Built in 1917 by the chief government architect Daniel E.C. Knuttel for the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Industry and Trade in The Hague, the brick and stone building at Bezuidenhoutseweg 30 has been transformed by the Rotterdam-based Kaan Architecten into a home for five government-related planning and advisory agencies. I wrote an article for Architectural Record about how the once dark and heavy interiors of this national landmark are now light and transparent, and, in keeping with the changing times, B30, named after its address, is ready to facilitate an exchange of knowledge rather than the exercise of power.
Nextdoor is a free private social network for neighborhood communities. It launched in 2011 in the US and at the beginning of 2016 in the Netherlands, its first European rollout. It has become quite popular: in the US 75 percent of all households use it, and in the Netherlands over a third of the neighborhoods have adopted it in just the past year and a half. In the UK, where the app was launched last September, it now represents 44% of the country’s neighborhoods, and release in France and Germany is pending. “It took us four years to attain the growth in the US that we have already experienced here in the Netherlands,” says co-founder Sarah Leary. “The Dutch love smartphones and are early adopters of social networking services.”
I first saw work by the French-Luxemburg artist duo Martine Feipel and Jean Bechameil two years ago at Galerie Fontana. It was the exhibion ‘Un monde parfait – In dust suspended’. I wrote an article for NRC about the way they use their sculptures to come to grips with the desolation of the modern utopia that was realized in concrete on the edges of Paris – as in many other cities.
For Harvard Graduate School of Design I wrote a blog about the cycling mayor in Amsterdam.
Urban cycling is all the rage in cities nowadays. For tourists it’s a fun way of seeing the city, for locals in cities that are not used to bikes it is a form of transport activism. In Amsterdam, it’s utilitarian; biking is simply the cheapest and quickest way to get around. Not in lycra, but in high heels or a business suit, or with groceries in front and a child in back.
New trend: souvenirs are the new outlet for designers. It dawned on me when I attended a talk by Scottish curator Stacey Hunter at the exhibition design Language during the Milan Designweek about her project Local Heroes in Edinburgh last year. She invited nine designers to create souvenirs that went beyond the heritage clichés. It reminded me of a Dutch project by designer Elmo Vermijs, 100% Terschelling, which is in the running for one of this year’s Dutch Design Awards.
Winners of the 2017 Pritzker Prize are RCR Arquitectes, a Spanish studio located by deliberate choice in the volcanic hinterland of the province of Catalunya. I interviewed them for NRC Handelsblad and made a video interview as well.
The reaction is most of the architecture world was: ‘Who?’ By chance I knew their work: I had stayed in an extraordinary hotel they designed with rooms made entirely of glass, I had visited a school + library in the Barcelona neighbourhood of Sant Antoni, and I had seen an exhibition on their work in Barcelona. I returned to their town of Olot, to the 16th-century foundry where their studio is located, to speak with them, and visited their striking underground bodega in Palamós, on the coast north of Barcelona.