“Habitat: Expanding Architecture” at Het Nieuwe Instituut

Ecology is now a well-known concept in architecture and urban planning. The research installation Habitat: Expanding Architecture, on show from 19 October, highlights one of the first moments in which ecological thinking was introduced in architectural discussions: the tenth CIAM congress in Dubrovnik, 1956.


Jaap Bakema (left), Peter Smithson and Jacqueline Tyrwhitt discuss the MARS Group contribution during the CIAM conference in Dubrovnik, 1956. Photographer unknown. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, TTEN f5


Habitat was introduced as an alternative to the idea of the Functional City that CIAM had propagated since the 1930s. With ‘habitat’ they looked for a broader approach beyond functionalism, to do justice to local cultural identities and existing landscape and urban qualities. Architecture was no longer just about the production of shapes and objects, but also about processes of growth and change. Cities should no longer be regarded as separate collections of buildings, but as coherent, ecological systems.

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“Habitat: Expanding Architecture”
19 October, 2018 – 10 March, 2019
Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25, Rotterdam


The core of this exhibition is a reconstruction of the material that the CIAM members presented to each other in Dubrovnik 1956. Next to works by Jaap Bakema, Aldo van Eyck and Alison and Peter Smithson, there are also works by artists such as James Stirling, Piero Bottoni, Arne Korsmo, Geir Grung, the Finnish group PTAH and the Portuguese CIAM Porto group.


Alison and Peter Smithson. Presentation board CIAM 1956. Fold Houses. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, BAKE f13-2

Alison Smithson during the CIAM conference in Dubrovnik, 1956. Photo John Voelcker. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, TTEN f6.4


The CIAM material from the 1950s has been supplemented with more recent work to illustrate how ecological and theoretical approaches to architecture have since been interpreted in different ways: the phenomenal studies on the relations between settlements and landscape formations of Pjotr Gonggrijp, the transformative interpretation of the Dutch delta landscape by Frits Palmboom, and the discussions surrounding the Tanthof district in Delft, designed by Van den Broek and Bakema together with the Tanthof working group.


Van den Broek and Bakema. Tanthof residential neighbourhood, integrating water, parking, low-rise housing, 1975-1981. Collection Broekbakema.

Van den Broek and Bakema. Tanthof residential neighbourhood, integrating water, parking, low-rise housing, 1975-1981. Collection Broekbakema.


Some projects from the 1980s are also shown, such as the Nieuw Nederland (New Netherlands) exhibition and the ‘Tapijtmetropool’ (‘Patchwork Metropolis’) research by Willem Jan Neutelings.


Willem Jan Neutelings. Patchwork metropolis in The Hague and Rotterdam region, 1990. Collection Het Nieuwe Instituut, NEUR t4

Frits Palmboom. Rotterdam Urbanised Landscape. Study of the traffic structure, 1987. Loan from Frits Palmboom.


Habitat: Expanding Architecture (19 October – 10 March) combines archive research with public presentations. Most of the material presented comes from Het Nieuwe Instituut’s collection. The project incorporates an intensive programme of seminars and conversations with international guests, students, historians, architects and planners.


“Habitat: Expanding Architecture” © Johannes Schwartz

“Habitat: Expanding Architecture” © Johannes Schwartz


News source: Het Nieuwe Instituut
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