“Sculptures in Public Spaces” by Dikkie Scipio
We take it for granted in Rotterdam, walking around in a city that is one of the greatest sculpture gardens in the world. How amazing it is to be able to stumble upon, lean against or sit on art – sometimes by world-famous artists – that gives our public space more meaning. How amazing it is to have the privilege to welcome or the right to object to the placement of new artworks – works that some cities can only dream of. We seem almost unaware of it.
Siebe Thissen is now providing us with a compendium, an excellent overview placing the art in its social and historical context, and allowing us to see the full wealth of art in Rotterdam’s public spaces. Leafing through this book fills me with pride. I see it as the ‘grand finale’ of an era, now that our ideas on public space are changing rapidly.
While public space used to be defined as space that wasn’t privately owned and was delineated by building facades and entrances, and where on occasion the space might have been entrusted to artists when conceded by the generosity of a builder/owner, today the line between public and private is slowly blurring. A new generation has emerged that no longer aims for possession, not on account of political ideals but because they do not see the point of ownership. It’s the backpack generation, those who were brought to school in the morning and told that their father, neighbour or grandad’s third wife would pick them up after school. It’s the generation that grew up with prosperity and the certainty of everything always being available, though not always from a single source or through ownership. It’s the generation that sees sharing as natural and is not impressed by ownership. The line between public and private is disappearing. The emergence and popularity of Uber, Airbnb and Green Wheels are the consequences. Even Porsche currently has a sharing programme!
So all this also has a significant effect on perceptions regarding the idea of public space. When the concept of ownership no longer clearly distinguishes the separation of public and private spaces, where exactly does public space begin and end? Or does it even end? The establishment of the first POPS, Privately Owned Public Spaces, are indeed already a reality. Insofar as I know, no artworks have yet been installed in these new public spaces that have shown any kind of different response to the space, but it is inevitable that there will be one.
Another exponent of this new sharing is the sharing of knowledge. Information used to be under private custody and traded, but now we are used to a networking and knowledge-sharing society in which it seems that having access to information is free. What we have overlooked, however, is that this is intellectual knowledge, not the know-how and experience that one physically builds by doing. It is the doing that is necessary to master a craft.
Now one of the things that make art in public spaces so special is how well they are made. They have to be, because whether they are free-standing or part of a building, they must have a suitable physiognomy and the right feel, as well as being robust enough to withstand the affections of the public and our climate. Also, the sculptures are often of such a scale that if they were not suitably constructed, they might topple or collapse under their own weight. Creating these works demands therefore not only outstanding artistry, but also a high level of technical craftsmanship. Much can be said about the meaning of the artworks, yet the skill with which these works have been made has long been taken for granted.
Just how unjust this is, becomes apparent when we recognise the serious shortage of real, skilled specialists. True tradesmen are few and far between; there are few craftsmen today who have managed to master, for example, glassblowing, the working and casting of metals, leatherworking, the many forms and applications of stonework, brickwork and concrete, and fabric, lace and pattern production. The list of ‘endangered’ trades seems infinite.
It’s a serious situation because to excel at a particular skill may require many years, even decades, of practice and patience. The urgency is clear from the fact that several multinationals have instigated programmes to recruit real craftsmen. Often older people and sometimes even the very elderly are being hired so as not to lose the knowledge once acquired and to share their expertise with younger people who can learn and pass on the value of the skill – skills that are often necessary to make excellent art.
I am grateful that Siebe’s book has lots of photographs of artists at work. It illustrates the importance of craftsmanship. It has often been artists, in fact, that have ensured that knowledge has not been lost. Let’s take serious note of this, for without craftsmanship there is no art in public spaces.
The timing of this book couldn’t be better. It contributes to awareness of the quality we should be surrounding ourselves with and, moreover, hopefully inspires a respect for the expertise necessary to achieve this. It also reveals to us our attitudes to public space, where the visual arts show us it is truly the discipline that opens our eyes to all the different ways of looking at the world – the ultimate public space. The world is changing at a rapid pace and we are here to experience it. How exciting is that?
From 12 till 14 of October 2017, Kees Kaan participated in the business program of the I Russian Youth Architectural Biennale that was held in Innopolis (Republic of Tatarstan, Russia) as jury member and lecturer.
The two day event, which focused on the best national and international experience in designing the residential environment, gathered about 1,000 Russian and foreign experts from over 45 regions of Russia and 3 countries (Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom).
On March 22 and 23, 2017 starting from 6.30 PM, ARCHEWORKS HQ will host the second episode of The Chicago Speakeasy, a series of talks with leading experts exploring Chicago's past and future.
The series, conceived by the Chair of Complex Projects (TU Delft) in collaboration with ARCHEWORKS, intends to capture the spirit – the geist – that inherently orders Chicago’s social, economic and spatial decisions. Regardless of historical and contemporary periods of turmoil, The Chicago Speakeasy seek to understand the underlying essence of the city by inviting several speakers into open discussions.
The upcoming 2-days talks will be held at ARCHEWORKS (625 N Kingsbury, Chicago) and host:
The American Dream on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 (6:30–8:30PM) with Kees Kaan, Paul O’Connor, Maria Bergh, Jack Macnamara, and Ytasha Womack; and
Pursuit of Ownership on Thursday, March 23, 2017 (6:30–8:30PM) with Kees Kaan, Ghian Foreman, Luis Monterrubio, and Ryan Nestor.
Vincent Panhuysen will present KAAN Architecten's work to the Faculdade de Arquitetura e Urbanismo of the University of Sao Paulo on April 15th, 2016 starting from 10.30 AM.
The recent released Supreme Court of the Netherlands and the Netherlands Embassy in Mozambique will be at the core of the lecture. Vincent Panhuysen will illustrate the design and the different constructive approaches of the two projects.
Friday 15 April 2016 – h 10.30 AM
sala 807, Edificio Vilanova Artigas at FAU-USP, Sao Paulo
Kees Kaan will give a public lecture on April 13th, 2016 at ETSAM (Madrid, Spain) - Faculty of Architecture's Aula Magna, starting from 7 PM.
Kees Kaan will illustrate KAAN Architecten’s projects starting from an enlightening retrospective on the history and the actual planning and development of the Dutch urban landscape, all about water management. Put a shovel in the ground and the hole will fill itself with water immediately.
The permanent relation with the water throughout the history has settled in the DNA of our culture. Building Dutch cities implied making or reinforcing the land, keeping it in place and making foundations in the water. There is little stable and dry land available so not only buildings are constructed but so are the streets and the canals. The section canal, street and house are inherently related and intertwined: one “mould” (synonymous of build, form, shape, structure, nature, character, quality). The houses are built out of the same bricks as the docks, streets and bridges and have similar foundations.
Public, collective and private interests are constantly negotiated in these complex constructions. In the Netherlands, the production of land or vice versa the flooding of land was and is used as a military, political and economical tool. The expression ’poldermodel’ literally refers to the habit of dealing with societal issues by compromising and finding consensus among stakeholders, this implies collaboration. It produces a strong sense of shared values and interest in the ‘common’.
If architecture is supposed to reflect shared values the question is raised what extend contemporary buildings can actually represent fundamental principles of the organizations they facilitate.
More information on dpa – ETSAM website.
Kees Kaan, as Chair of Complex Projects, will join the official launch of OverHolland 16/17 on January 15, 2016 organized by the editors in collaboration with The Berlage.
The main focus of OverHolland 16/17 is on the relationship between regional planning, research and architectural design. Kees Kaan will give a statement on the research carried out by Complex Projects PhD programme on mobility and transit-oriented policies in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture of TU Delft and other chairs.
January 15, 2016 – h 16.00 | Lecture room K – Faculty of Architecture (TU Delft)
Prof. Kees Kaan will travel East to visit some of the most important academies and universities of South China.
The dense programme of events presents three lectures: first one, on Tuesday October 20, at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou; followed by a second one on Wednesday October 21, at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and a third on Thursday October 22, at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou.
Following day, October 23, Kees Kaan will take part to a seminar hosted by the Guangzhou Design Alliance, EMGdotArt and the Embassy of the Netherlands in Guangzhou at the Yangcheng Design Alliance headquarter in Guangzhou.
The Chair of Complex Projects (TU Delft) together with ARCHEWORKS, as affiliate partners of the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial, are curating the lecture series "In Chicago".
In conjunction with the opening days of the biennial, Kees Kaan has been invited to give a public lecture on Friday October 2 from 19.00 at ARCHEWORKS.
Kees Kaan lecture “Beautification” states that architectural innovation in itself serves no purpose unless a proper balance between private interest and common values is established. The lecture will critically reflect on the contextual narrative as the driver of the architectural concept to generate a self-evident relation between city, building, construction and detail.
To participate, please RSVP here.
The history and the actual planning and development of the Dutch urban landscape is all about water management.
It implies the entire control or balance of the water versus land situation and therefore also includes water as a part of the infrastructure of the country. Aspects as transport, sewage, drainage, storage are constantly measured in balance with reclamation and safety from flooding.
In the Netherlands the production of land or vice versa the flooding of land was and is used as a military, political and economical tool.
Any city in the Netherlands is somehow related to the water or partially developed on reclaimed land.
For Dutch this situation is as normal as breathing. Put a shovel in the ground and the hole will fill itself with water immediately. The permanent relation with the water throughout the history has also asked many sacrifices and has settled in the DNA of our culture. The expression ’poldermodel’ literally refers to the habit of dealing with societal issues by compromising and finding consensus among stakeholders.
One sometimes wonders why people wanted to live here? But it was exactly the smart exploitation of the complex relation to the water that lead in the 16th and 17th century to the ‘first modern economy’ in the world with a very dense network of small cities. Building these cities implied making or reinforcing the land, keeping it in place and making foundations in the water.
There is little stable and dry land available so not only buildings are constructed but so are the streets and the canals. The section canal, street and house are inherently related and intertwined. The houses are built out of the same bricks as the docks, streets and bridges and have similar foundations.
Public, collective and private interests are constantly negotiated in these complex constructions.
Globalization today causes large percentages of the world population to settle down in densely populated, sometimes dangerous deltas all over the world making land-reclamation techniques and proper water-management techniques extremely important. However also the conceptual impact and the political and cultural consequences will become tangible. Construction implies also construction of land and infrastructure and the complex public-private relations as a result.
In the sustainable urban territory the relation to water goes far beyond the technical aspects of land reclamation.
Kees Kaan's chair of Complex Projects (Department of Architecture, TU Delft) is featured in this June issue of Domus magazine with a four-pages article.
The article is the monthly focus of Domus’ “Coriandoli/Confetti” column on the most interesting and established chairs and researches within the architecture faculties.
Here a little introduction to the piece: “The didactic instruction devised by Kees Kaan for the course he directs at the Delft University of Technology aims to train architects to deal with the complexity of our profession from a different point of view, involving continuous dialogue between teachers and students, and critical thinking that leads to solving diverse problems by means of non-conventional methodologies.”
To download the article, follow the PDF link down here.
Kees Kaan had been lecturing in two important Chinese universities, bringing the "Ideal Standard" topic to a wider public.
“Ideal Standard” is a constant within Prof. Kees Kaan lecture topics, and this time the Dutch standard have been presented to the Chinese public.
On May 25th, 2015, Prof. Kees Kaan was invited to give a lecture at the Huaqiao University in Xiamen (Wang Yuanxing International Conference Center); while few days after on May 27th, 2015 he presented the same topic at the Tongji University in Shanghai (College of Architecture and Urban Planning).
Soon more info on future lectures.