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'An Installation In Four Acts' - Exploring Structuralism At Rotterdam's Nieuwe Instituut

Great movements in architecture are usually set in motion by a dull societal ache or as a response to a sudden, unforeseen reorientation of a community at large. The Dutch city of Rotterdam - vast swathes of which were cast into oblivion during the blitz of May 1940 - has been at the forefront of many shifts in approach to the built environment. It is therefore fitting that the latest exhibition at the Nieuwe Instituut (formerly the NAi), simply titled Structuralism, is being held in the city that was recently named Europe’s best.

Furthermore, Dutch Structuralism is a timely subject for Dirk van den Heuvel and the Jaap Bakema Study Centre (JBSC) in Delft to tackle. With major civic buildings like OMA's extension to Rotterdam's City Hall taking shape, it appears that a resurgence of Structuralist formal thought is appearing in the contemporary city. The exhibition seeks to shine a new light on the movement by uncovering drawings, models and texts which profoundly shaped 20th century architectural thinking.

'An Installation In Four Acts' Seminar Space. Image via Het Nieuwe Instituut Structuralism: From 'An Installation In Four Acts' looking towards 'Making Space, Leaving Space'. Image via Het Nieuwe Instituut Structuralism: 'An Installation In Four Acts'. Image via Het Nieuwe Instituut Structuralism: 'An Installation In Four Acts' - the mini-mega furniture. Image via Het Nieuwe Instituut

Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas' earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”

Rotterdam Named Europe's Best City By The Academy Of Urbanism

The Dutch city of Rotterdam, often referred to as a hotbed of architectural activity, has been named as the best city in Europe by The Academy of Urbanism at the 2015 Urbanism Awards. Pitted against two other finalists - Aarhus in Denmark and Turin in Italy - the city has been praised for its "predominantly young, open, tolerant community that is embracing innovative architecture and urban design and new business models."

Despite being a very closely fought battle, the Academy said that Rotterdam was a vote winner for its "unique approach to governance. Appointed for six years by central government, the role of mayor sits outside of political structures and with no portfolio, allowing greater engagement with citizens and businesses." Steven Bee, Chairman of the Academy, said that "a long-term perspective, a high level of autonomy, strong leadership by the mayor and municipality, and strong partnerships between public and private sector, are all helping Rotterdam grow positively."

In Progress: Stadskantoor / OMA

  • Architects: OMA
  • Location: Meent 119, 3011 JH Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Partners In Charge: Rem Koolhaas, Reinier de Graaf
  • Associate: Alex de Jong
  • Project Team: Philippe Braun, Clarisa Garcia Fresco, Maaike Hawinkels, Andrew Linn, Takeshi Murakuni, Peter Rieff, Tom Tang, Sakine Dicle Uzanyayla, Mark Veldman
  • Interior Team: Saskia Simon, Andrea Giannotti, Ross O'Connell, Mafalda Rangel, Lucia Zamponi, Grisha Zotov
  • Area: 43370.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2015
  • Photographs: Ossip van Duivenbode, Courtesy of OMA

© Ossip van Duivenbode © Ossip van Duivenbode © Ossip van Duivenbode Facade Collage from North. Image Courtesy of OMA

Competition Entry: JHK Architecten + Broekbakema's Proposal for Rotterdam School of Transport

JHK Architecten and Broekbakema have shared with us their competition entry for a higher education school in the field of transport for Rotterdam. The building, envisioned as part of Rotterdam’s transport and logistics district, was inspired by the “distinctive sturdy structures of the port.” 

© JHK BroekBakema © WAX © WAX © WAX

Markthal Rotterdam / MVRDV

© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee
© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee

© Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Ossip van Duivenbode © Daria Scagliola+Stijn Brakkee © Nico Saieh

Reimagining 448 Local Libraries in Moscow, One Space at a Time

SVESMI, an unassuming studio based in central Rotterdam, is at the center of a dauntingly complex project that may eventually see the renovation of 448 dilapidated and disused branch libraries in Moscow. Architects Anastassia Smirnova and Alexander Sverdlov balance their time between Rotterdam, which acts as their design studio, and Moscow from which, alongside architects Maria Kataryan and Pavel Rueda, they oversee the project at large. Faced by the potential challenge of reimagining over 450 public 'living rooms' spread across the Russian capital and demanding unusually high levels of spatial articulation and social understanding, the Open Library project is also unwinding the hidden narrative of Moscow’s local libraries.

Interior Collage - Dostoyevsky Library. Image © SVESMI Interior of Library - #127. Image © SVESMI Interior Collage - #185. Image © SVESMI Interior Collage - Library #127. Image © SVESMI

First Look: MVRDV Completes Largest Covered Market in the Netherlands

© Nico Saieh
© Nico Saieh

Rotterdam’s very own, MVRDV has completed the Netherlands’ first covered market: the Markthal Rotterdam. Unlike any other market in the world, the Markthal presents a new urban hybrid that unites a market hall with housing. 

Within the hollow core of the 228-unit, “horseshoe-shaped” residential building is an expansive, 40-meter-tall public market, offering 96 fresh food stalls, 8 restaurants and supermarket. Colorful murals cover the arch’s vaulted interior, peering through the largest single glazed cable net facades in Europe, which enclose the market. 

This sense of transparency and openness was key, as the Markthal is the driving force to the rejuvenation of the Laurenskwartier area and hopes to attract thousands of visitors each year.

A look inside, after the break.

© Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh © Nico Saieh

Maarten Hajer Appointed as Chief Curator of 2016 Rotterdam Biennale

The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) has announced Maarte Hajer as the Chief Curator of IABR-2016-. Hajer, a professor of Public Policy at the University of Amsterdam and Director General of the PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, was selected for his proposed theme, "The Next Economy." More on Hajer's appointment after the break.

Dutch Architects Transform Rotterdam House Into Terraced "Urban Paradise"

Two Dutch designers, collectively known as HUNK-design, have transformed their 19th century top floor apartment into a "unique city paradise." Architect Bart Cardinaal and artist Nadine Roos, who have lived in parts of the house in central Rotterdam since their student years, have created a large outdoor terraced space amid the rooflines of a built up area. By demolishing the existing pitched roof, they have constructed what they describe as their "Cabrio apartment."

© Thomas Mayer © Thomas Mayer © Thomas Mayer © Thomas Mayer

Erasmus University College in Rotterdam / Erick van Egeraat

© Ossip van Duivenbode © Ossip van Duivenbode © Ossip van Duivenbode © Ossip van Duivenbode

Sam Jacob & Wouter Vanstiphout on Curating "A Clockwork Jerusalem"

The British Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale takes the large scale projects of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s and explores the "mature flowering of British Modernism at the moment it was at its most socially, politically and architecturally ambitious but also the moment that witnessed its collapse." The exhibition tells the story of how British modernity emerged out of an unlikely combination of interests and how "these modern visions continue to create our physical and imaginative landscapes." To those who know the UK's architectural heritage, this cultural and social history is delivered in a way which feels strangely familiar, whilst uncovering fascinating hidden histories of British modernity that continue to resonate in the 21st century.

We caught up with Sam Jacob, co-founder of FAT Architecture (of which this exhibition is their final project), and Wouter Vanstiphout, partner at Rotterdam-based Crimson Architectural Historians, outside the British Pavilion to discuss the ideas behind, and significance of, A Clockwork Jerusalem.

© James Taylor-Foster
© James Taylor-Foster

Harvard GSD Releases Video of Study Abroad Studio with Rem Koolhaas

"We encounter similarities and difference, but what we encounter more than anything else is how intensely all these seemingly stable elements are evolving in time. Sometimes with acceleration, sometimes with moments of stagnation, but actually they are constantly changing. So what seemed to be a look at the repertoire is actually turning into a look at how nothing is stable." - Rem Koolhaas

The Harvard GSD has released a video from the Fall 2013 study abroad studio in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The students who relocated to Rotterdam for last year's fall semester worked on the "Elements of Architecture" exhibition that will open in the Central Pavilion during the 2014 International Architecture Exhibition in Venice, Italy. Watch Rem and the students reflect on their research, after the break...

Rotterdam Unveils Mirrored, MVRDV-Designed Art Depot for Museumpark

The City of Rotterdam has unveiled MVRDV’s competition winning design for a new public art depot in Rotterdam’s Museumpark. Clad in a highly reflective glass, the cylindrical BREEAM Excellent-planned “Collection Building” will store the “precious art collection of Rotterdam” as well as offer commercial interior storage for private collectors. It is designed to expose the inter workings of a museum, winding visitors up a public route, past storage rooms and restoration workshops, to a rooftop exhibition space, sculpture garden and restaurant.

AD Classics: Kubuswoningen / Piet Blom

A popular tourist attraction and bizarre architectural experiment, the Kubuswoningen is located in the Oude Haven, the most historic section of Rotterdam’s port. Following the destruction of the Oude Haven during the Second World War, architect Piet Blom was asked to redevelop the area with architecture of character, presenting him the opportunity to apply his earlier cube housing exploration in Helmond to a more urban context.  Known for his desire to challenge conventions, Blom did not want the Kubuswoningen to resemble typical housing; he strived to dissolve the attitude that “a building has to be recognizable as a house for it to qualify as housing.”  During a time when the rebuilding of Rotterdam was pivotal, the Kubuswoningen served as an influential precedent for progressive and innovative architectural development.  

© Dirk Verwoerd © Dirk Verwoerd © Dirk Verwoerd © Dirk Verwoerd

In OMA's De Rotterdam, Furniture Transforms 60-meters into Multi-Functional, Versatile Space

OMA's De Rotterdam, a project 15 years in the making, is designed to maximize the number of functions possible in 44 floors. In addition to shops, hotels and office space, this "vertical city" also contains apartments that use transformable furniture to pack a variety of uses into small spaces. Chairs double as wall art and sofas flip into beds, showing that a 60 square meter apartment is more versatile than we think. 

Developer Wim De Lathauwer explains, "Why would we only think in quantity of bedrooms and square meters, while many of these spaces are used only sporadically?...In The Netherlands we are simply not used to this way of thinking. De Rotterdam is the ideal project when it comes to maximizing the joy of every square meter. We deal with an audience who understands this and yearns for this extra quality. Even in the large apartments the office, wardrobe- and guest room are combined in one space. Actually, it is very logical.” You can see the dynamic furniture, designed by Clei Italia, in the video below. 

Read more about The Netherlands' largest building here

Erasmus Pavilion / Powerhouse Company + DeZwarteHond

© Christian van der Kooy
© Christian van der Kooy
  • Architects: Powerhouse Company, DeZwarteHond
  • Location: Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Project Leader: Stefan Prins
  • Partners In Charge: Nanne de Ru, Willem Hein Schenk
  • Team : Sander Apperlo, Sybren Woudstra, Anja Lübke, Anne Larsen, Sijmen de Goede, Søren Harder Nielsen
  • Area: 1800.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: Christian van der Kooy, Rene de Wit

© Rene de Wit © Christian van der Kooy © Christian van der Kooy © Christian van der Kooy

Unielocatie Zuiderpark / JHK Architecten

  • Architects: JHK Architecten
  • Location: Montessoriweg, 3083 Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Project Management: ICSadviseurs
  • Main Contractor: Heddes Bouw & Ontwikkeling
  • Structural Engineer: C.A.E. Nederland
  • Building Services: Techniplan Adviseurs
  • Area: 22000.0 sqm
  • Project Year: 2012
  • Photographs: Jeroen Musch, Rhalda Jansen, Courtesy of JHK Architecten, Rein van der Zee

© Jeroen Musch © Rhalda Jansen © Jeroen Musch © Jeroen Musch