Last week the successful Milan Trust breakfast debate discussed the role of design in creating Trust (trust as product, not to be mixed up with trust as lubricant for sales) with the presentation of Volume 27: Aging and the insert Trust Design: Design, Trust, Aging. (click here for photo’s and ‘soundbites’ of the event A week earlier, the latest Archis book publication was presented at the TU Delft. 2067: The Legacy – Indesem explores the future of architecture presents lectures, debates and student designs from the Indesem 2007 workshop. Both Trust and The legacy reintroduce grand narratives in a discipline in crisis: trust as a major focus for architecture and design, Legacy as strategy to reposition the architects’ role. So, what was the idea behind The Legacy, and what did it produce?
Curator Winy Maas explained how and why he chose the theme for Indesem 2007. He remembered his own Indesem experience as a student as highly intimidating and – maybe therefore – highly exiting. So he was trying to find the most intimidating challenge he could think of. At the moment in time it was the trend to go smaller and local, so he wanted to take the large scale and the long timeframe. In the book he indicates that architects should have the guts to set long term goals, to draft an agenda. To work on this attitude and explore its potential were the two main drivers for this program.
At the time of his Indesem lecture, Wouter Vanstiphout had just finished (with Crimson), their seven year project on Hoogvliet (Wimby!, the restructuring of a 1950s town near Rotterdam) that was all about the exact opposite. In response to the generic policies and large visions governments tend to rely on, it concentrated on the local and the small scale.
“I never had done something more intimidating then that project. After seven years we were traumatized by the realities and it made us doubt this aspect of the small scale, but also convinced us of its deep complexity. When we were at Indesem, we had just been released from the Wimby! project and had to talk about the big scale!” Vanstiphout remembered that after his Indesem lecture he was addressed by an architect in the audience saying that all the time Crimson had spent on these small scale projects, they could have been writing about history, theory etc. and leave the job to ‘real’ architects; an interesting confrontation.
Indesem team member and student Jules Schoonman recalled there was a lot of struggle between the students and Winy Maas. The students preferred to keep it small so they could still call it ‘architecture’. “Winy pulled us out of that. Afterwards we all wanted to make something ‘real’ again. There is nothing ”real” in the book.”
Winy Maas: “It was all was about relativity and about the positioning of the profession. It was amazing that at that point there was no other big scale imaginable then the Green agenda; not the economical, no other big visions.” And indicating the workshop’s practical relevance: “The book is a collection of ideas on that scale and for me it already has been proved useful, it has already been used in discussions within the ministry of Spatial Planning on the subject of disaster studies.” Discussion shifted to the workshop as format and research by architects. Moderator Arjen Oosterman teased the panel with: “Indesem is research based. Some people say that architects are lousy researchers. Is it the proper terrain for architects?”
It triggered immediate response. Winy Maas: “We are craftsmen. That is a fact we don’t have to talk about anymore. But what does a crafty building add to the world? Research gives architecture a way to communicate to the wider world. Research per definition is inevitable. Any architect does research. You cannot deny that. But architects are not trained to. Maybe they are afraid they cannot do it well. But architects are threatened by developers; they will have to position themselves and maybe through research. Yes, we have to span a gap of 200 years to get that in our repertoire.”
The ambition was shared by Wouter Vanstiphout, but he advocated a less modest presentation of architectural research in the field of academic production. “Like all research, architectural research is completely operative. All research is always instrumental. Architecture is at least honest about that. But this school, this university has an extreme old fashion idea about research. It is trying to conform to a scientific academic standard of working that doesn’t fit the reality of architecture. Studios like The Why Factory etc, have to be much more proud and outspoken about what they do and what is the difference. They should challenge the ideas of research the TU has, because it is ruining the unique quality of the way architects can do research. The school should open up to other fields of science like the humanities.”
Not everyone agreed with last statement. A philosopher in the audience, teaching at the TU, claimed the presence of humanities in Delft and expressed his disappointment about the discussion: “This lack of humanities is not true. I am a philosopher. We are here. We reflect on our own position and try to communicate that. I see a lack of communication of what you are doing, What was the goal? What was the methodology? You are chitchatting here. You do not tell what the point of this whole thing was. This meeting is what I call ‘lousy research’.” This critical note was appreciated and emasculated by Winy Maas: “This was not the presentation of the content of the book or a project. The methodology of Indesem was really simple: 1. Imagine you’re eighty years old, how do you look back on your life and production? 2. Take one city (Rotterdam). What will it look like in sixty years? Point that out in one image.” (These images where displayed as billboards on the spots they studied.)