On 29 June, an exhibition of dismantled building components from the former building of the Ministry of Social Affairs was held in situ during the final review of Studio Rotor: Deconstruction. The session marked the end of an intensive ten-week workshop programme with TU Delft Visiting Professors Lionel Devlieger and Maarten Gielen of the Brussels-based office Rotor. The programme combined an international conference at TU Delft and archival seminars at Het Nieuwe Instituut with analyses of case studies, site visits, and radical redesign.
Ministry of Social Affairs
Following the study and work on two buildings, the third and last case study of Studio Rotor: Deconstruction concerned the former Ministry of Social Affairs in The Hague, designed by Herman Hertzberger from 1979, and inaugurated in 1990. The building ranks as one of the last major achievements of Dutch Structuralism. It was tailor-made to house the Ministry, yet, in 2016, the 70,000 m2 structure was auctioned and sold to MRP Development, a real estate operator that has plans for its partial demolition and redevelopment.
Departing from this scenario, the TU Delft students taking part in Studio Rotor: Deconstruction explored the material implications of this demolition. Gathering information from Hertzberger’s archival collection at Het Nieuwe Instituut and from site visits, the students developed a quantitative analysis of the demolition and an assessment of those elements that could be salvaged for off-site reuse in an economically plausible manner. As part of the case study, Herman Hertzberger participated in a tour of the building and held a far-reaching discussion with the students and professors about his design and the current state of affairs. A detailed description and inventory of building components, including prefab concrete structural elements, ceilings and lighting fixtures, diverse technical equipment, glass, window profiles, steel, doors and partition walls, and signalization and art works, was followed by the dismantling of representative samples of materials by the Rotor DC team. The final review exhibition in the public halls of the Ministry is staged as a contemporary archaeological site with the samples recollected in a new compositional order awaiting reuse and reinterpretations. Rotor and MRP Development agreed to look at the possibility of re-enacting the exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut in the near future.
Previous case studies by the studio were: OMA’s Timmerhuis in Rotterdam (2013-2015) realised with an eye on maximum flexibility and the future reuse of its building components; and the Ockenburg Youth Hostel by Frank van Klingeren (1971-1974), dismantled in 2011 and temporarily stored since then in anticipation of its resurrection at another site in The Hague.
Studio Rotor: Deconstruction
The focus of Studio Rotor: Deconstruction was the potential for reuse of the legacy of post-war modernist buildings as well as some iconic and didactic contemporary projects. The question was: could these examples be deconstructed in such a way that their elements become available for new configurations and future uses? This question of reusing history and the archive had a literal dimension: how can the historical buildings be dismantled into elements (construction, materials) and reassembled in new ways. At the same time, the studio did not consider the archive as an ‘art historical’ reservoir that houses the canon of Dutch architecture, but as a resource providing basic building material for design projects, as well as an active element in the redefinition of the architectural discipline.
The question was therefore intended to trigger a debate on the value and role of history and the archive in contemporary architectural design. Not only does this approach entail the urgent questions of sustainability and reuse, but it also implies a need for a different view on history and historical production as a resource for innovation.
Rotor Visiting Professors
In the spring semester of 2017, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre welcomed the TU Delft Visiting Professors Lionel Devlieger and Maarten Gielen of the Brussels-based office Rotor. Representing a new approach to contemporary architectural practice, Rotor develops critical positions on design, material resources and waste through research, exhibitions, writings and conferences. A core element of their professorship is a special studio that focuses on the deconstruction of modernist and contemporary buildings slated for demolition to make their components available for a redesign assignment.
With the Visiting Professors programme, the Faculty of Architecture and The Built Environment attracts nationally and internationally renowned designers to contribute to the renewal of research and education with their outlooks and networks. The Jaap Bakema Study Centre supported the studio by co-organising the international conference Deconstruction and by organising research seminars based on the archival collections of Het Nieuwe Instituut, with guest lectures by Piet Vollaard, Francis Strauven (University of Gent), and Lidy Meijers (TU Delft).
Visiting Professors: Lionel Devlieger and Maarten Gielen (Rotor); Hosting Chair: Dick van Gameren, Architecture and Dwelling; Coordinator: Dirk van den Heuvel, head JBSC; Coordinator JBSC / Het Nieuwe Instituut: Victor Muñoz Sanz; Guest Teacher: Jacques Vink; Student Assistant: Arthur Schoonenberg; Experts Heritage, Het Nieuwe Instituut: Ellen Smit and Suzanne Mulder; Students: Amanda Schuurbiers, Anna Gunnink, Ben Summers, Duong Vu Hong, Helena Andersson, Kasia S. Soltysiak, Melanie Kwaks, Michelle Beman, Monsicha Kaniaprasert, Nutcha Somboonthanasarn, Serah Calitz, Steven van der Woude, Tanya Tsui, Mara Wang.
With special thanks to: Heritage department Het Nieuwe Instituut, HVE Architecten bv, Studio Leon Thier, Stebru Transformatie B.V., MRC Development, Gemeente Rotterdam, OMA, Herman Hertzberger and Laurens Jan ten Kate / AHH, Jac. Huijsmans and Kris Valstar / MRP Development, Misja Andriol / Bright!, Floris Alkemade / Atelier Rijksbouwmeester.