Bericht aan de lezer / Message to the reader

A jumble of plumbing with artistic pretensions; an elderly couple at leisure in the Dutch countryside; a freshly sutured operation wound above the collar-bone of an architect; an estate agent talking to a security guard at the entrance to a gated community in Los Angeles; an atmospheric view of the interior of the De Kolk shopping centre in Nieuwendijk, Amsterdam. Sometimes people ask us, what does all this have to do with architecture, why is it on the cover of Archis?

In fact what does or doesn’t have to do with architecture is one of the most intriguing questions of the day. It isn’t just the concern of this magazine, of course. Until recently, architecture could be interpreted as whatever durable things were done to a plot of land or at least were intended to be done to a plot of land, i.e. a building or a design for one. Besides a place with specified boundaries, you needed an individual designer, a client, and a design discipline with ideas about how to deal with the given situation. But in an ever-upscaling network society, site boundaries alone are no longer equally relevant as before. Moreover, individual designers submerge their talents in versatile teams. Clients are increasingly anonymous and the process of commissioning work goes through ever more bodies and committees.

The design discipline, finally, is fragmenting further and further, and now already embraces varieties of expertise that scarcely even recognize one another (or want to). They hardly ever meet on the educational path. All in all, the field of architecture is going through majorupheavals and the job of an architecture magazine is to throw light on these.
That we do not stand completely alone in this opinion, or feeling rather, has been underlined recently by a number of remarkable developments. Firstly, on the occasion of the opening of the Dutch parliament, the government published a second architectural memorandum whose title translates as ‘The architecture of space’. This paper does not centre around architecture as such but treats the whole physical development of the Netherlands as an architectural question. A radical change of outlook.

Secondly, the jury for Holland’s leading architecture award, the substantial Maaskant Prize, designated as its laureate the virtual network of ‘the Rotterdam harbour’. Although the governing body rejected this recommendation, it amounted to a revolutionary gesture. It departed from the idea that architectural quality can be brought about by the efforts of outstanding individuals. Instead it spotlighted an anonymous process as an extremely fruitful source of inspiration. From this point of view, the Maaskant Prize, even though not awarded this year, has signalled a new architectural direction.

It is becoming clearer all the time that architecture is having to explore new paths and set itself new objectives.
Returning to the cover photos, what does the ageing population have to do with the task of building?
What is the status of the rural landscape?
What is the position of architecture, our third skin,
when the march of biotechnology and medical science is totally changing our experience of our own bodies?
How can we assess the forces that territorialism and fear of the outside world exert on architecture?
How can one disclose the hidden programmes that are determined by the use and experience of architecture in a way that no single designer alone can determine, and which are almost impossible to depict by traditional documentary photography?

These are just some of the many questions that concern us. The point is that we are trying to put into pictures and words those forces that are setting architecture in motion today and will do so tomorrow, the forces that redefine architecture’s purpose and cultural significance. With this motivation, Archis will be adopting a modified formula from January onwards so as better to report on the (inevitable) boundary skirmishes of international architecture. We’ll be providing you with a front-row seat.

Blinde energie / Blind energy