a crucial, yet forgotten, moment in Dutch architecture history...
THE EINDHOVEN SCHOOL
a forgotten avant-garde
In December 1988, the exhibition The Eindhoven School: The Modern Past was opened at deSingel in Antwerp. This exhibition presented the work of twenty-three TU/e architecture graduates and attempted to signal the emergence of a new type of architecture in Eindhoven. Rather than being presented on the basis of a similarity of forms or a specific architectural style, the so-called Eindhoven School was instead described as a constellation of diverse attitudes which ranged from Han Westerlaken's high-tech to the refinement of Jo Coenen and the intellectualism of Wiel Arets and Wim van den Bergh, but also included the work of John Körmeling, Sjoerd Soeters, René van Zuuk, Martien Jansen, Gert Jan Willemse, Johan Kappetein, Jos van Eldonk, and Bert Dirrix.
The plurality of the work presented the unique architectural and educational ethos of TU Eindhoven’s Faculty of Architecture throughout the 1980s, where a common embrace of architecture history and theory could be clearly identified. Most notably, unlike then customary in Dutch architecture, in Eindhoven there was very little concern over functionalist and modernist dogmatic puritanism since there the “modern” implied instead a critical reaction to the past in which architecture could not be reduced to a meaningless fixity in time. For these TU/e graduates, architecture was more than the pragmatics of function or the aesthetics of form. Architecture was poetry, animated by varying layers of meaning that could purposefully engage with the human condition.
While it could be easy to dismiss the Eindhoven School as a simple aberrant moment for an otherwise unstoppable march of Dutch modernism towards its renowned SuperDutch expression, a closer look reveals how its exhibition in deSingel may have been the most significant, yet overlooked, moment in Dutch architecture history. Specifically, while the historiography of Dutch architecture has (correctly) identified Rem Koolhaas’ Delft symposium How Modern is Dutch Architecture? (1990) and the Dutch entry to the 5th Venice Biennale Modernism Without Dogma (1991) as significant moments in questioning modern architecture’s position within Dutch practice and, inevitably, for the emergence of a SuperDutch generation of architects, it has failed to recognize how these events were directly responding to the questions posed by the Eindhoven School exhibition (1988), particularly the need to break down dogmas of both modernity and history in Dutch architecture.
Ultimately, with its approach to history and modernity, the radical architecture brewing in Eindhoven not only developed a now long forgotten avant-garde position within Dutch architecture culture, but also shared the intellectual ambitions of the period’s leading international debates. Effectively, throughout those years, Eindhoven became a gateway to international architectural discourse—clearly of a postmodern flavor—slowly but surely breaking down Dutch architecture’s self-imposed exile.
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Charles Vandenhove Pavilion
Sergio M. Figueiredo
Creative Industries Fund NL
University of Ghent
Het Nieuwe Instituut