often not passive, but is technology-laden, which means a large production footprint for materials like PV panels, special types of glass, or other cladding solutions. This is just one example of how industry and pedagogy shape one another and in turn influence the perception of “legitimate” architecture. Teaching architectural history offers another example in which what comprises “relevant” history is all-too-often limited to Euro-American examples. Everything in Asia beyond twenty years ago, whether it is Southeast, South, or East, is usually ignored because – although the names of historical architects may well be known in their own countries, they are not easily translatable for the average English-language author of architecture survey books.
The truth is that even in architecture schools in European nations, approaches and emphases on pedagogical content and styles vary widely. For example, schools in northern Europe have very different views on what is important and how to teach it than schools in western Europe. One school with a very defined point of view is the Brussels Faculty of Engineering, or Bruface, created by Vrije Universiteit Brussel in cooperation with the Universite Libre de Bruxelles. There, students can receive a Master of Science in Architectural Engineering; they are trained not just in design, but in engineering, emphasizing a more structural, practical approach.
ARJM, in collaboration with SUM, recently won the competition for their project, “Square de l’Accueil” (Welcoming Square), which includes a public square of 10,000 m2, 53 flats, a school, commercial spaces and underground parking. Located in a neighborhood at a strategic entry point towards Evere, one of Brussels communes, the project itself includes all the components of the city at a smaller scale. More images and architects’ description after the break.
The 2012 edition of Parckdesign, a biennial event dedicated to green space planning initiated by Brussels Environment and the Brussels Ministry for Environment, Energy and Urban Renovation, aims to reinterpret industrial wastelands, leftover spaces and interstices in Brussels. With this challenge, Raumlabor chose to open the gates to the spacious and pleasant courtyard of Curo Hall and to extend the public space by planning a whole series of concerted developments to comply with the uses of the local associations (whose activity is usually little known to the inhabitants of the neighborhood). More images and architects’ description after the break.