The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) has awarded Het Nieuwe Instituut a museum grant to conduct research into Structuralist drawings. Architects such as Piet Blom, Jan Verhoeven and Herman Hertzberger introduced a new way of drawing and presenting their designs: abstract structures, patterns, collages, and the use of felt-tip pen. What role did the Structuralist drawing play in the design and construction process? And how does visual representation relate to the design? The study is part of a long-term research project into Dutch Structuralism in partnership with the Jaap Bakema Study Centre, Delft University of Technology and Leiden University.
The archives of Structuralist architects such as Piet Blom, Jan Verhoeven, Theo Bosch and Joop van Stigt and the recently acquired archive of Herman Hertzberger constitute the core of Het Nieuwe Instituut’s archival collections. Dutch structuralism (1955-1980) was characterised by the search for a new societal model: an urban architecture that could embrace all aspects of social life and provide space for modern man’s self-realisation. This period witnessed great changes in the visual representation of architectural designs. In contrast to the preceding period in which plans, elevations and sections in grey or black were the norm, from the end of the 1950s a new way of drawing and making presentations emerged: large interlocking abstract structures, geometric patterns, visualisations of network-like cities and grids, collages, pamphlets and the use of brightly coloured felt-tip pens.
Although there are publications on Dutch Structuralism, no studies have been conducted specifically into this new way of drawings and making visual presentations. Neither does the existing literature on architectural drawing and visualisation explore this subject in depth. As a result, we currently lack the knowledge to interpret these drawings fully and to place them in an architecture-historical context.
The research enabled by this grant will greatly enhance our knowledge of Structuralism. In particular, it will elucidate the thought process behind building design, in which drawings and other architectural representations play a central role. The eventual aim is to use the architecture drawings to define more specifically the passage of innovation within architectural culture. The grant also supports the institute’s ambition to connect current social issues to the archive. Terms such as ‘patterns’ and ‘structures, for example, which emerged in word and image during the Structuralist period, also determine contemporary discussions about changes in the urban living environment, for example under the influence of digital information technology.
The NWO’s museum grants programme aims to develop talent and promote scholarly research in the museums sector. The NWO has made eight grants in this field in 2016. The research will be carried out by architecture historian Ellen Smit (expert in the heritage department) and will be supervised by Dr Caroline van Eck (Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture at Leiden University) and Dirk van den Heuvel (Jaap Bakema Study Centre).