Voices on the Current
Voices on the current: A weaving generation
Conversations on Architecture between
Flanders, the Netherlands and Germany
Ae, Almannai Fischer, Amunt, Anne Dessing, Ard de Vries, Bartscher Architekten, BeL Architekten, BureauVanEig, Dhooge & Meganck, Eagles of Architecture, enofstudio, Fthenakis Ropee, Olivier Goethals, Happel Cornelisse Verhoeven, Tim Klauser, KofinkSchels, Barend Koolhaas, Korth Tielens, la-di-da, Leuschner von Gaudecker, Lilith Ronner van Hooijdonk, Marcel Lok Architect, Donna van Milligen Bielke, Monadnock, Murmuur, Studio Nauta, Nuyken von Oefele, Olivier Goethals, ONO Architectuur, Open Architecture Office, Tim Peeters, Perneel Osten, Raamwerk, Sander Rutgers & Marieke Rombout, Thys Vermeulen, Trans, Unknown Architects, Veldwerk Architecten, Werkstatt, Wolfgang Rossbauer.
Hosts & Organisation:
Jantje Engels & Marius Grootveld
Sofie De Caigny (Curator VAi), Christoph Grafe (Director VAi), Peter Cachola Schmal (Director DAM), Martijn van der Mark (Fund Creative Industries NL)
Fund Creative Industries NL
History and Precedent
According to the curators one of the shared notions of the invited offices to the exhibition /debate is their relation to the history, context, incident; in other words, these practices weave their work with these threads. But which history do they relate to the most? The history of architecture, parallel with the history of human beings, has seen many different periods. Can we talk of a certain period they explore, work with, get ‘ inspired’, both formalistically and content wise? Are the offices still connected to the modernism of last century or do they explore on classicism? If the offices now were asked the period they are operating in how would they describe it? How do they think this period would be defined in the history of architecture?
Related to the topic of history another important point is how the offices position themselves in today. ‘History repeats itself’ is an undeniable fact rather than a cliché. The moment of reflection, sharing doubts and looking for new ways to practice architecture has happened several times in history and caused big changes in thinking, making of it. Yet the figure of the contemporary architect seems to be a rather silent one: s/he makes no big manifestoes, claims, doesn’t seem to have great beliefs, or organizes big gatherings as throughout the 20th century*. Architectural theories are published separately in several independent, professional journals, the built works aim to re-present attitudes, bigger events such as biennials offer a stage for reporting rather than making statements. Are we afraid of taking the risk of failure of statements and claims as we learned too well from history? Is the contemporary (European) architect exhausted by the weight of his/her own history and did become autistic perhaps?
*: Obviously the 20th century was loaded with re-building Europe and carried both positive and negative consequences of that. The condition of re-building unavoidably caused radical statements. Today we might not be in that phase any longer, nonetheless there are more than enough social problems which demand urgent attention and perhaps radical vision to tackle them.
Public role of the architect
The Weaving Generation, as we call the group of architects in the context of the exhibition, would also suggest to weave between the society they operate for and the work they produce. The most direct way to confront the society and architecture goes through public buildings. These, on the other hand, often draw the attention of the public through their financial load on the tax payer, their failure to be completed ‘on time’ or their iconic presence, hence not through what they might contribute to the common living. How do the architects / practices of this debate seek for a healthier, more open communication with the society? What are their methods to create a dialogue instead of a monologue?
There lays an irony that, in the age of high speed communication possibilities, one of the goals that the exhibition The Weaving Generation is to make practices from two neighbouring European countries meet and exchange. The world is on the tip of our fingers hitting the keyboards thousands of times a day. In such context do we still have to cross boarders? Parallel to that, did we get used to an ideal of boarders thinking, operating, within (and sometimes even outside) the European territory? In other words, do the invited offices see the issue of crossing boarders as an evident part of their operations? Or does the exchange still happen but rather silently, again in smaller scale? Do educational institutions play a role in spanning distances between cultures?
Crossing boarders physically goes parallel with crossing boarders mentally. Collaborations of all kinds seem more possible than ever, we see often teams consisting of architects from different countries applying together for competitions. Especially in urbanism and masterplanning these collaborations seem to deliver results in long term. They define cities, territories through different eyes and hands, but also give enough space for practices to exist without entering each other’s plot. Though always meant with good intentions the overall results of such projects lack often coherence. On the other hand such projects oblige practices to communicate with each other and sometimes a clash of principles. Such moments of confrontation could be very fruitful for an architectural discourse yet there seems to be hesitance to take other initiatives for communication of intellectual property and collaboration. Does the hesitance derive from fear of confrontation? The same irony we mention in the theme of crossing boarders occurs back also in this topic of collaboration. Despite the possibilities of sharing information easily the collaborations between architects seem to be limited. Does the easy access to information through the media cause an over- awareness of other’s work and calm down the urge of real communication between architects? Is there a growing protectionism of intellectual property because it is accessible so easily from almost any corner of the world?
Craft and materiality
While the dialogue between architectural practices and professionals might be limited we can speak of a rising ‘trend’ in enhancing the importance of the craftsman to the architect. The collaborations are highlighted more, the role of the skilful craftsman in the production of good architecture is increasingly underlined by the architects themselves. However, given the effect of scale in buildings and its financial consequences the signature of the craftsman as well as the refinement of materiality are often to be traced in private, smaller commissions. How do the offices in NL, B and D deal with this condition? As we indicated before, the most direct communication of architecture with the society lays in the public buildings, which, because of their various restrictions, might force a practice to give up on craftsmanship and refined materiality at a certain point of execution process. Do the offices have different experiences to argue against this assumption? Or do they prefer to ‘craft’ their buildings in the smaller scale?