Five high-profile international guests joined OMA/AMO's Reinier de Graaf and the students of the Berlage Theory Master Class for a final debate on With the Masses - Architecture and Participation this Friday Night. Participants could expect new insights into Het Nieuwe Insituut's collection and new formats for vigorous debate designed by the students. With a.o. Françoise Fromonot, architecture critic and educator, Ricardo E. Bofill, architect, and Lucien Kroll, Atelier Kroll.


 

'We have been reading a footnote under a microscope, hoping it would turn into a novel. Our obsession with the masses has blinded us to the people's architecture.' Rem Koolhaas in Junk Space, 2004

The Masses and the People... Even if the terms were to refer to the same crowd, their connotation couldn’t be more different. The Masses: a supposedly willing instrument of ideology; the People: a power that needs to be reckoned with. There’s no need for an intensive study of the architectural history to realize there’s an uncomfortable relation here. Whereas the idea of users as co-creators has steadily gained traction in other creative domains, any notion of ‘the people’ as a participatory force – one that helps determine the outcome of a design process – is still putting architecture well outside its comfort zone.

Few architects have embraced the idea of user-participation; even fewer have taken it to its conclusion. The user-as-designer registers as a quaint idea from the 1970s, an era of which the hopes and ideals are now considered naïve and obsolete. There is an alternative track-record but its heroes remain mostly unsung. Friedensreich Hundertwasser and Lucien Kroll are household names, but the identities of, for example, those behind today’s ‘Baugruppen’ remain undisclosed. The eruption of popular fantasy that comes with these developments is dismissed as bad taste and thus an emancipatory movement like modern architecture finds itself at odds with the emancipation of those whom it ultimately sought to serve. Where modern architecture made a convincing case of being for the Masses, it has so far been struggling to be with the Masses.

This Friday Night was connected to the ongoing research of Het Nieuwe Instituut on the relationship between people and government. Other projects are De staat van Eindhoven and Open: A Bakema Celebration.

The Berlage Theory Master Class

The Berlage's twice-yearly master classes encourage students and young professionals to experiment with alternative forms of representation and dissemination, instead of stale panels and tedious diatribes.