Yourtopia, Rotterdam’s House of the Future
From the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam 2014
Today is the opening of the sixth edition of the IABR, Rotterdam’s International Architecture Biennale, an event involving six exhibitions, several conferences, debates, guided tours, field trips and more. The theme for IABR 2014 is ‘Urban by Nature‘, a theme symbolising the necessity to solve environmental problems by looking at our immediate urban surroundings.
‘The New Pavilion’ – an Eye on the Future
One of the new Rotterdam initiatives for the year is the project commissioned by ‘Het Nieuwe Instituut‘ (New Institute in Dutch) in the heart of the city’s museum district (Museumpark), going under the name of ‘The New Pavilion‘. This spot of land situated between the Institute and the Sonneveld House will be the ‘temporary house’ for this biannual opportunity, an event optimised for exercising the mind and senses around architecture and urban planning. The idea is “to create a ground for architects, designers and theorists to design and build a temporary utopia as an alternative to the traditional perspective“, to quote Het Nieuwe Instituut themselves. The responsibility to pull it off this year is with the architecture office SeARCH – and the agency does this with a thought-provoking and highly visual concept: Yourtopia.
During the press opening under some grey Rotterdam skies Yourtopia offered a welcome refuge into a different world, a calm oasis in the heart of the city. The starting point of the project is a question posed around the role architecture will play in the future: what can be expected from architects to design in a new age, and how our future buildings will be constructed to reflect a shift towards an environmentally more conscious era?
In times when the development is so fast that only within a few years what came across as fresh is quickly obsolete, for this project SeARCH took the bold approach to look back into human history, and with impressions from times past take simple lessons to cnstruct a bold new future in coexistence with nature.
The lessons from the past are coming from the most common and simplest form of construction practiced by several civilisations: be it in the form of the Igloo of the Eskimos or Mongolian Yurts, the structure is based on the same principle of the rounded shape used by nomadic tribes worldwide. The foundation SeARCH builds the project on is by taking a step back from all luxury, as told by the founder of the architect bureau, Bjarne Mastenbroek during the press opening. Instead of splashing around money on obscene constructions (think personal dwellings of fifty floors constructed in Mumbai, gifts of shoe-likening houses built for Naomi Campbell by the now-ex boyfriend Zaha Nadid) we should pose the question:
“What are our minimum needs in order to enjoy a maximum quality of life?”
Hence, this year’s New pavilion project is clearly a socially conscious project, intending to pose questions about our surrounding world and about the role we want to play in it. This is Yourtopia: an equal part personal mixed with an equal part utopian.
The Yourtopia House
The Yourtopia construction is made of steel in the form of a domed pavilion, immediately recalling the traditional huts of nomadic peoples and its “roof” is covered by grass, totally melting in with nature. Once inside, nature is in the centre of the attention as well, plants – intentionally from all corners of the world – are providing the inviting setting for personal reflections, creating a refuge from the world outside. On the way in, don’t forget to pay some special attention to the door, presenting a collage of words to linger with you once you’re inside.
The hammocks serving as the only furnishing in this prototype version clearly invite you to do just that: for the enjoyment of the calmness and for a chance to re-assess humanity’s role in our world. The New Pavilion is there to serve as a symbol for a total reset of our way of existence, leading a new way of being part of the future with an alternative way of reducing our ecological footprint. The guiding principles of the project rest upon the terms simple, fast, conceptual and basic. A potential way forward? A realistic utopia?
So is it realistic? The cost of it at least shouldn’t be a hindrance, this prototype version costs about the same to build as an ordinary house. Fixing it up to living comfort is all doable, so who knows, maybe the day when we are mowing the lawn of our gently sliding roof isn’t that far away.
First things first though. If you’d like to see Yourtopia in reality, it’s possible over the span of the summer, even beyond the closing of the IABR on August 24th. When exactly it will be torn down will be decided by the local government at a later stage.
During the summer there will be several events in and around The New Pavilion.
- The weekend of June 12-13th is the ‘Hidden Garden Weekend‘. Guided tours of the pavilion and the garden of the Sonneveld House offer a glimpse into two exiting worlds.
- Thursday, June 19th and Sunday, June 29th, are the dates for ‘The Parade‘. Days when children can take place in workshops about building yurts.
- The weekend of June 21-22nd are the dates for the Architecture Day. Once again, guided tours are on the agenda.
- Saturday July 19th and Sunday August 31st are the days for the ‘Youth Holiday Passport’.
Admission to ‘Yourtopia‘ is free. The opening hours are Tuesday – Saturday 10 – 17h, Sundays 11 – 17h and it’s closed on Mondays. You can find out more about the project via the Yourtopia.eu app, loaded with interviews, photos, archival material and some additional goodies. You can find more information about the IABR 2014 on the biennale’s website. And of course, there will be more biennale news here on the Art Weekenders pages.
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