Winy Maas is one of architecture’s most aggressive researchers. Through his office MVRDV and affiliations with universities in Europe and America, Maas produces a seemingly unstoppable stream of insights into the environments in which architects now operate. As an advisor to the educational program of the Strelka Institute in Moscow, the architect is currently contributing to the production of eleven radical visions of the future, based on extrapolating trends that shape contemporary life, in Russia and around the world. Maas recently sat with writer, curator, and Strelka faculty member Brendan McGetrick to discuss his unusual educational trajectory, learning from the conservationist Richard Leakey, facing death in Sudan, and the beauty of architects experimenting with algae.
The Berlage’s Master of Science in Architecture and Urban Design: Architectural Education in the Age of Global Practice
In the second decade of the twenty-first century, the built environment continues to be redefined on an unprecedented scale by global shifts of culture, economy, and geopolitical structures. Cities and countrysides are transforming differently from country to country; national and local governments continue to define specific legal frameworks impacting building practice; and value systems and social norms remain strongly bound to culture. At the same time, different regions around the world deal with similar changes, from urban sprawl and rapid urbanization to the consequences of an aging population and the lifestyle challenges of the middle class.
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.
In this installment from the Berlage Institute, Toyo Ito opens a discussion on his traveling exhibition Blurring Architecture, the first iteration of which took place in Aachen. Explaining that architecture is often thought of as a very solid element, Ito meditates on the concept of distortion and shifts in contemporary ideas of architecture. Rather than considering architecture as static, he argues for an "ambiguous boundary" that is "not about form" but rather about the "conception of architecture." Considering the effects of the economy and politics on architecture, Ito pushes deep into philosophical notions of what architecture is and does, and how inquiry shapes the physical form of designs.
In this lecture, Leon Krier expounds upon his decades-long critique of modernist urbanism and design. Using his experiences planning and building the town of Poundbury, England as a lens for viewing contemporary planning practice, he compares modernist and classicist theory in their approaches to zoning and building construction.
In this 2000 Berlage Institute lecture, titled "Neutra's Architecture and Modernism in California," American architectural photographer Julius Shulman outlines a twofold mission: to introduce his two new books, Modernism Rediscovered, and Neutra: Complete Works, and to speak to architectural students and educators who are responsible for the future of the field. Highly jovial and personable, Shulman starts off on a playful tone, inviting audience members to sit on the floor next to him and insisting on the informality of his lecture; he begins by describing how he met Richard Neutra, purely by chance, and made history with the iconic photograph of the Kaufman House, solely through a rebellious desire to pursue a beautiful sunset.
Shulman speaks of Neutra both affectionately and critically. He advises, "Those of you who hope to be architects, please be human about how people live in your house. Don't wipe it clean and empty the way Neutra used to do it, because he was more interested in the image of a house - pure architecture, without furniture." The lecture introduces Shulman's photographs of Modernist homes in California, including Frank Gehry's first house, Shulman's own house and studio by Raphael Soriano, and works by Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller, before moving on to briefly introduce projects from his vast archives. Pierluigi Serraino joins him halfway through the lecture to discuss the process of writing their publication, Modernism Rediscovered, and the responsibilities of an architectural photographer.
The lecture demonstrates the incredible breadth of Shulman's portfolio, his fascinating thought process, and an indefatigable spirit. When describing the moment when he broke away from Neutra's admonishment in order to photograph the exquisite sky above the Kaufman House, the iconic photographer enthuses,"Don't ever hesitate. If you want to do something, whether it's to design a house or kiss a beautiful woman, or whatever you want to do, do it! No one's going to stop you."
In this 1996 lecture Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne describes his views of architectural theory and his unique approach to the architectural process at a time when firms had begun the transition to 3D digital models. As one of the founders of Santa Monica based firm Morphosis, Mayne speaks about the evolution of their built and unbuilt projects in the late 70s and early 80s by giving insights into three general topics including objects, context, and the role of nature in architecture. His discussion touches on everything from music and art, to philosophical questions regarding the process of architecture and its role in society.
In the development of his first projects, Mayne reveals a preoccupation with objects, their materials, and their relationship to the craft of architecture. He also describes how context shapes his designs, using the example of his Sixth Street House of 1983. For him, the project's site in Los Angeles was particularly influential to his work in the way that it is a “prototype of the modern metropolis” in which “…there’s no inside, there’s no outside, there’s no way of perceiving it, its growing, its moving, its changing, quicker than one can absorb it.” These notions of context were reflected in many later works, and tied into his interest in “the space between randomness and order.”
"What does architecture mean? Does it mean something? Where do you put it?" These are a few of the questions Jacques Herzog poses in this 1998 lecture at the Berlage Institute. Inspired by the concept that architecture is inherently a form of communication, Herzog, who co-founded Herzog & de Meuron with Pierre de Meuron, highlights nine of the firm's projects which all share similarities that feed into one another. The lecture, Herzog explains, is about using varied forms of language to create a conversation. Basel, a Swiss city bordering three countries and the home base of the firm, is characterized by many languages. Architecture, Herzog argues, is also a choreographed dance of languages, including those of art, music, light, void and mass, skin and surface, transparency and obscurity, layering and materiality.
Beginning with the Goetz Collection in Munich and describing the bands of light that cut through its cubic form, and continuing on to the play with existing urban factors and natural light to enhance the "impressive mass" of the Tate Modern, Herzog describes the poetry of design. He continues on to discuss Studio Remy Zaugg, a collaboration with Remy Zaugg for the Centre Pompidou, a psychological look at the urban study of Basel, the proposal for the MOMA Extension in New York, the Pritzker winning Signal Box, and the complex conceptual and physical layers of both the Laban Dance Centre in Deptford and the Dominus Winery in Napa. At the end, Herzog requests "critical" questions from the audience, inviting an exploratory conversation that provides insight into the design process of the architects and the experience of the users.
In answering an audience member's question, Herzog describes the mindset behind his dynamic practice: "If I knew what I'm doing, I probably wouldn't do it anymore. I wouldn't be interested in getting up in the morning, if I knew that's exactly how architecture works…it would be boring, if I knew this is my way."
Don’t miss the other lectures in The Berlage Archive series:
- The Berlage Archive: Elizabeth Diller (1998)
- The Berlage Archive: David Chipperfield (2001)
- The Berlage Archive: Luis Fernandez Galiano Theory Master Class (1994)
- The Berlage Archive: Rem Koolhaas + Kenneth Frampton (1998)
- The Berlage Archive: Stefano Boeri (2001)
- The Berlage Archive: Elia Zenghelis (2001)
The Berlage is currently accepting applications for the 2014–2015 academic year. It offers an international, one-and-a-half-year English-language accreditated postgraduate-level Master of Science-degree program in architecture and urban design. The program focuses intensively on how architects and urban designers practice in a globalized world, concentrating on the complex development of the built environment within different contexts.
The Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design have announced their public events for Spring 2014. The public events are part of The Good Life series, "a multi-format program exploring the relationship of the built environment to collective pursuits, personal aspirations, and the contemporary world. It aims to reveal how—on different scales and in various cultural contexts—architecture and urban design can contribute and enrich societal livelihood."
The Berlage Institute closed in 2012. But the Berlage Center for Advanced Studies in Architecture and Urban Design is open for business. And it is accepting students. Located at the Delft University of Technology, though they are independent entities, the new, re-visioned Berlage is not simply a continuation of the original Berlage. Instead, it has been reinvisioned to train students who already have either an M.Arch or a five-year degree.
The Berlage challenges students to understand the issues and principles surrounding the economy, the environment, and society as the route towards good architecture. History and cultural issues are therefore central to this Master’s of Science degree, as they should be. Because in today’s economy, the formula for success demands more than just an agility with computer programs. Students need to be able to exercise critical thinking skills. Unfortunately, many school studios fetishize style over substance but when their students graduate, they are ill-trained.