Seeing is Knowing
Perspectives in Dutch Architecture

September 10 to November 19 2006

10th International Architecture Biennale of Venice

exhibitiondesign by EventArchitectuur

As long ago as the seventeenth century, Dutch architects started picturing the city from a standpoint that takes in the whole metropolis and imagines the future. They design Dutch cities as complete, inhabitable environments rather than as collections of disconnected buildings. During the 10th International Architecture Biennale of Venice, which has the theme "Metacity," the Netherlands will present perspectives of and on the city – in particular on Amsterdam – in the Rietveld Pavilion. The Dutch entry, titled "Seeing is Knowing. Perspectives in Dutch Architecture", is curated by the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI). "Seeing is Knowing" will be on display in Venice from Sunday September 10 to Sunday November 19, 2006.

Beautiful drawings
The exhibition "Seeing is Knowing" consists of works from the historical and contemporary architecture collection of the NAI, supplemented by loans from contemporary architects. A selection of the most beautiful drawings from two centuries of Dutch architectural history will reveal how architecture can portray the city as a place that we inhabit, comprehend and perhaps even control. The perspective drawing is a tool that provides an overview of the metropolis, while also presenting the beauty and power of the design.

 
 

Townscapes
It is perspective that made Dutch art and architecture great. The charm of seventeenth-century Dutch painting lay in the clear, explicit organization of everyday objects (or buildings) within a strongly three-dimensional picture space. Amsterdam's "girdle" of concentric canals is a good example of this. Using the techniques of perspective drawing and the camera obscura, artists were able to represent both interiors and townscapes in a highly realistic fashion. We are significantly indebted to the painters of the seventeenth-century for the control we have over our own built reality.

By the late nineteenth century, Dutch architecture had developed into an independent discipline. Perspective drawing skills enabled architects to capture the rapidly expanding metropolis in a single image. H.P. Berlage refined this technique and was able to present a whole new suburb – Plan Zuid in Amsterdam – in one coherent image. In later years, Dutch architects applied this method in more ambitious and abstract ways. They designed and conceived whole new cities and even new tracts of land; buildings and the spaces between them became a composition in the flat picture plane of the Dutch landscape.

A reaction against this bird's-eye view approach to planning came in the 1970s, when architects such as Aldo van Eyck propagated respect for the human dimension and a more down-to-earth design practice. Photographs and collage became integrated into the perspective in which architects portrayed a fragmented but highly personal outlook on the city.

More recently, computer methods have helped fuse the various perspective techniques into a seamless and often animated image. Architects such as Rem Koolhaas present digital designs in which an endless spatial variation becomes possible, and some practices, such as MVRDV, use virtual environments to vizualize their concepts. Drawings no longer depict the future, but the very unpredictability of the city.

Amsterdam in Europe
Amsterdam, seen as a geographical, urban and architectural entity, exemplifies this development in time. The Canal Girdle provided a starting point for many designers. The ongoing expansion of Amsterdam parallels the way Dutch architecture has developed, in a European as well as a more localized perspective. Most of Europe's cities have undergone comparable waves of growth, and consequently face similar urban planning problems

 
  The Dutch entry to the Venice Architecture Biennale is organized by the NAI on invitation of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science. It has been made possible by additional financial support from the HGIS Cultuursubsidie fund.  
  exhibition design: Eventarchitectuur, Herman Verkerk & Paul Kuipers
typography: Hansje van Halem
 
  nai.nl
eventarchitectuur.nl