Wouter Vanstiphout wins Pierre Bayle Award for art criticism

Pierre BayleDe Rotterdam_Ossip van Duivenbode

The Board of the Pierre Bayle Foundation has awarded this year’s Pierre Bayle Awards for art criticism to Design as Politics’ professor Wouter Vanstiphout and design critic Ed van Hinte. Both prizewinners will receive their award from Guus Beumer on the first of December in Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam.

The jury praised Vanstiphout for its strong social commitment, his outspoken and literary way of argumentation and the great political urgency of what he addresses. The jury report states:

His quirky and independent vision is practiced from an ongoing construction of knowledge and a deep understanding of the cultural complexity of the architecture and its creation. Vanstiphout hereby often takes up the gauntlet against the establishment that has determined the architectural culture in recent years. This laid the foundation for a profound and challenging oeuvre that breaks open and boosts the architectural debate, sharpens our judgment and gives the built environment relief and meaning. “

 The Pierre Bayle Prize for art criticism has been awarded every two years since 1956 to a critic who, according to the regulations, ‘over a period of years has executed his or her mediatory role in a constructive, systematic and literary manner worthy of respect’. The Pierre Bayle Prize is an oeuvre prize awarded every two years to critics in various art disciplines (visual art, letters, drama, dance, music, film, architecture and design). Those eligible are art critics who operate from a position of independence, with a keen understanding of and critical distance from their subject, and who offer not only sharpness in debate but also perspective.

The Award ceremony is free of charge. Please register in advance at: http://goo.gl/R2yMFc Language: Dutch


Book: Are We The World? Available soon!

Available soonD&P#6 Are We The World

We are extremely proud to announce that our first book ‘Are We the World? – Randstad Holland, São Paulo, Istanbul & Rotterdam’ will be for sale from November 1st!

In this book we look at the export of Dutch design and planning, which has been exported for decades across the globe. After a successful period in which the polycentric Randstad model was held in high esteem, followed by the fresh, modern approach of the Super- Dutch architects, the resources and expertise of Dutch institutions have been employed for projects in Asia and South America.

But, are Dutch ingenuity, pragmatism and process management the ideals that the explosively expanding or shrinking cities of the 21st century are most in need of? Isn’t the city more of a political question – of accessibility, equality and democracy? What does the Dutch model offer global cities and what can the Netherlands itself learn?

‘Are We The World?’ is part six of the Design and Politics series, an initiativefrom the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, which examines the relationship between planning, design and politics. This part has been put together by the chair of Design as Politics, under the supervision of Wouter Vanstiphout at TU Delft. The book compares the Randstad with São Paulo and Istanbul, and speculates about alternative visions for city planning and idealistic architectural intervention for the cities involved. ‘Are We The World?’ is not only a plea for a central role for city planning, and an active exchange of ideas, but primarily for new political involvement.

Workshop by Ton Matton

Almere utopia150916 Ton Matton5

On the 16 of September we took our students to the city of Almere for a workshop with urban planner and artist Ton Matton, who positions his own work somewhere between object-design, society-shape, ecological urban planning and artist-actionismus.

Matton received us at the building site of his Type EW58/08 house – a replica of a very simple GDR working class dwelling – which is currently being constructed in one of Almere’s new neighbourhoods. In an improvised outdoor lecture room, with chairs made from cargo pallets and a white minivan functioning as a projection screen, he gave an inspiring lecture explaining his utopian philosophy of ‘autarkic architectural moments’ as the common ground which links all his projects.

While presenting a selection of his previous work and showing the genesis of the Type EW58/08 house, Matton explained how at some point in his life he realised that it’s almost impossible to fundamentally change in the modern world. And how, in order to not get caught up in apocalyptic thinking, he therefore introduced the notion of ‘trendy pragmatism’ as one way to carry out interventions that might not help on a large scale, but should at least feel like you’re doing the right thing.

After a lively discussion in which he confronted the students with their responsibility as an architect, but above all as well-informed consumers, he send them off into the city of Almere to capture Utopian moments in the Suburb. While being skeptical at first, the students discovered some personal micro-utopias – ranging from the green suburban identity to peoples own private castles.

02 Erik Groenendijk - TM Utopian momentsSuburban Utopian moments by Erik Groenendijk

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 15.03.41Suburban Utopian moments by Justina Stefanovic


Sam Jacob, Wouter Vanstiphout and Kieran Long in Conversation

MK Gallery

On October 9th, the MK Gallery invited Design as Politics Professor Wouter Vanstiphout and Architect Sam Jacob – the curators of this year’s British Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale – to discuss the development of their exhibition, A Clockwork Jerusalem, with Architectural Historian and Broadcaster, Kieran Long.

A Clockwork Jerusalem explores how the international influences of Modernism became mixed with long standing British sensibilities. and how traditions of the romantic, sublime and pastoral, as well as interests in technology and science fiction were absorbed to create a specifically British form of Modernism.

The exhibition focusses on the mature flowering of British Modernism; the moment it was at its most ambitious socially, politically and architecturally, but which also witnessed its collapse. A variety of large scale projects offer insights into the way architecture was central to manufacturing a new vision of society at a scale inconceivable in today’s Britain. It explores how the modern future of Britain was built from an unlikely combination of interests and shows how these projects have changed our physical and imaginative landscapes.

Scotland, Veneto and Catalonia

The Double DeathIMG_0525

A couple of weeks ago we took our students to the Venice Architecture Biennale to take part in the Swiss Summer School Program: Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price – A stroll through a fun palace. On invitation of its curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, they spent a week in the Swiss pavilion in order to explore ‘decentralization’ – the cross-cutting theme of this years’ design as politics studio. Inspired by the Scottish referendum, the Catalan call for independence and being in the Veneto region -which also has a strong desire of autonomy- we took the opportunity to take a closer look at the Europe of regions under the heading  ‘The Double Death of Welfare and the Nation State.’ 

Divided in groups, the students were asked to develop a utopian vision for these three autonomous regions and to design their first pavilion at the Venice Biennale. Below you find the results:

#1 The People’s Lottocracy of Scotland

The People’s Lottocracy of Scotland

The recent Scottish referendum was debated not only on the basis of national identity but also on notions of justice and equality. These stem not from a regional identity but from disenchantment with dysfunctional democratic processes.

The ‘Scottish students’ therefore developed a future vision for Scotland organized ‘lottocratically,’ in which a series of lotteries have replaced normal systems within society in which the
 hours of labour, leisure, GDP and housing are considered required towards achieving the governments broad goals and distributes them unevenly, much in the way that resources are distributed unevenly in 2014. Even the government is elected lottocratically (all citizens may be called upon). Money earned, house, salary and work hours are appointed at random and have no correlation anymore. This is a form of fairness in which everything is not equal but in which all citizens will experience all ways of living – it is our contention that empathy arising from this situation would create a better society. In their pavilion they present, some texts, landscapes, cityscapes and life moments from their People’s Lottocracy of Scotland.

#2 Veneto – Production, Polenta, Palladio

Click on the image to open publicationThe “Veneto group” took the regions’ strong economy as a starting point to create a utopic country of production in which not the economic value of production is central, but the production itself. Entering their pavilion, the visitor becomes a product himself. He moves through on a conveyor belt stopping at certain junctions for a given time. Live, work and play are divided in equal amounts of time, just like it will be in the new country of Veneto. The countdown timers distributed all throughout the rooms, associated to each drawing, painting and activity that one can participate and observe within the pavilion. Thereby even the exhibition in the pavilion is optimized and reflects upon the Veneto – the production utopia.

#3 Catalan Republic: School of life
Screen Shot 2014-10-15 at 22.11.06

Also the “Catalan students” took the region’s productivity, combined with it’s rich culture and history as the foundation for its utopian future . They came up with a Utopian plan for the independent state of Catalonia, strongly based on enhancing its  identity and culture and driven on a extensive education system. Based on this, they developed a utopian education-based society  “The School of life“ in which everyone in the Catalonia Republic has to participate in theoretical study and practical production in order to provide for the local needs and for exporting goods & culture worldwide.

Reinier de Graaf: Why Mayors should not rule the world


Cities and their mayors are increasingly put forward as The new forces in solving major global problems. While national governments seem to fail in addressing environmental issues, poverty reduction, food production and healthcare, cities appear capable to respond much faster, more efficient and -above all- more democratically. But not everyone agrees. OMA partner and AMO director Reinier de Graaf recently added an interesting angle to the debate by arguing why Mayors should not rule the world…

This weekend, the first planning session of the Global Parliament of Mayors took place in Amsterdam: a platform for mayors from across the world, triggered by Benjamin Barber’s book: If Mayors Ruled the World: Dysfunctional Nations, Rising Cities.

In this book the current political system and its leaders is dismissed as dysfunctional. Defined by borders and with an inevitable focus on national interests, they are not an effective vehicle to govern a world defined by interdependence. Mayors, presiding over cities with their more open, networked structure and cosmopolitan demographics, so the book argues, could do it better.

It is of no surprise that this book has been welcomed by the same political class as the one it praises: mayors. As was apparent during the first planning session of the GPM: a conference about mayors, for mayors, attended by mayors, moderated by mayors and hosted by a mayor, all triggered by a book about mayors.

I recognize many of the book’s observations. Many mayors are impressive figures and time appears to be on their side. Nation states (particularly the large ones) have an increasingly hard time and, in the context of a process of globalization, cities, and particularly small city-states, increasingly emerge victorious. Cities have first-hand experience with many of the things that occur in globalization’s wake, such as immigration and cultural and religious diversity, and are generally less dogmatic and more practical in dealing with them.

So far so good.

For me, the problem arises when it is suggested to project the success of cities as a blueprint for global governance. I would argue that the current generation of mayors, described in the book, is successful precisely because they do not rule the world. They are successful because they are allowed to focus on smaller, more immediate, more local responsibilities, which means that their efforts by definition generate quicker and more visible results. To remove that focus by attributing global responsibilities to them would (probably) quickly undo that success. Yes, mayors are popular, but how much longer would they continue to be popular, once they would take on responsibilities currently allocated to national leaders? In any case, it remains questionable if popularity automatically equals competence to govern. Kings and Queens are generally a lot more popular than national politicians, but few of us would want to return to a system in which they ruled.

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The Double Death of Welfare and the Nation State


Invited by it’s curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, we took over the Swiss pavilion this week as part of the Swiss Summer School program “Lucius Burckhardt and Cedric Price – A stroll through a fun palace

Every week, from the opening of the Biennale until October 2014, another institution is invited to spend a week in the Pavilion, bringing their research on some of the most interesting changes that are happening worldwide to the landscape. At the end of the week, the institutes will leave behind the work they have developed, which will be used as a toolbox for subsequent visiting institutions, contributing to a growing archive of the Swiss Summer School.

Together with the students of our graduation studio New Utopias on the ruins of the welfare state, we will use this week to take a closer look at decentralization – the cross-cutting theme of Design as Politics this year. In the studio we emphasize the current progressive dispersion of the services once centralized by the welfare state, and the utopian thinking needed to create an alternative to that. Another angle of the same problem is the political configuration of the nation state. Inspired by the Scottish referendum, and being in the Veneto region -which also has a strong desire of autonomy- we will explore the Europe of regions under the heading  ‘The Double Death of Welfare and the Nation State.’