OverHolland 9: Architectural studies for the Dutch city
OverHolland 9 opens with a promising graduation project by Ilmar Hurkxkens, entitled ‘Paradise Regained. The watchman, the sleeper, the dreamer and the city’. Hurkxkens presents his project as ‘a narrative inquiry into the history and future of the dyke as architecture’. As Dutch as you can get — and yet his approach is unusual by Dutch standards. The project took shape at the graduation workshop Territory in Transit, run by two postgraduate students, Filip Geerts and Stefano Milani, who have previously contributed to OverHolland. The theme of the workshop was taken from their research into ‘city and territory’ and ‘representation in architectural design’. Hurkxkens has used these themes to bring about a direct exchange between the analysis of territory and design, via representation in words and pictures. Language and drawings, narrative and image are interwoven. The location is the Hondsbossche Zeewering, a seawall near Petten in the province of North Holland. Filip Geerts provides commentary in the captions.
The second article is a follow-up to the first part of the study ‘Design and construction in the cities of Holland’, published in OverHolland 8. In the second and final part of this study, the authors, Gea Essen, Merlijn Hurx and Geert Medema, discuss the professionalisation of the Department of Public Works in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The study is partly based on the results of various studies by postgraduate students on specific aspects of the development of those departments in the Northern Netherlands.
One important result of this joint effort to review the development of the architectural profession and urban public works is that it raises questions on the correlation with other lines of development, including that of urbanisation in the Netherlands. This study makes clear that the process has had its ups and downs. However, a clearer understanding of the asynchronous development of the various cities could also be of value for the study of the departments of Public Works and the architectural profession.
The first step in this direction is the contribution by Nikki Brand, ‘The rise of the Randstad. An investigation using the rank size rule (11th21st centuries)’, based on the demographic data of the nine leading historical cities in the Randstad area (published in OverHolland 2). This clearly showed that the pace of urbanisation in these cities was extremely varied and that there were a number of shifts in the ranking of the cities. As the first step in her postgraduate research, Nikki Brand has applied the rank size rule to these data. She uses this theoretical model not so much to provide a conclusive explanation for the asynchronous development of these cities but to formulate questions for her further research. A number of factors that influence urbanisation processes are identified, including geography, demography, technology, the economy and administrative organisation. Another key factor is the nature of the links between the cities — the main factor underlying the present-day concept of the Randstad. Nikki Brand’s study focuses on the historical development of the links between Holland’s cities, with specific reference to the part played by what has come to be termed ‘administrative organisation of the spatial economy’.
The fourth article, ‘Dutch architecture in China’, is published to mark the publication of the Chinese edition of A hundred years of Dutch architecture, edited by Umberto Barbieri and Leen van Duin. The two professors also helped launch OverHolland. Their trip to China to attend the presentation was a worthy and enviable conclusion to their academic careers.
The first Dutch edition of the book was published by SUN in 1999. There is now an English edition and a third impression. The editors of A hundred years of Dutch architecture review various currents in twentieth-century Dutch architecture, and twenty highlighted buildings are thoroughly documented by a team led by Willemijn Wilms Floet. The approach is deliberately sober and academic. The twenty buildings are all redrawn in a standard manner, each with a written introduction. The edition includes a pullout folded calendar compiled by Pieter van Wesemael.
The initiative for the Chinese edition was taken by Professor Lu Pinjing of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing. For the presentation of the book at the CAFA Art Museum in Beijing on 15 May 2009, Leen van Duin and Willemijn Wilms Floet created an exhibition with the snappy title Hundred Years of Dutch Architecture. From Berlage to Koolhaas. They took the opportunity to present not only a selection of the highlighted buildings but also some more recent works by teachers of architecture at Delft University of Technology’s Faculty of Architecture. Brief documentation on these works, with an introduction by Leen van Duin, is published in this issue.
The Polemen section covers two topics. Roberto Cavallo and Henk Engel review architect Hans van der Heijden’s book Architectuur in de kapotte stad (‘Architecture in the fractured city’). This is a book that deserves to be followed up. The reviewers describe it as ‘a brave attempt to find a way of presenting an architectural firm’s research and design work not as an advertising brochure in disguise, but as a serious contribution to the profession’.
Finally, architecture historian Herman van Bergeijk looks at an old document: a lecture, in poor English, by the Italian architect and urban planner Ludovico Quaroni, from the latter days of CIAM. Quaroni gave his lecture in 1956 at one of the CIAM Summer Schools in Venice. In his introduction, Van Bergeijk emphasises how important these meetings on the fringes of CIAM were for international exchange between budding architects. Denise Scott Brown suddenly turned up there from South Africa. How did she end up in the arms of the American Robert Venturi? A topic worth pursuing, particularly for those fascinated by recent family ties within the architectural profession. However, Van Bergeijk suggests other reasons for this, such as the fact that the Italians were trying to give CIAM a new lease of life by getting students involved in its work.