- About the NAI
The world belongs to everyone
The public space in the Netherlands ranges from shopping centres, museums and town halls to squares, parks and national landscapes. That space should be safe, whole and clean, on account of its public accessibility. These are the basic qualities, but the public space is also a cultural statement. In this domain the Netherlands can show what it is proud of and which values it upholds. These designs for public buildings display that cultural élan well, but do we still feel such zeal when we look at our public buildings today?
The luxury of simplicity
Restraint is a recurring theme in Dutch architecture, in the sense of limitation to the essence or in the form of functional architecture. A residence may be small, but can still provide plenty of joy and pleasure. A villa may be large and luxurious, but can still look restrained. Concepts like purity and clarity spring to mind. Hence restraint is one of the core concepts in Dutch architecture, encapsulating eternal values such as beauty, solidity and efficiency. Are such values still to be found in present-day Dutch architecture? Do we still show restraint?
Cooperation is a virtue
Everyone feels unique, yet is part of a community. Pure individuality is almost non-existent. Since our births we have been influenced by society, which moulds us and teaches us how to live together. Most especially, collective housing development creates cohesion and makes life within a community visible. Dutch residential districts are carefully composed spaces, in which the component parts and the whole form a unified entity. The social housing of the Netherlands is famous far beyond the country’s borders, but is it still as forceful and as communal as a century ago?
Exploring other worlds
Architects have always travelled. The traditional ‘Grand Tour’ is a famous example. Newly graduated or during their final years of study, young architects leave hearth and home for a few months. The destination is invariably a land from classical antiquity, Italy or Greece, the cradle of our culture. More exotic destinations are gradually becoming more popular. These foreign impressions are formative for one’s entire life. They lead to novel insights, to an enrichment of one’s own architectural culture, or even to a new architecture. And it does not stop at travelling alone. Dutch architects design buildings and even entire cities in foreign countries, and they participate enthusiastically in international discussion platforms. Meanwhile, more and more buildings in the Netherlands are being designed by foreign architects. Can we still talk of international exchange if architecture itself is becoming globalised?
The pursuit of innovation
Without experiment, the built environment would be a boring, dead space. Innovation in architecture is often driven by a few convinced protagonists of an ideology or idea. The experimental passion of Dutch architects is internationally renowned: from the Functionalists who made the structure the starting point for their designs around 1920 to the conceptual design bureaus which attracted global interest in the 1990s. This vanguard makes a strong case for transforming their ideas into tangible designs. A great many tryouts are produced during that process, sometimes even buildings that are actually built. Society maintains its vitality by experimenting. But is our architecture still experimental? Should the discipline rely on innovation platforms or look to inspired individuals?
Everything can be designed
Everything in the Netherlands is engineered. Designing the city as well as the landscape is peculiar to the Dutch notion of makeability, which has its origins in the heroic struggle against water. Dutch urban planning is also permeated by the conviction that you can mould a good society with the right urban development plan. In the 20th century this resulted in a succession of plans on an ever-greater scale, culminating in the post-war expansion districts. Since then, public consultation and market forces have altered the character of the makeability concept. It has been replaced by flexible plans and new relations between city and countryside. Has anyone retained an overview? Perhaps Dutch makeability is ready for a new form of organisation?