5 May 2017
By Dr Helen Norrie, University of Tasmania
It’s always great to be back amidst the sea of familiar ageing faces that is the National Architecture Conference. Following a very laid back, but lush, evening at the Argyle Hotel last night the conference got off to flying start with Winy Mass of MVRDV subtly but surely subverting Rem Koolhaas’ SMLXL manifesto through the consideration of ideas beyond both ends of the spectrum. His presentation started within XXL, with hyperthetical ideas of a ‘hyper optimised world’ explored though diagrammatic analysis and speculation on global issues and interactions.
Maas continued through to the XL register with a discussion of ‘Porouscity’ via an exploration of LEGO parametrics. The analogue medium of actual LEGO blocks was employed to develop a series of distortions of the prototypical highrise tower, with ‘stretched out arms’ and created hollowed and stepped forms that sought to stretch the relationship between inside and out. These ‘pre-scripted’ ideas were then expanded through digital parametric models, to create semi-realistic ideas for high-rises.
Ideas became reality as the scale reduced from XL to L, with an almost fantastical idea for the Seoul-lu botanic bridge, a ‘tree-pot arboretum’ that laces its way across the city, which is actually under construction and due for completion later this month. Conceptualising this mega ‘bridge as school’ involved the development of apps to educate people about plants, and the project included a series of utility buildings threaded within the different zones and groves of plants.
Jumping down a scale to M, Maas reverted to a more conventional slide show of projects, ‘because it’s an architects’ conference and you want to see toilets and things.’ He showed a series of projects that demonstrated MVRDV’s belief that ‘every building should be “manifestic”’ with an aspiration broader than the individual building. This was illustrated through the Didenvillage project, which aspired to ‘make suburbs in the city’ by installing a miniature ‘village on a roof,’ creating a ‘domain between the city and God.’
Maas contests that architects need to ‘be more outspoken to mitigate between now and the future.’ The De Trap project for a temporary stair built from scaffolding that climbed up and over the roof of the building adjacent to the Rotterdam train station was a demonstration of this idea, evidence of Maas’ suggestion that one can ‘plant a seed and a revolution can happen from a stupid idea.’
Sliding down in scale to S, Maas’ home town of Schijndel became the site of a new public building, an abstracted double-scale traditional Dutch barn made entirely of printed glass, that was the realisation of a suggestion to the local mayor 30 years ago by the 18 year old Maas that the town really needed to create more interesting places.
At XS ideas returned to the speculative, with ideas for different house types for different characters – all interlocked together joining the individual of the Ego City into a connective of the WEgo city. Ignoring the incessant bell, highlighting how far his energy and enthusiasm had taken him past his allocated time, Mass continued on to the smallest scale, XXS, with speculative ideas for an architecture of manually manipulable nanoparticles, speculating on the ‘impact of action on architecture’ and asking questions like ‘how long is the memory of space behind before it disappears.’
It was a great start to the day, fulfilling the conference curators’ promise of reaching beyond the practical, to engage hearts and minds through both a sense of meaning and delight, and to present built projects in the context of parallel speculative and hypothetical projects that are consciously and actively pushing boundaries.
All views expressed are those of the individual author and not the Institute.