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The Source Programme

The Source Programme has been set up for all Master students. The programme consists of weekly lectures and workshops by internationally renowned experts. The content of these lectures and workshops will be in keeping with the research themes within the three research programmes. Each year DAE will be organising a public symposium on a theme which will be relevant to both the profession and the world. We will be regularly publishing Source publications, related to the research programmes and the lecture programme. External experts will be contributing to these publications alongside DAE tutors and students.

Source Lectures

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2010-11-27 // //

October 13, 2010

On October 13, Ronald and Erik Rietveld of Rietveld Landscape presented a tacit manifesto for “Strategic Interventions” to the entire Masters group. In a fascinating lecture and workshop, they raised contemporary issues such as building vacancy, the relationship between historical artifact and present condition, and the interaction of built structures and environmental forces.

Rietveld Landscape is not a normal design practice, even by the relatively iconoclastic standards of the Dutch architectural field. First of all, it is co-led by an economist (Erik); secondly, its most notable projects are unsolicited. These two factors contribute to the firm’s signature approach to design briefs, resulting in singular projects such as Nieuw Amsterdam Park (NAP) and Bunker 599.

NAP, for example, is the kind of work that requires the unconventional thinking introduced to the process by an interdisciplinary team. Rietveld Landscape proposed a park for the city of Amsterdam situated next to IJburg, the gentrified warehouse island district northeast of Amsterdam’s center. Though IJburg has been planned as a dense residential area, it lacks significant open space, especially in the case of a diverse population of users. Rietveld Landscape’s concept focuses on subcultures, which they see as the result of social “affordances” – opportunities provided by the environment. These subcultures – skaters, mothers with children, the elderly, tourists, etc. – are socially interlocked and fluid, even as they promote strong member identification. Rietveld Landscape gave this social theme a physical expression as an arrangement of 30 floating barges, canals, and bridges with flexible, overlapping, and user-initiated programming. Their design implies that the oft-cited need for open space is actually a desire for places where communal interests can be materialized. The ingenious aspect of this project is that it allows many different interests to be realized in proximity to each other, giving strangers the chance to become “trusted familiar strangers.”

Having explored IJburg several times, I was curious and somewhat skeptical about this project. I experienced the neighborhood as remote from the nucleus of city life, as a relatively generic housing development with a moderately wealthy demographic. I wondered whether the desired variety of subcultures really existed there. When I asked Ronald and Erik about this, I was intrigued by their response that the barges would be movable for temporary purposes within the harbor of Amsterdam. As a public park, this represents a completely unique formal typology and references natural systems and ecologies far more than traditional park design.

As the architects for the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, Rietveld Landscape collaborated with several mentors from the Design Academy (Joost Grotens and Barbara Visser) to create the Vacant NL exhibition, which gathers in physical form, illustration and data the extent of government-owned buildings in the Netherlands that are currently unoccupied. One of the buildings in this set was the Dutch Pavilion itself, which stands empty nine months out of the year (when the Biennale is not open).

The workshop that followed the lecture took the form of a design “charrette” in which we were asked to imagine possibilities for the pavilion to be occupied by six residents for living, working, and exhibiting. Design proposals varied from a workshop for design-build furniture, an initiative to revive traditional Italian craftsmanship skills, and even a space for Design Academy Masters students to build large-scale projects; we came up with ideas for tree houses, lofts, pulley bridges, and a glass floor and mirrored ceiling to better admire the floating “floor” of foam building models.

Our enthusiasm for the workshop was a direct reflection of the energy and engagement of Ronald and Erik Rietveld as well as the new head of the SOURCE program, Saskia von Stein of the Netherlands Architecture Institute.

Author: Tamar Shafrir