Habitat: Expanding Architecture
18 October 2018 - 9 March 2019
Habitat: Expanding Architecture is a research installation which captures a key moment in the history of architecture and urban planning: the tenth CIAM conference at Dubrovnik in 1956. Here the concept 'habitat' was a central theme: a broader understanding of architecture through a new ecological approach viewing architecture less as an autonomous discipline than as part of larger, dynamic whole. Habitat is the first in a series of Total Space programme installations.
Ecology is now a well-known concept in architecture and urban planning. The research installation Habitat: Expanding Architecture highlights one of the first moments in which ecological thinking was introduced in architectural discussions: the tenth CIAM congress in Dubrovnik, 1956. Against the backdrop of the emerging welfare state, the housing crisis, and the large-scale modernisation of cities, architects focused on the idea of 'habitat'. The current focus on sustainability was still lacking, but criticism of technocratic thinking was already associated with this ecological concept.
Habitat was introduced as an alternative to the idea of the Functional City that CIAM had propagated since the 1930s. With 'habitat' they looked for a broader approach beyond functionalism, to do justice to local cultural identities and existing landscape and urban qualities. Architecture was no longer just about the production of shapes and objects, but also about processes of growth and change. Cities should no longer be regarded as separate collections of buildings, but as coherent, ecological systems.
CIAM en Team 10
CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d'Architecture Moderne) was founded in 1928 by modern architects looking for a radical renewal of architecture and urban planning. When CIAM met for the tenth time in Dubrovnik in 1956, the organisation was in a phase of transition. The discussions surrounding habitat, which occupied CIAM from 1952, were an important catalyst in this, eventually leading to the end of CIAM and the formation of the new avant-garde group Team 10. With their criticism of functionalism they made their name in 1954 with the 'Statement on Habitat', after which they were asked to prepare the tenth CIAM congress. The idea was to come to a 'Chartre de l'Habitat', but this failed when no agreement could be reached.
The core of this exhibition is a reconstruction of the material that the CIAM members presented to each other in Dubrovnik 1956. Next to works by influential Team 10 architects such as Jaap Bakema, Aldo van Eyck and Alison and Peter Smithson, there are also works by artists such as James Stirling, Piero Bottoni, Arne Korsmo, Geir Grung, the Finnish group PTAH and the Portuguese CIAM Porto group.
At the postwar meetings of CIAM, the participants presented each other's work as much as possible in a grid format with a series of identically sized panels, making the different contributions more comparable and negotiable. The tenth CIAM congress prescribed compact presentations of just four panels that summarised each project while simultaneously providing visual representations.
Although the consistency in presentation format results in a homogenous overall appearance, a wide range of projects were shown: from modest workers' homes - for example in the presentations by John Voelcker or Romke Romke de Vries - to complete cities, such as in the plan of the Finnish PTAH group. Strikingly for a time of large-scale modernisation, there was a lot of attention for rural models with their own regional identity that were modern at the same time. The Portuguese contribution of the CIAM group from Porto is a striking example of this.
The presentations by Alison and Peter Smithson and Aldo van Eyck received the most attention in the historiography of the tenth congress. The British couple gave an overview of typologies from an individual home to mass housing. Van Eyck presented the ideal polder village of Nagele and his playgrounds in Amsterdam. In particular, the latter imagined how use and urban space could be interrelated far beyond the practice of technocratic, functional urban planning.
The CIAM material from the 1950s has been supplemented with more recent work to illustrate how ecological and theoretical approaches to architecture have since been interpreted in different ways: the studies on the relations between settlements and landscape formations of Pjotr Gonggrijp, the transformative interpretation of the Dutch delta landscape by Frits Palmboom, the ecological interventions by planner and activist Joost Váhl, and the discussions surrounding the Tanthof district in Delft, designed by Van den Broek and Bakema together with the Tanthof working group. Some projects from the 1980s are also shown, such as the Nieuw Nederland (New Netherlands) exhibition and the 'Tapijtmetropool' ('Patchwork Metropolis') research by Willem Jan Neutelings.
Habitat: Expanding Architecture combines archive research with public presentations. It incorporates an intensive programme of seminars and conversations with international guests, students, historians, architects and planners. The installation is arranged as a platform to examine numerous questions relating to 'habitat': what is the significance of habitat as a new ecological paradigm for architecture and planning - whether in a historical or a contemporary context? What is the significance of no longer thinking in terms of objects, form and construction, but rather in terms of processes, systems and networks?