Thuistezien 287 — 05.06.2021
‘If one wants to form any kind of judgment on the question of what the architecture of modernity entails, one has to look for airports, highways and industrial complexes. As the infrastructure of society they serve to support animalistic dynamics. As a static vehicle architecture is slowly but surely going down in the cycle of modernised prosthetics.’
This is a quote of French cultural theorist and urbanist Paul Virilio used by Eric Vreedenburgh in this expert meeting on the future of ‘Het Nieuwe Bouwen’, a general name for different building styles and radical innovation in architecture in the period 1915 until circa 1960. How did Het Nieuwe Bouwen come to be and what does it mean in an anticipatory view on the future? In first place it was an architecture with societal ideals, that for instance gave a boost to social housing. It formed a new architectural language of spaciousness that broke with the past. Nevertheless, in the practice of reconstruction after the Second World War this architectural language was stripped down and encapsulated in a production of contractors and project developers. In this way, uniformity and a rigid interpretation of function was taken on. What was left were the stylistic features of ‘flat boxes’: white architecture, a lot of light and flat rooftops. While the architecture of Het Nieuwe Bouwen wanted to be liberated from stylistic features, it is rather what is still talked about now. When we talk about Bauhaus, or Marcel Breuer, we talk about the materials, the openness, and the fascination for geometrical shapes. Yet the core is its mentality; directed towards the new, curious towards the possibilities of technological innovations, and an engagement with designing the world. Is Het Nieuwe Bouwen a historical genre, or is it just beginning? And how would its ideals be translated into these times?
Jan Molema demonstrates a number of case studies of architects that walked the thin line between avant garde and traditionalism, where columns and beams actually are not too dissimilar to old Greek ruins. The architects of Het Nieuwe Bouwen distinguished themselves by gathering to discuss a specific problem together, namely the problem of an increasing population and need for space. As such, individuals form a group with a shared ideal and mission.
Finally Aad Lambert shows examples of typical and surprising constructions of Het Nieuwe Bouwen that make use of concrete blocks, glass and steel, and the resistance of for instance the traditionalism of the Delftse School and nazism. He offers an original and somewhat critical perspective on the working style of Breuer, as ‘non integrated building’, and uses Sanatorium Zonnestraal from 1928 by Jan Duiker as a leading example of the ideals of Het Nieuwe Bouwen.
Should Centrum het Nieuwe Bouwen, founded in 2018, adopt the same ideals? The discussion brings up the responsibility of the architect. Should humans still be central? And could we also learn from their mistakes, i.e the striving to want too much or be lead by speculants, builders or politics?
(Conversation is in Dutch)
Eric Vreedenburgh is architect and founder of architectural firm Archipelontwerpers. He was associated with the Interfaculty Beeld en Geluid of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, the Royal Academy of Arts and issued research at TU-Delft.
Jan Molema was a professor and researcher at the Faculty of Engineering at TU-Delft. He was also an independent architect. In 1987 he obtained his doctorate on the work of Antonio Gaudí and founded Stichting Analyse van Gebouwen. Since then he had numerous publications and exhibitions, among others on Gaudí and the Dutch Nieuwe Bouwen.
Aad Lambert is architect and founder of architectural firm Lambert. He was Project Manager social housing in Amsterdam, Chairman of project group Stadsvernieuwing Oosterparkbuurt and Policy Advisor of the Department of Land Affairs and Public Works.
Text: Yael Keijzer