We want to understand the ways of architecture culture…
Research is a central element for the CRC and its activities. It is our continuous engagement with research that provides us with the opportunity to not only understand, but also engage with architecture culture.
The CRC has been involved in several research projects. All of them have aimed to uncover how architecture is communicated and disseminated across society, that is, how architecture engages with a wide audience. Furthermore, the results of these projects aim to also contribute to the discussion by remaining open and available to everyone to both academia and the general public.
While our most recent research projects have focused on architecture exhibitions, these have been approached as microhistory projects (as proposed by Carlo Ginzburg), in which the investigation of architecture exhibitions was intended to develop a better grasp of a larger and wider phenomenon. Basically, by looking at architecture exhibitions we can understand the very conditions and societal frameworks shaping architecture discourse and practice. In this way, exhibitions become important critical instruments to uncover architecture’s ever-changing intellectual project(s).
Exhibitions, however, are but one instrument of architecture culture, and we aim to broaden our research to explore many others.
The Taxonomy of Architecture Exhibitions
While today we possess a clearer understanding that architecture exhibitions create particular forms of display and knowledge production, that they define how ideas and work are perceived and contextualized, the means through which theses abstract processes take form within the gallery space have not been adequately scrutinized. Therefore, the main goal for this new long-term research project is to understand how the theoretical ambitions of architecture exhibitions are translated into actual space by closely studying the elements that compose them and document the many ways in which they are instrumentalized. In short, this project will document and identify all the various ways in which architecture has been presented to the public through exhibitions.
Therefore, beyond what effect architecture exhibitions have on architecture culture and society, this research proposes to thoroughly identify how that effect is constructed by conducting a close reading of the methods, instruments, and practices through which architecture exhibitions are organized. The first step, however, is to create a comprehensive (annotated) database of architecture exhibitions from which comparisons can be drawn.
The Eindhoven School Revisited: A Forgotten Avant-Garde
In December 1988, the exhibition The Eindhoven School: The Modern Past was opened to the public 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. Despite all the praises directed at the Eindhoven School (or its members) thirty years ago, today the NAi building stands as a singular reminder of the Eindhoven’s School position at the forefront of Dutch architectural discussion in the late 1980s.
Therefore, this project investigated the original exhibition (and its subsequent iterations in Groningen, Delft, Eindhoven, and Zurich) to develop a better understanding of the macro condition of both Dutch architectural discourse and the position of TU/e within it (during that period). In this way, the original exhibition became a frame through which to reveal and understand the intellectual context that fostered such architectural work to be produced and, ultimately, question how the contributions of the Eindhoven School should be remembered.
TU Eindhoven (exhibition)
Van Abbemuseum (symposium)
Sergio M. Figueiredo
Creative Industries Fund NL
Van Abbe museum
Under Jean Leering’s directorship and curatorship (1964-73), the Van Abbemuseum developed a new form of architecture exhibitions in which the audience took on an ever more important role. This new condition was perhaps best exemplified by the 1969 exhibition Cityplan Eindhoven (produced in collaboration with the architectural office Van Den Broek en Bakema and the Eindhoven Department of Planning and Transport).
The material analysis conducted for this research project revealed the disjunction between the exhibition’s goals, its instruments, and its memory. Namely, while this exhibition is most remembered by its translation of Van den Broek en Bakema’s project to a spatial experience through an enormous scale model (1:20) that visitors could walk through, a closer analysis of the exhibition’s instruments and practices revealed the model to be but one element of a broader strategy of engagement. If the model allowed the public to understand the plan, another of the exhibition’s rooms provided the tools for visitors to articulate their criticism of—and alternatives to—the project, thus providing a much more radical departure from standard museum exhibitionary practices.
The NAi in Exhibitions
Officially founded in 1988 in Rotterdam, the Nederlands Architectuurinstituut (NAi) intended to improve the context for the appreciation of architecture in the Netherlands. Through the organization of exhibitions (and other activities), a systematic engagement with different audiences, and an astute concern with internationalization, the NAi attempted to introduce architecture’s issues and concerns with the public. Effectively, as the NAi became a crucial interface between architecture and society, it also became a fundamental instrument in fostering and developing a remarkable architectural culture in the Netherlands.
Although the institute operated in a variety of dimensions – particularly since it housed the architectural archive of the most important Dutch architects – the most visible expression of its work was the multitude of exhibitions and other activities the institute organized in its 25 years of existence. Thus, this research project performed an investigation of the different exhibitions organized by the NAi to understand the processes and objectives of the institute, not only documenting the almost 400 exhibitions, but also providing a unique perspective into the institute.