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: The Latest Architecture and News
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 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.”
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.