03 2020
March 2020
31/03 2020

‘This will kill that’ – an essay by Dikkie Scipio for de Architect

In the March issue of de Architect, Dikkie Scipio wrote an essay about the shifting position of architecture within the scope of all arts, weaved through the story of the Parisian Notre-Dame cathedral. Find below the full transcript in English.

The original article written in Dutch can be found here

“Recently I read Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris, written in 1830. The book became widely known as “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and is remembered as the love story between the gypsy beauty Esmeralda and the pitiful creature, deafened by the bells and living in the belfry of the cathedral. Victor Hugo wrote his novel as a plea for restoring the Notre Dame which was in great disrepair at the time. In doing so, Hugo showed a thorough and detailed knowledge of architecture. He formed a passionate opinion about the matter and did not avoid writing a strong manifesto against the damage done by the Academies, professors and “certain individuals that have adopted the title of the architect”.

Victor Hugo classified three sorts of devastation that had brought Notre Dame to its state of ruin at the beginning of the nineteenth century. First: Time, responsible for the wrinkles and warts on the building’s skin. Second: the acts of violence and the brutalities, the bruises and fractures being the work of Revolutions. And third: the mutilations, amputations, and dislocations by A Swarm of Architects from the schools – licensed and certified – who defaced by choice with the discrimination of bad taste. In summary, he applied the Latin quote Tempus edax, homo edacior (Time erodes, man erodes more) which he freely translated as: Time is blind, man is stupid.

To put this into perspective, the Notre Dame of Paris was built over a period of 182 years, starting in 1163, the age of Charlemagne and Romanesque architecture, and ending in 1345 after the reign of Philip IV in Gothic architecture. By the time of Victor Hugo, the Vitruvius books had been recovered, and the Renaissance, Baroque, Neoclassicism and Romanticism had touched the cathedral. Revolutions of the religious kind (Luther’s Theses of 1517 and the Reformation), economic kind (rise of the bourgeoisie), social kind (French Revolution of 1789) and political kind (Napoleon’s reign 1804-1814) had all scratched and scarred Our Lady.

Victor Hugo was right to note the state of the cathedral, but after 600 years it could hardly be a surprise the building had been modified, even if they were bold modifications like the removal of the spire. What might have enraged him so about mankind and architects?

The answer to this is revealed when he explains the full significance of chapter one, ending with the Archdeacon directing our gaze away from a book, made possible by Gutenberg’s printing press, to the monumental cathedral, and lamenting: “Alas, this will kill that”.

Until the fifteenth century, architecture was the principal register of mankind, man’s chief form of expression. All ideas of any complexity which arose in the world became a building. Every popular idea, just like every religious dogma, had its monuments. In fact, the human race inscribed in stone every one of its important philosophies. When this was disseminated among the masses and then suppressed by feudalism, architecture was its one outlet, eventually being fully unleashed through this art form by the realization of cathedrals. The other arts all submitted to the discipline and dominance of architecture.

Thus, up until Gutenberg in 1439, architecture was the chief, the universal form of writing.

With the invention of the press, books took over the role of architecture as the exclusive mode of expression. Architecture was dethroned. It was no longer the total, the sovereign art; it no longer had the strength to keep hold of the other arts and so they set themselves free. Sculpture became statuary, imagery became painting, canon became music and, from the sixteenth century, the great artists rose to prominence. Architecture became merely one art among others.

As human ideas change their shape, they change their mode of expression. The central idea of each generation would no longer be written in the same way or with the same material. The book of stone would give way to the book of paper. Paper was to kill the building and the sole power of the Church, and the Archdeacon was feeling the transition. For Victor Hugo, it was the ignorance of the ‘architecture as one art among others’ making adaptations to the ‘architecture as the mother of all arts’ that infuriated him.

Today we are again in transition. This time books of paper are losing their absolute power to express knowledge, as the digital realm and internet rise. Like architecture, books will not be lost but they will have to reinvent an independent status as one art among many.

As for architecture, digitalization adds an extra dimension to our profession. It would not be surprising if many young architects started designing videos, virtual reality and gaming experiences of architecture and urban design, as a precursor to building. In the digital world, again many independent arts are being combined to create an energy that raises overall design quality. Who knows, architecture may regain a position of hegemony and virtual cities and buildings may become our combined mode of expression once again.”


Prof. Dikkie Scipio

for De Architect

1st quarter, 2020


Translated from Dutch by Dianna Beaufort (Words On The Run)

26/03 2020

A day at De Bank

In February photographer Inga Powilleit visited our office to capture a typical working day in our Rotterdam headquarter. Although we are currently working remotely, we look back fondly at our daily office routine and hope to return to it as soon as circumstances allow it.

Powilleit describes her process as concentrated observation and calmness, a waiting game of sorts for the right opportunity to arise even in the most complex of situations. In this way she captures the essence of her subject.

A day at De Bank is precisely such a complex situation, comprising a variety of dynamics. Busy periods of activity, team meetings and presentations are interspersed with moments of quiet contemplation and individual work. Powilleit welcomes this chaos, claiming: “I enjoy working when people no longer notice my presence, when I can really capture them in their own environment and concentration.”

All of this takes place in a photogenic space flooded with daylight coming in from both sides, with long corridors and passages allowing Powilleit to experiment with composition. Working, meeting and leisure spaces are all effectively connected, producing a variety of different shots ranging from still lifes to overviews.

18/03 2020

Building up the Bassecourt

The renovation and reconstruction of Paleis Het Loo started over two years ago. Within that time extensive groundwork made room for the new underground entrance of the museum – the Bassecourt. On her recent visit, photographer Dominique Panhuysen captured the instances from the ongoing construction.

During the past year major progress has been made in the Bassecourt, which was excavated to make room for the new entrance facilities, the Grand Foyer and several exhibition spaces.

The deepest point of the construction pit has been reached and concrete was poured and cured underwater to make sure the structure is without tears or leaks. Following that process, first walls of the underground facilities have been raised.

On the inside, the palace has been undergoing operations for removing asbestos and is now asbestos free; well ahead of the governmental requirements. The interior has been carefully dismantled in order to preserve the original elements from the 1600s to remove the dangerous material that was placed in the palace during the 1970s. Once the renovation and removal of asbestos are finished, all the pieces will be put back in place.

To find out more about the renovation process, watch the timelapse video of the construction here or click here to keep up with the ongoing video series following the construction progress. At this link, you can see the timeline of the construction process.

16/03 2020

KAAN Architecten remains fully operational

Collaboration and teamwork are key aspects of our daily work in architecture. While the circumstances of society change by the minute, KAAN Architecten’s workflow continues remotely to serve our clients and partners, safeguarding our fellow citizens’ and employees’ health and safety.

By means of our digital platform, the integral processes concerning design, meetings, presentations and communication are maintained without reservations. Our teams are active and can be contacted during office hours through the usual communication channels.

On behalf of the team, KAAN Architecten sends its warmest regards for your health and safety. Remain responsible and vigilant for the benefit of your community.

11/03 2020

Enter the KAAN Architecten publication giveaway!

Due to great interest, we are giving away several books and publications about the work of KAAN Architecten. Find out how to enter below!

Enter for a chance to win a copy of limited edition project books and monograph issues with rich illustrative and photographic documentation of KAAN Architecten projects. Click on links below to explore the publications eligible for the giveaway:

L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui Hors-série – KAAN Architecten

I Maestri dell’Architettura Collector’s Edition – KAAN Architecten

Crematorium Siesegem

Utopia – Library and Academy for Performing Arts

ISMO – Institut des Sciences Moléculaires d’Orsay

To enter, fill in the form HERE with your contact information and mark your preferred publication. Please note the giveaway will close on 18 March 2020. Winners will be selected at random and notified by email. Collected information will be kept confidential and used solely for contacting the winners.

06/03 2020

KAAN Architecten to design the new Education Centre for University of Groningen

Following an international competition, the University of Groningen (UG) awarded KAAN Architecten as the winning entry for the design of a new Educational Centre for the faculties of Medical Sciences and Science & Engineering, located just outside the historical city centre.

In the past, the gradual expansion of the campus created a sprawling network of buildings with complex internal relations. The new Education Centre will re-establish the flows and clearly define the public space, becoming a central accessible core for the University and functioning as the main entrance for the Healthy Ageing Campus. The complex will rise between the ERIBA building, the Faculty of Medical Science complex and the new Proton Therapy Centre of the University Medical Center Groningen, joining a cluster of existing structures with shared facilities that provide access to the clinic, research facilities and companies.

“Educational buildings are always an exciting architectural challenge, and we couldn’t be more delighted to bring our concept to life. The new centre will bring fresh identity to this part of the campus while connecting and reinforcing the surrounding buildings.” says KAAN Architecten founding partner Vincent Panhuysen. Within its 11,000 m2 of surface, the new Education Centre will provide a sustainable, open and dynamic space for students. The connections with the existing buildings are gently integrated in the design, to highlight the Centre’s bonding purpose for the whole campus.

The Centre will provide lecture halls, libraries, classrooms, project rooms, education square, patios, a restaurant, an underground bicycle parking and some flexible workplaces that teachers can use between class hours. Busier and quietest facilities will be smartly arranged through a rational structure, providing adequate working and leisure environments for the students, with respect for their work and concentration, while still offering generous natural light and green spaces. Brick, wood and concrete will be the main materials used in the construction of the Centre, providing a robust yet friendly study environment.

The building will host up to 2.000 employees and students, with its facilities being highly flexible and adaptable to any possible future changes in the organization of the Campus. The winning competition team is composed by KAAN Architecten (architect), Sweegers en De Bruijn (installation advisor), ABT (sustainability), Peutz (building physics consultants).

The full project will be released soon. In the meantime, find out more information here.