In fall 2017, Het Nieuwe Instituut launched a collaboration with e-flux Architecture and The Berlage that investigates the power of representation within and beyond the field of architecture.
In this series, ten acclaimed architects and researchers are invited to examine a specific medium of representation used in the design, technology, or legal framing of buildings, landscapes, and urban territories. Their findings will be presented through lectures, delivered in Rotterdam at Het Nieuwe Instituut as part of its Thursday Night Live! public programme or in Delft at The Berlage, and essays published on e-flux Architecture's online platform as well as on this website. Architecture and Representation brings to light the powers, biases, and histories embedded in the most essential formats, tools, and standards used to shape the built environment. It also questions how these tools disseminate into the wider world, determining the boundaries within which future political, economic, and infrastructural possibilities are described and visualised.
Architecture and Representation assembles a wide palette of methods and techniques, from isometric drawing to computer rendering, from large-scale mapping to facial recognition, from legal contracts to building codes. These formats translate phenomena that are distant, overly small or large, invisible, temporary, beyond comprehension, or physically impossible into relatively fixed, conveniently sized, and orderly documents. Which phenomena are represented, and by what process, is thus a question of selection, erasure, and emphasis. Furthermore, those who can turn representations into operative metaphors — not only architects and engineers but also governments, banks, militaries, and scientists — are granted agency by the unique potentials of each medium. By conjuring up the image of a wall or a border as a solid, continuous, and impenetrable line, politicians can make sprawling and fluctuating landscapes perform to their will. Climate models and five-year plans give a linear narrative to dynamic forces beyond the control of any individual. Trickle-down economics and social stratification reshape complex communities of people into hierarchical structures. Collectively, the speakers and writers in the Architecture and Representation series will bring a critical lens to the architect’s toolkit, identifying strategies of coercion, subversion, and cooperation for authors, users, and viewers alike. The series will produce essays from Peggy Deamer, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Mpho Matsipa, Hilary Sample, Joan Ockman, Samuel Stewart-Halevy, Jess Bier and more.
The resulting essays, published shortly after each lecture between November 2017 and February 2018, can be found below.
"Can architecture’s intimate relationship with specific representational formats contribute to their political reinvention and redeployment?"
The complete programme of lectures at The Berlage and Het Nieuwe Instituut
Life, Abstracted: Notes on the Floor Plan
Pier Vittorio Aureli
"A history of architecture through floor plans would reveal the way life has been constantly ritualized, abstracted, and thus reified in order to become legible and organizable."
"In theory, these restrictions on mobility should only alter the extent of the data collected. However, in practice they have profound and intrinsic effects across many different kinds of map data, including even the most detailed and high-resolution aerial photographs."
Contracts of Relation
"What is at stake in the contract is therefore the capacity to set an identity either with or against our building partners—owners and constructors—and thereby instill, at ever so small a scale, an ethos of social communitarianism or market-defined competitive individualism."