Given Het Nieuwe Instituut’s multifaceted remit and the varied expectations in a broad professional field, a clear position is necessary to establish the organisation’s authority and thereby create a recognisable profile in its (international) environment. In 2018 it became clear that the introduction of three distinct elements – the Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning and the Agency for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture – together with the connective activities of the Research department achieved the desired concentration of efforts.
The resulting synergy has contributed to a clear profile for Het Nieuwe Instituut, both within the organisation and among its current partners and those organisations with which it wishes to establish future alliances. The focussed programme has also appealed to a larger public. In Rotterdam, the institute welcomed no fewer than 186,000 visitors, plus almost 45,000 in the rest of the Netherlands. Thanks to the well-attended Venice and Shenzhen Biennales, the number of visitors to the institute’s presentations abroad exceeded 462,000.
Thursday Night Live!
With a total of more than 656,000 visitors, 2018 was an extremely successful year in terms of public reach. And as in previous years, Het Nieuwe Instituut succeeded in attracting a large number of young visitors to its Thursday Night Live! programme. A total of 44 Thursday Nights were organised with 162 lectures, performances and pop-ups. An average of 190 people attended each evening, again more than in the previous year.
In 2018, the programme addressed themes such as Decolonising Design, the global techno-political reality (in Vertical Atlas) and algorithmic agents (in the BotClub). Designers and image makers shared their work and ideas in the BNO IMG LAB, the Reading Room was overflowing with research and stories and Archive Explorations offered multiple perspectives on the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. Designers who write were given a podium in partnership with Design Platform Rotterdam, while For the Record addressed the politics of contemporary video culture.
Through the direct connection between the exhibitions in the Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture, the institute’s research agenda and the themes of these evenings, an important discursive component was added to the exhibitions and a broader context for the work of the institute’s research fellows was provided.
Museum for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture
Het Nieuwe Instituut’s public activities are not a representation of the status quo in architecture, design and digital culture. In both the content and the format of its exhibitions, performances, lectures, live research, networking events and expert meetings, the institute seeks out unfamiliar perspectives, new questionsand overarching themes in which political and social reality functions as a lens through which to examine the changing roles of the various design disciplines.
In the first six months of 2018, this approach resulted in the exhibition programme Dissident Gardens, which explored our contemporary relationship to nature, the influence of technology and the role of designers and architects as researchers, biologists or activists through various forms of design research. The programme addressed current issues relating to sustainability, materials innovation, the transition of the designer and the design field, and the impact of technology on our lives and living environments.
The wide-ranging programme relating to themes such as Gardening Mars and Smart Farming showed what role designers play in the new relations between technology and ecology, and to which choices their position can lead. The programme had an international resonance, leading to partnerships with Manifesta 12 in Palermo (The Planetary Garden: Cultivating Coexistence) and to an invitation from the Milan Triennale to curate the official Dutch contribution (Broken Nature, 2019).
In the autumn, the focus was on the Speculative Design Archive, which provided a much-needed forum to discuss the striking gap in Dutch heritage policy caused by the absence of a national archive for design and digital culture heritage. The preparatory research, the actual installation and the programme of meetings, conversations and debates around the Speculative Design Archive bore direct fruit. The project prompted the Dutch design field to write an open letter to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science and parliament. As a result, the ministry has asked Het Nieuwe Instituut to conduct exploratory research into the establishment of a future archive for design and digital culture.
In recent years, the institute has developed a distinctive exhibition practice. In each case, we look for a suitable model that not only facilitates the exhibition’s story, but also tells it. Whenever possible, we work with designers on the development of exhibitions and other forms of displays. As the institute that represents the Netherlands’ design community, Het Nieuwe Instituut aims to grant meaningful and distinctive commissions to (digital) makers, designers and architects, thus demonstrating the added value of a well-anchored cultural commissioning process.
State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning
The Heritage department reached several milestones in the course of 2018. The highlight was the announcement of €11 million in funding from the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science for Closer to Architecture, a prestigious restoration and digitisation project that will be carried out over the next six years.
Het Nieuwe Instituut manages an extensive and important collection of some 800 archives, which contain approx. 1.4 million drawings and 300,000 photographs, slides and glass negatives of work by Dutch architects and urban designers. The collection continues to grow, and increasingly includes objects created in the digital age. Earlier analysis shows that the collection is in a poor condition and is therefore difficult to consult. Making it accessible to professionals, scholars, students and the general public requires large-scale conservation and restoration. The collection must also be digitised and made available online. With the contribution from the Ministry, we are much closer to realising this goal.
Another project that was successfully competed in 2018 was the publication of two collection books for children, drawing upon materials in the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. In a recommendation to Het Nieuwe Instituut and the Minister of Education, Culture and Science in 2016, the Council for Culture stressed the importance of the collection in relation to education. The books Hoi, ik ben een lijn (Hi, I’m a Line) and Hoi, jij bent een ontwerper (Hi, You’re a Designer) are important tools for Het Nieuwe Instituut’s education programme. State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning
Jaap Bakema Study Centre
In 2018, the Jaap Bakema Study Centre, a long-term partnership with Delft University of Technology that centres on research into the collection of the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, organised numerous lectures, a symposium entitled Happy Senior Living and an expert meeting on Schokbeton. The Jaap Bakema Study Centre also continued its long-term research on Structuralist architecture.
Agency for Architecture, Design and Digital Culture
The Agency was introduced in the first year of the current policy period by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, primarily to restore several tasks that had once been part of the responsibility of the three organisations that merged to form Het Nieuwe Instituut, but were dropped as a result of the merger. These include the foreign visitors’ programme, the programming for international design and architecture biennales, international development and talent development.
As part of the international development programme, Het Nieuwe Instituut teams designers up with clients who have concrete commissions with a social component. The Agency curated the Dutch submissions to the Biennale Architettura 2018 in Venice and the 2019 Triennale di Milano.
In both projects, it has become clear how essential and productive the partnership between the Agency and Het Nieuwe Instituut’s Research department has become, as the Agency’s social ambitions reinforce the Research department’s talent for speculative thinking. In the case of the Triennale di Milano, this resulted in the Dutch entry’s success in breaking through the Trienniale’s strict design focus by promoting links with architecture and digital culture.
Commissioner of the Biennale Architettura 2018
Last year a collective of architects, artists, designers, historians, musicians, theorists and institutions contributed to the transnational research project entitled WORK, BODY, LEISURE that was presented in the Dutch pavilion at the Biennale Architettura 2018 in Venice. Het Nieuwe Instituut functioned as the commissioning body for this event, which also found outlets in a variety of publications, podcasts, performances, long-term exchange programmes, exhibitions and new research initiatives. In reaction to the advancing technologies around automation and their impact on the built environment, the various teams focussed on the development of new forms of creativity and new responsibilities for architecture. The presentation in Venice was very enthusiastically received by visitors and the international press.
Research forms a crucial link between the Museum, the State Archive and the Agency. Het Nieuwe Instituut recognises the key role of research and aims to give visibility to research projects that question conventional ways of thinking. The institute aims to stimulate collective forms of knowledge development. For this reason, the research activities are almost always connected to public programmes, which may involve critical investigation, the provision of new themes and concepts and setting up think tanks for providing the content of events. In 2018, these included preparations for the project Neuhaus, which took place in the spring of 2019. One of the tools that Research employs to initiate and support new forms of research is the institute’s fellowship programme.
The central theme of the fellowship programme in 2018 was ‘Burnout’. Ramon Amaro, who was a fellow in 2017, served as guest curator. Its selection of this theme led the institute to present a two-fold question in the Open Call. Why are growing numbers of people experiencing burnout as a result of an increasing pressure to perform? And to what extent is burnout just one of the symptoms of a system of exploitation that affects both the individual and, on a larger scale, society, institutions and the natural environment?
Three proposals were selected for fellowships: Natalie Dixon with Silences, Oppressions and Omissions: How to Read a Story About Burnout, Elisa Giuliano with A Hat and a Bicycle: Welfare Capitalism and the Female Working Body and Malique Mohamud with The Bodega aka Avondwinkel as a Site of Archival Practices. The Burnout theme continues in 2019, but with the emphasis on the exhaustion of collective, non-human or even planetary bodies.