In the summer of 2016 Het Nieuwe Instituut began cataloguing the extensive archive of Pi de Bruijn (*1942). Among De Bruijn’s best-known projects are the expansion of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam (1984-1988), the new building for the Dutch House of Representatives (1981-1992), the competition for the rebuilding of the Reichstag in Berlin and the Beurstraverse in Rotterdam (1991-96). In his capacity as urban planner and supervisor, he was responsible for the Zuidas masterplan in Amsterdam (1998). He achieved considerable fame for the rebuilding of the Roombeek neighbourhood (2002-08) following the Enschede Fireworks Disaster. His work as a supervisor is an example of the changing role of the architect and urban planner.
De Bruijn began his career in the service of local governments. Following his studies at the Technische Hogeschool Delft (now the Delft University of Technology), he worked for the Architecture Department of the London Borough of Southwark and then in the Public Housing Service of the Municipality of Amsterdam, where he was involved in the design of the Bijlmermeer estate. He has worked independently since 1978. He achieved national and international recognition for De Architecten Cie., the office he established in 1988 together with Frits van Dongen, Carel Weeber and Jan Dirk Peereboom Voller, which continues today under the name Cie. From 1993 to 1998 De Bruijn was a professor at the Delft University of Technology.
De Bruijn’s work encompasses a wide range of typologies and scales, from community centres and shopping malls to urban masterplans, and from new buildings to complex renovations. During his inaugural address in 1995, he cited ‘social orientation and technology’ as the building blocks of architecture. His contribution to the architectural discourse in the Netherlands stems primarily from his role as a designer and organiser of complex projects and from his perspective on the relationship between architecture and society. De Bruijn is well known for his critical stance in relation to the ‘flying circus’ of star architects. He reviewed his unalloyed admiration for modernist architecture through the developments around the Bijlmermeer estate and discovered the existing city as a vehicle for cultural values that can be constantly integrated within the existing urban fabric.
A different approach
De Bruijn’s interpretation of the role of urban planner and supervisor for the Roombeek neighbourhood in Enschede exemplifies the approach he developed over the years. The Roombeek project incorporates social tools such as public participation, private commissioning and self-builds, and spatial interventions: the design of clear public spaces, a mix of urban functions and flexible guidelines for façade treatments. This approach gives form to the desires of the individual while also creating a cohesive urban-planning entity.
Writer and critic Hans Ibelings has described De Bruijn’s work and approach as a form of ‘urban-planning negotiation’. De Bruijn functions as an intermediary in large, complex projects with numerous interested parties, each with their own demands and interests. In the current era, characterised by a retreating government and bottom-up initiatives, this methodology and the results achieved are an example of an innovative and creative approach that is a source of inspiration for current and future designers. The acquisition of the archive fits within Het Nieuwe Instituut’s remit of charting the ways in which social changes are mirrored in the changing nature of architectural practice.
Work in progress
Once catalogued, the De Bruijn archive will comprise two parts: his personal archive and his professional archive including his designs. The personal archive was assembled by De Bruijn himself and will be preserved by Het Nieuwe Instituut as a distinct element. This part of the archive includes design sketches and project documentation considered essential by De Bruijn, publications and manuscripts for lectures, diaries and presentation books. In addition to charting his professional achievements, this part of the archive reflects the personality of a designer who has played a key role in Dutch design culture for several decades. It is anticipated that the cataloguing of the archive will be completed in the summer of 2017.
Text Andrea Prins, curator Heritage department.
- O. Bouman, B. Mousavi, S. Mulder (eds.), Making Choices: New Principles for the Acquisitions Policy of the NAI Collection, Rotterdam 2012.
- Ruud Brouwers et al., Pi de Bruijn: Engagement + Stedenbouw, Enschede 2008, p.31 et sec.
- Pi de Bruin, Building Blocks (inaugural address), Delft 1995.
- Crimson Architectural Historians, Architecten Cie, Profession architect: de Architecten Cie, Rotterdam 2002.
- Hans Ibelings and Cino Zucchi, De Architekten Cie: Creativity, Innovation, Experience, Milan 2010.
- Mannus van der Laan, ‘Part time hoogleraar wil dat architecten weer richting geven. Honderd jaar geleden was er ook zo’n holle sfeer van esthetiek’ in Delta, 15 June 1995.
- Matthijs van Nieuwkerk, ‘De Bijlmer vind ik een prettige omgeving’ in Het Parool, 27 February 1993.
- Website: http://www.cie.nl/employees/6, consulted 10 November 2016.