Reflections on the 2014 Venice Biennale

Fundamentals (Central Pavilion): Ceiling. Image © David Levene

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

Renzo Piano Bulding Workshop / / UNStudio / Siza / . Image

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.”

Construction Begins on Shift Architecture Urbanism’s C-City Museum District

C-City. Image © Shift Architecture

Shift Architecture Urbanism has broken ground on the C-City (Creative City) museum district in . Host to the Netherlands’ first design museum and Europe’s first planetarium, the new district will be formed as an “urban ensemble defined by clearly recognizable volumes, all connected by a vast, underground public space.”

By the end of 2015, two new public facilities – Cube and Columbus – will compliment the existing and highly successful Discovery Centre Continium at the gateway of the city. Read on the learn more.

Cruz y Ortiz Completes Renovation of the Rijksmuseum’s Philips Wing

The Philips Wing. Image © Rijksmuseum / Tilleman

Cruz y Ortis, who famously spent ten years redesigning and renovating Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, have recently completed a comprehensive restoration of the adjacent Philips Wing. As an addition to the extensive exhibition spaces of the Dutch national museum, which was brought to completion in 2013, the Philips Wing will be dedicated to showcasing high-profile exhibitions from its own collection and on loan from international and national collections. Cruz y Ortiz’s work has consisted of reorienting the entrance, accommodating diverse new functions and preparing the exhibition rooms for the temporary expositions starting next month. Several twentieth century interventions have been set back and corrected, whilst other areas have been appropriated for a new destination.

See drawings and photographs of the new wing, including a description from the architects, after the break.

‘People’s Palaces’: Behind The Scenes at Mecanoo’s Upcoming Exhibition in Berlin

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Mecanoo have shared with us a behind the scenes look at their upcoming exhibition at ’s Aedes Architecture Forum, entitled People’s Palaces. Presenting some of the Dutch practice’s recent public buildings, such as the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize nominated Library of Birmingham and the Maritime and Beachcombers Museum in Texel, the Netherlands, the timing of the exhibition also celebrates the company’s 30th anniversary. Founded in 1984, Mecanoo continues to develop a strong reputation for libraries, as well as cultural spaces and performance venues. This exhibition specifically traces the impact of Mecanoo’s public buildings on local communities.

AMO Invites Dutch Architects to Discuss their Future at the Venice Biennale

At this year’s Dutch Pavilion in Venice, the curators explored the work of Jaap Bakema, arguing that after the demise of the welfare state “Bakema’s work once again provides us with a touchstone for rethinking the ideals of the open society”. Image © Nico Saieh

On November 20-21, AMO is hosting a discussion event at the Venice Biennale focusing on the past, present and future of Dutch architecture in which 30 young architects will be invited to present their agenda for architecture in the Netherlands for the next 10 years. Over the course of the two days, each participant will present will deliver a 7-minute presentation looking at architecture in 2024 to answer the question “where will you be and will you be doing?” Find out more about the event, and how you can be a part of it, after the break.

Rem Koolhaas and the New Frontline of Transformation

© Flickr CC User Giulio Bernardi

When you abandon the in favour of the city, what do you leave behind? In a recent essay for Icon Magazine, OMA co-founder Rem Koolhaas deliberates on the intersection between the two, arguing that “our current obsession with only the city is highly irresponsible because you cannot understand the city without understanding the countryside.”

“The countryside is now the frontline of transformation,” Koolhaas says, describing a new type of hybridized urban-countryside where no stone is left unturned. Koolhaas refers to this land as ”the intermediate,” describing it as “a well-manicured place where surface appearances bear almost no relation to what is actually happening on the land and in the buildings.” The countryside, Koolhaas argues, is no longer a sober second thought for the urban dweller but a facsimile of the failures of city life. Read the essay in full, here.

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

Interior Collage – #185. Image © SVESMI

SVESMI, an unassuming studio based in central , 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 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.

First Look: MVRDV Completes Largest Covered Market in the Netherlands

© Nico Saieh

’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” 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.

Mecanoo Chosen to Redevelop Dutch Train Station

© Mecanoo

Mecanoo, in collaboration with engineering consultancy Movares, has been chose to redevelop the train station in . An important entry for the city and Veluwe National Park, the design hopes to transform the station into a “showpiece” and vibrant center for the Veluwse Poort.

“The vision of the design is defined by an unobtrusive appearance; the natural environment serves as a starting point for the characteristic materialization that connects the buildings and the station square, emphasizing the area’s built identity,” described Mecanoo.

Island with a View: Dutch Kitchen Incorporates Elegant Aquarium

Courtesy of Rene van Dongen

Amsterdam-based design firm Kolenik Eco Chic Design have released designs of their unique Ocean Kitchen, a transformative new take on residential space. The contemporary minimalist kitchen offers a moment of serenity to the viewer through the inclusion of a vast aquarium beneath the island’s countertop. Positioned as the architectural centerpiece of the space, the island in Ocean Kitchen gracefully animates the surrounding kitchen.

Immerse yourself in photos of Ocean Kitchen after the break.

Amsterdam is “Dirty, Filthy, and Too Full”

Dutch Canal Houses. Image © James Taylor-Foster

Wim Pijbes, director of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, has declared in an open letter to the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that the Dutch capital is “dirty, filthy, and too full.” Complaining primarily about the culture of short-stay accommodation, segways, scooters and canal cruisers in the historic heart of the city, he argues that “the charm and spirited character has long since faded.” Amsterdam, an apparent magnet for those who enjoy an “anything-goes atmosphere,” faces an uphill battle in order to remold a dwindling reputation.

Initiatives like Project 1012, which seeks to put a cap on (and even shut down) some of the brothels and marijuana ‘coffee shops’ in the city’s historic core, is part of a wide-reaching clean up campaign. For Feargus O’Sullivan however, “if Amsterdam loses its sense of license, its aura of permissiveness, and its immaculate order held in delicate balance, then it will lose some of its delight, its uniqueness – even its Dutchness.” Read his article in The Atlantic’s Citylab in full here.

Inside “Open: A Bakema Celebration” – The Dutch Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Biennale

“We consider Bakema not so much an architect of buildings, but an architect of a new idea of what Holland could be–a new national identity, a new national landscape…with an architect in the center of this particular ambition.” – Guus Beumer, co-curator of the Dutch Pavilion at the 14th Biennale

Guus Beumer and Drik van den Heuvel, curators of “Open: A Bakema Celebration,” sat down to speak with us about this year’s Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. With the help of graphic designers Experimental Jetset, Beumer and van den Heuvel created an emblematic, stripped-down, research-focused display of a particularly Dutch idea: the “Open Society.” This was all conveyed within and around a 1:1 model of architect ’s Lijnbaan Shopping Centre (Rotterdam 1954), constructed within the Netherlands Pavilion.

The hope, as Dirk van den Heuvel explains, is that “the elements of Bakema…may be useful, inspiring for our own practices today. Elements that he developed in questions to housing, planning, modernizing… I think when you come here you will recognize that there’s lots of affinities, interesting things that we still work with and that we will work with in the future.”

After you watch the video, make sure to read the curator’s statement, and see images of the pavilion, after the break.

The Dutch Royal Picture Gallery at The Hague to Reopen Following Extensive Renovation

Courtesy of Mauritshuis, The Hague. Image © Ronald Tilleman

The Mauritshuis, a Dutch 17th century city palace in The Hague, will reopen this week following a large scale renovation and extension designed by Hans van Heeswijk with servicing and fire engineering undertaken by Arup. Similar to Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, which reopened after a ten year restoration and remodelling in 2013, the Mauritshuis Royal Picture Gallery exhibits one of the finest collections of Dutch Golden Age paintings including Johannes Vermeer’s Girl With a Pearl Earring. Alongside a large scale renovation, Hans van Heeswijk have also extended the galleries with new exhibition spaces, an auditorium and educational spaces.

Sam Jacob & Wouter Vanstiphout on Curating “A Clockwork Jerusalem”

The Mound. Image © James Taylor-Foster

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 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

Dutch Students To Build Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia From Ice

Montage. Image Courtesy of

A team of students from Eindhoven University are to build a forty metre high model of Antonio Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. The project, which follows the completion of the world’s biggest ice dome last year, will be constructed from pykrete and reinforced with wood fibres. Impressively, the 1:4 scale model will be built in only three weeks. Thin layers of water and snow will be sprayed onto large, inflated molds. The pykrete (water mixed with sawdust) will be immediately absorbed by the snow before freezing. According to the organisers, “the wood fiber content makes the material three times as strong as normal ice, and it’s also a lot tougher.” Find out more about the project here.

Harvard GSD Releases Video of Study Abroad Studio with Rem Koolhaas

via TheHarvardGSD’s youtube channel

“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 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 , Italy. Watch Rem and the students reflect on their research, after the break…

Venice Biennale 2014: Dutch Pavilion to Rethink the Open Society

scheme Lekkumerend in Leeuwarden The Netherlands, 1962, collection , BROX_1337t339- 1, Van den Broek en Bakema Architects

This year for the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, the Dutch entry Open: A Bakema Celebration will reflect on the idea of an open society through the work and research of Jaap Bakema (1914-1981).

The Dutch architect, identified as a “compelling exponent of the Dutch welfare state,” was a leading voice within the international avant-garde movements CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) and Team 10. Inspired by the belief that “architecture should accommodate the emancipation of the masses while allowing for the self-realization of the individual citizen,” his portfolio includes some of the Netherlands’ most important postwar projects, such as the Rotterdam shopping street Lijnbaan.