»I don’t mistrust reality of which I hardly know anything. I just mistrust the picture of it that our senses deliver.«

Gerhard Richter

Blog Venice 2014

A Beautiful Drama

The work of Jaap Bakema at the Dutch Pavilion

  • An Open Society? A section for the Lekkumerend housing scheme in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 1962, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX_1337t339-1. (Image courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects) 1 / 15  An Open Society? A section for the Lekkumerend housing scheme in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 1962, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX_1337t339-1. (Image courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects)
  • Open: A Bakema Celebration: the entrance to the Dutch Pavilion. (Photo: Torsten Seidel) 2 / 15  Open: A Bakema Celebration: the entrance to the Dutch Pavilion. (Photo: Torsten Seidel)
  • The light feel of the installation reflects the title. (Photo: Torsten Seidel) 3 / 15  The light feel of the installation reflects the title. (Photo: Torsten Seidel)
  • The exhibition is full of archival material, including photographs... (Photo: Torsten Seidel) 4 / 15  The exhibition is full of archival material, including photographs... (Photo: Torsten Seidel)
  • Shopping window at the Lijnbaan shopping centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (Photo © Steef Zoetmulder / Nederlands Fotomuseum, SZM-2721-B, Van den Broek en Bakema Architects) 5 / 15  Shopping window at the Lijnbaan shopping centre in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (Photo © Steef Zoetmulder / Nederlands Fotomuseum, SZM-2721-B, Van den Broek en Bakema Architects)
  • Jaap Bakema at Team 10 meeting in Bonnieux, 1977, Simon Smithson. (Photo © Smithson Family Collection) 6 / 15  Jaap Bakema at Team 10 meeting in Bonnieux, 1977, Simon Smithson. (Photo © Smithson Family Collection)
  • And material relating to the key urban projects that Bakema’s practice designed such as... (Photo: Torsten Seidel) 7 / 15  And material relating to the key urban projects that Bakema’s practice designed such as... (Photo: Torsten Seidel)
  • A model for the Town Hall of Terneuzen, The Netherlands, 1962, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX f1324. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects) 8 / 15  A model for the Town Hall of Terneuzen, The Netherlands, 1962, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX f1324. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects)
  • A model for the Town Hall in Marl, Germany, 1957, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BAKE ph22. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects) 9 / 15  A model for the Town Hall in Marl, Germany, 1957, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BAKE ph22. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects)
  • A page from the manuscript “From Chair to City: A tale of people and space”, Jaap Bakema, 1963, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BAKE d276. 10 / 15  A page from the manuscript “From Chair to City: A tale of people and space”, Jaap Bakema, 1963, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BAKE d276.
  • Pampus Extension Plan, Amsterdam, 1964, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX 1411t5-2. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects) 11 / 15  Pampus Extension Plan, Amsterdam, 1964, Het Nieuwe Instituut collection, BROX 1411t5-2. (Photo courtesy Van den Broek en Bakema Architects)
  • A selection of recent photographs by Johannes Schwartz record the condition of several of Bakema’s projects today: ’t Hool housing district, Eindhoven; town hall, Marl. (Photos: Johannes Schwartz) 12 / 15  A selection of recent photographs by Johannes Schwartz record the condition of several of Bakema’s projects today: ’t Hool housing district, Eindhoven; town hall, Marl. (Photos: Johannes Schwartz)
  • Church, Nagele; town hall, Terneuzen. (Photo: Johannes Schwartz) 13 / 15  Church, Nagele; town hall, Terneuzen. (Photo: Johannes Schwartz)
  • Hansaviertal tower block, Berlin; town hall, Marl. (Photo: Johannes Schwartz) 14 / 15  Hansaviertal tower block, Berlin; town hall, Marl. (Photo: Johannes Schwartz)
  • Hansaviertal tower block, Berlin; ’t Hool housing district, Eindhoven (Photo: Johannes Schwart) 15 / 15  Hansaviertal tower block, Berlin; ’t Hool housing district, Eindhoven (Photo: Johannes Schwart)

In a nice counter twist to the Koolhaas Biennale dictat of “architecture not architects”, the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale this year celebrates the work of Jaap Bakema (1914–1981), an architect yes, but one whom, as one of the Pavilion’s curators, Guus Beumer, says “dissolved in his own project”.

His “project” was that of democratisation, of building an “open society” – democratic, egalitarian and inclusive, one that in the postwar Dutch Welfare State suddenly seemed possible. As Beumer’s fellow curator Dirk van den Heuvel says, Bakema, successfully brought “avant-garde ideas into the mainstream of culture”. As such his work epitomises an idea of modernity but not “in terms of utopia or distopia... but about a practice”. And Bakema’s practice was responsible for designing several of the key postwar urban projects in the Netherlands, such as the Lijnbaan shopping centre in Rotterdam (1948–1953) and the town hall in Terneuzen (1963–1972). It is architecture that has what van den Heuvel calls a “laconic” ordinaryness, articulated yet generous in its design, allowing every occupant to be themselves.

Guus Beumer and Dirk van den Heuvel talked to Jeanette Kunsmann and Stephan Becker about “the beautiful drama” of Bakema’s work, revealed in an exhibition, rich in archival material.


Interview by Jeanette Kunsmann and Stephan Becker, BauNetz
Text by Rob Wilson

www.hetnieuweinstituut.nl

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