At the end of 2019, Het Nieuwe Instituut acquired the estate of the architect Hans Tupker (1935-2015). The acquisition of this archive stems from the exhibition Structuralism (2014), which drew upon the archives of, among others, Piet Blom, Joop van Stigt and Herman Hertzberger. The archive of Hans Tupker forms a complement to these archives. The institute still has to conduct research into the detailed contents of the archive, so now is a good time to take a closer look at the acquisition process, because this provides relevant information for the interpretation of the archive. For example, how do we work with the donor and which choices are made when selecting and evaluating individual projects and documents?
‘Hans Tupker studied at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam, where he was taught by various members of the Forum group, including [Joop] Hardy, Herman Hertzberger and Dick Apon. While still a student, several of his structuralist plans were published by his teachers in the magazine Forum. After graduating, Hans became a lecturer at the Academy of Architecture in Amsterdam and at the recently founded architecture faculty at the Eindhoven University of Technology, where he became a legendary figure. His colleague in Eindhoven, Gerard van Zeyl described him as the ‘architecture guru of Eindhoven.’ (From Madeleine Steigenga, In memoriam Hans Tupker docent en architect, 1935-2015)
The contact between Het Nieuwe Instituut and Hans Tupker goes back many years. At the end of the 1980s, Het Nieuwe Instituut’s predecessor, the Dutch Documentation Centre for Architecture, acquired Tupker’s Pop art style collage of his Tommy Gun Tower, his submission to the exhibition Late Entries to the Chicago Tribune Tower Architectural Competition. In the spring of 2015, Tupker donated his file ‘Under Milk Wood’ (1960) to Het Nieuwe Instituut. This file, containing a complex configurative design consisting of models and drawings, was presented to Het Nieuwe Instituut following the Structuralism exhibition in 2014. This exhibition presented the results of in-depth research into Structuralist architecture in the Netherlands and was accompanied by weekly public conversations with several of the featured architects, including Hans Tupker. Following Tupker’s death in 2015, his wife Joosje Tupker-Tureaij offered his entire archive to the institute.
How does such an acquisition proceed? Every archive is different and every architect organises and takes care of their archive in their own way. In Hans Tupker’s case, the archive turned out not to be so well organised. During the first visit, the institute aksed Joosje Tupker if she could make a list of the available materials. She and Madeleine Steigenga, an architect and former student of Tupker, re-organised the archive in order to make the contents clearer. They drafted a detailed description of Tupker’s oeuvre, and collated all his project files and documents as much as possible. This made it easier to get an overview of what exactly was in the house during the second visit, which took place in April 2019.
In April 2019, two curators from Het Nieuwe Instituut had an exploratory discussion with Joosje Tupker and Madeleine Steigenga. After examining the newly organised materials, they indicated which projects were important for the institute, and which were important for Tupker’s heirs. A new appointment was scheduled for the autumn of 2019 to view the material as a whole and to decide which items would be acquired.
The acquisition process
The exploratory conversation between Het Nieuwe Instituut and Madeleine Steigenga and Joosje Tupker in April focused on those parts of Tupker’s archive that relate to his work as a teacher and his academic and graduation projects. His years as a teacher were interesting and experimental and project files from this period will therefore be an asset to the National Collection. Joosje Tupker explained that Tupker’s heart lay mainly in designing and education. The institute had already acquired the aforementioned project ‘Under Milk Wood’ from the early years of Structuralism, with which Tupker gained attention in 1960 at the Academy of Architecture. The design is a configurative masterpiece and a variant of the early Structuralist work of his friend Piet Blom. The project was greatly admired by Aldo van Eyck, Herman Hertzberger and Dick Apon and this meant a breakthrough for Tupker. This design was followed in 1962 by the ‘Spangen’ study project, an exercise in configurative urban planning. Both of these projects have been acquired for the archive.
Exploring the archive in four days
An inventory of the materials was compiled in November 2019. Tupker’s entire archive was stored in the attic of his house, the interior of which he designed. The archive comprises practically all the paper items collected by Tupker during his life, including a large reproduction of a drawing by Tadao Ando, which the architect gave to Tupker, cardboard tubes filled with architectural drawings, archival boxes, folders and suitcases filled with photographs, letters, drawings, contracts, diplomas, personal correspondence and even Joosje’s and Hans Tupker's wedding invitation. To get a proper sense of all the materials, the curators spent four days viewing and selecting items: the first two for the drawings and correspondence, the last two for the photographs, models and other materials, and to conduct a final check.
During the evaluation, the curators examined the folder relating to Tupker’s studies at the Academy of Art and Industry (AKI) in Enschede from 1954 to 1958. The folder is full to bursting with very delicate items, mostly study materials and a few assignments. At the AKI, Tupker was set assignments to design furniture, buildings, facades and more. Much of the material is interesting and experimental and provides an insight into his later designs, his working method, his development and his network. Het Nieuwe Instituut has acquired the majority of the folder’s contents.
The curators also examined all the correspondence, including letters and a few printed emails (Tupker sent most correspondence by post), project documentation, sketches and doodles, invitations and inspirational materials such as lectures by colleagues. The curators also made a choice of models to acquire. Het Nieuwe Instituut acquires models as three-dimensional archival documents that help to elucidate the design process. They are acquired not as individual objects, but in the context of an entire design file comprising drawings, correspondence, documentation and photographs. With this in mind, seven models were selected, including the Wiegant House in Lemmer and a house in Paramaribo.
Following the selection of the materials to be acquired, the collections management team examined the materials for damage or other risks, such as mould, parasites, etc. Fortunately, everything turned out to be in a relatively good condition.
Het Nieuwe Instituut has an acquisitions committee that uses the institute’s acquisitions policy to determine the relevance of individual items for a particular archive and how the archive fits within the National Collection as a whole. In Tupker’s case, it was deemed important to acquire his education-related materials because of their experimental nature. It was also considered important to acquire materials relating to his international network. A number of key works within his oeuvre, and within the history of Dutch architecture, were also acquired, including Borneo Sporenburg, the urban structure of Spangen led by Herman Hertzberger, the Wiegant House in Lemmer and the house in Paramaribo, which are important for their designs and employment of Tupker’s international network.
In consultation with Joosje Tupker and Madeleine Steigenga, the curators also selected designs that reveal Tupker’s characteristics as a designer, such as the interior of the World Fashion Centre in Amsterdam. The selection reflects the entire scope of Tupker’s work, including new construction and restorations and renovations, and his range of scale from furniture and interiors to entire housing estates. Ultimately, it was decided to acquire drawings, models, photographs and correspondence relating to twenty-eight projects, two jury reports for competitions for which Tupker was a jury member and articles about Tupker’s designs for his home: a diverse collection that, according to the parties involved, represents a good cross-section of his work and ideas.
International jet set
While the focus among architects in Amsterdam in the 1970s was on urban renewal and resident participation, Hans Tupker turned his attention to the emerging ideas of international postmodernism. Long before they became world famous, architects such as Zaha Hadid and members of the New York Five – Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves and John Hejduk – visited Tupker in Amsterdam. He introduced them to his students, including Sjoerd Soeters, Rudy Uytenhaak, Koen van Velsen, Jo Coenen, Wier Arets and Bert Dirkx, as guest lecturers and visiting critics and as part of discussions about the future of the profession. Over the course of his life, Tupker expanded his international network all the way to Japan with contacts such as Tadao Ando and Takamitsu Azuma.
This acquisition has been enormously enriched by Joosje Tupker’s and Madeleine Steigenga’s stories about Hans Tupker’s international contacts and his position in the professional field. They include the story of Zaha Hadid (1950-2016) staying overnight at their house and taking a bath in their relatively small bathtub. Stories such as these, which sound even better when recounted by those who experienced them, and the often very personal documents in an archive, make selecting and evaluating them a delicate process. The entire architect is suffused not only with an architect’s professional attitude but also with his personality.
Het Nieuwe Instituut expects to start cataloguing the archive in the course of 2020.
Text: Eline de Graaf (curator) and Ellen Smit (curator). Photography: Petra van der Ree