The exhibition focuses on Dutch Structuralism, a movement in architecture in the late ’50s and early ’60s that renounced the technocratic planning that characterised the post-war reconstruction of the country. Instead, its proponents asked space for the poetic and emotional aspects of architecture, in order to come to a truly dignified living environment. Structuralism constitutes the most important contribution from the Netherlands to modern architecture during the second half of the twentieth century. In the late 1950s it presented a poetic alternative to the technocratic architecture of the post-war reconstruction period, before flourishing in the 1970s. The ideal was to create a new social space where people could realise their full potential and that facilitated interaction, imagination and experimentation.
Structuralism is a double exhibition. The first part, “Making space, leaving space, presents the work and ideas of Herman Hertzberger through his design sketches, notebooks, drawings and photographs. Visitors, young and old, undertake a journey of discovery through the architect’s designs and way of thinking. In the second part, An installation in four acts, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre explores the development and current importance of Dutch Structuralism by means of four consecutive presentations centred on the themes of education, ideals, construction, and the city. The installation was designed by Bureau LADA. Both exhibitions bring together a wealth of unique archival material never previously presented to the public.
- Making space, leaving space – Herman Hertzberger
The first part of the exhibition approaches Structuralism from the perspective of the designer and tells the story through the eyes of architect Herman Hertzberger(1932), one of the most renowned representatives of Dutch Structuralism.
We would like to quote an excerpt of the text “Open versus closed structures” by Herman Hertzberger, from “Open Structures: An Introductory Dossier on Dutch Structuralism”, a supplement to the “Volume 35: Everything Under Control” by Delft University of Technology’s Architecture Department and the Berlage Center.
“Open structures are – as opposed to closed structures – open to interaction with the outside world; they an influence their surroundings and also be influenced by their surroundings. In architectural terms this mainly relates to consequences in time and therefore to expansion or transformation. Many buildings identified as structuralist, but also urban designs (while still plans) are, if only by their unchangeable exterior, in fact closed fortresses, incapable of reacting to a changing environment. But all too often they are also incapable of reacting to internal developments caused by changing insights and challenges. When we reserve the label structuralism to those objects that are open to influences and can be interpreted as accommodating to them, many projects whose design superficially seems structuralist are in essence rigid and inflexible. Even though they may display a clear structure, they have nothing to do with structuralism. It is not the form itself we should observe but what you can do with it and how you can interpret it considering its circumstances. Architects seem to have difficulty to distance themselves from thinking in completed compositions such as a traditional painting and a traditional sculpture. The time factor usually remains outside our frame of mind.
Cities begin somewhere and grow from a nucleus under the influence of centrifugal forces, leading to forms thatshape themselves. There is no notion of a controlled, designed periphery, such as a walled city at least suggests. Cities are usually not designed, they design themselves from the inside out, ultimately led by hardly controllable forces within society.”
- An installation in four acts – Jaap Bakema Study Centre
In the second part of the exhibition, Structuralism is addressed from the perspective of the scientist and researcher. Curator, theorist and researcher Dirk van den Heuvel of TU Delft presents the first results of his research on Structuralism in collaboration with the Jaap Bakema Study Centre. Les Salons Structuralistes, a series of weekly conversations, is held in the Structuralismexhibition, between contemporaries, architects, critics, researchers, building occupants and building clients. Every conversation will be recorded on video and is available on the website.
The exhibition Structuralism presents various captivating stories. The presentation asks questions, is associative, and full of highlights and surprises from the archives. Structuralism is part of the programme track Landscape and Interior of Het Nieuwe Instituut.