Le strategie del rivestimento nell'architettura olandese contemporanea: Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, UNstudio, Wiel Arets

The thesis wants to analyze "the strategies of wrapping in Dutch contemporary architecture" and wants to re-define, in a systematic way, some aspects that have not been investigated by those publications and authors that, since the beginning of the '90s until today, have spoken about the recent development of the architectural culture in the Netherlands. In the previous decade an idea stratified itself of a Dutch architecture as a collective and identity phenomenon, linked to a programmatic and conceptual approach, in which the differences have been, for propaganda reasons or simply editorial, leveled to only one adjective – "Dutch" – that has hidden all the specificities of the approaches of the offices. At the base of this collective vision, were the actions of some institutions, such as NAI, and of some critiques, such as Bart Lootsma and Aaron Betsky, that have, for years, promoted the idea of "superdutch", i.e. the way of thinking architecture that was common and shared by the characters of the architectural scene of those years. This attitude, if on one side it helped to create the myth of the Dutch architecture of the '90s and of its main characters (OMA, West8, MVRDV, NOX, Neutelings Riedijk, UNstudio, Arets, Jo Coenen, Koen van Velsen, Klaus en Kaan, Mecanoo), on the other it dimmed the differences between them. During the '90s architecture was associated to certain themes – the programmatic component, the artificiality of the landscape, the flexibility, the architecture of concept and the urban programming –, that have become dominant, especially in foreign magazines. This even though, towards the end of the '80s, before the "Dutch Touch" started, the same Dutch architects that would take advantage of the economic situation and the propagandistic approach of the Nai, showed profound differences. The difference was partly due to their academic background and to the local sphere they came from. This reality has never been analyzed properly. The reason for this historical void is that, in the years between 1988 and 1992, the offices collected in this thesis were dealing with their first buildings (that, particular detail, will be scarcely documented by critiques and by the authors themselves in their monographies). The boom would arrive only a couple of years later, accompanied and, shall we say, conditioned, by a uniforming critic interpretation. The thesis wants show those differences, retracing the architectural career of some of the offices of that generation. The belonging to that generation has been considered more as an anagraphic aspect rather that due to common aims: the idea of breaking down the selection to three architects professionally born in those years was useful to give a more objective interpretation. The subject of the thesis does not concern only rediscovering the existing differences between the architects born in those years, but has to do, especially, with a topic that has been surprisingly removed from the analysis of the work of the studied offices, that has become in the last decade, even more central. The wrapping has never had a dominant role in the years of the "superdutch", as if the exterior was a direct consequence (and therefore secondary) of the concept and the typological programming at the basis of the project. Though, already at the time, the selected offices demonstrated, with their texts and their realizations, a critical position as regards to the shell. The idea of choosing three very different offices (Neutelings Riedijk Architecten, UNstudio, Wiel Arets) comes from a second critic aim: to demonstrate that the original differences slowly disappeared, if compared under the common filter of the theme of the exterior. We are therefore in front of a double paradox : on one side the partial vision of the Dutch architecture of the '90s given by the critiques, on the other, the inexistence in the last years, of a research that tried to document what was actually happening, which means the progressive convergence of the offices towards common strategies of covering. This gap has to be filled via a diachronic analysis that, retracing the beginning of the documented offices, rediscovers the differences and the common aspects. The description of the parallel career of the three offices shows how much this heterogeneity of intents and approaches has had some partial moments of contact – particularly in the years between 2000 and 2006 –, evident especially in the solutions for the shell. The individuated "strategies" have been six: the wrapping, the annulment of the junction, the annulment of the scale, the integration of the texture of the exteriors with a pattern given by the windows, the invention of neutral shells that hide complex programs and the decorated shed of venturian inspiration. These are a-stylistic groups, that in its generality, tell more than a simple categorization would make you think. The strategies, selected because they are common to the three offices, demonstrate implicitly the evolution of the architectural Dutch panorama and they tell about the economic and maybe also about cultural crisis. The Dutch specificity of the '90s, as this thesis demonstrates, has slowly disappeared. The idea of a generation born thanks to a visionary spirit of the concept and a programmatic logic has been taken over, today, by a group of individual personalities, comparable via a new – even though it would be more correct to say renewed – attention towards the topic of the wrapping (of its tactile qualities, of its designing and technological aspects). During the editing of the research the consistency of the proposed topic has progressively defined itself, as the historical evolution of the offices was retraced from an analytical point of view. Therefore the initial three differences have been recomposed in the final chapter, which gets into depth of the years between 2000 and 2006, via the analysis of three completely different projects, where the specific identities are encountered and confused. The "ad hoc" wrapping produced by the studios in those years demonstrates profound similarities (in the technologies and the strategies adopted), but still remains coherent with the personal path that the designers have started since the end of the '80s.


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