Please, accept cookies in order to load the content.

Making choices 

The collection at Nieuwe Instituut contains the archives of some six to eight hundred architecture firms, extending back to the nineteenth century. According to Suzanne Mulder, what makes the approach of Het Nieuwe Instituut so special is that it not only preserves drawings and models of completed projects, but also devotes a lot of attention to the material produced around designs, and that material offers all sorts of information about the design process. That is different to the approach of the Centre Pompidou, for example, which has collected models by MVRDV as independent works of art.

Making choices was always the most important aspect of the collection policy at Het Nieuwe Instituut, explained Mulder. But for her, the arrival of digital archives raises the question whether you should select material or whether you are better off saving everything and investing in opening up access to the archives and establishing relationships within them.

But there are other changes taking place. Het Nieuwe Instituut increasingly views architecture as a reflection of society, she stressed. Previously, the institute worked with a long list of architects whose archives it sought to secure. Now it also looks at what architectural developments were important in a particular period, and the collection then focuses on those.

From the audience, architecture critic Hans van Dijk asked about other material that is so important to researchers: letters to and from clients, contractors and relations, and all the paperwork containing information about an architecture practice. How is this issue addressed in a digital era?

Mulder agreed that letters, contracts and notes are the material most often consulted by researchers. The archive of Het Nieuwe Instituut is full of drawings, and this is great for architects and for the public, but it is rarely used for academic research. Scholars are especially interested in the written material, and the most personal and private sections of an archive prove the most popular. Mulder cited the example of the notebooks belonging to Hertzberger, in which he made sketches of buildings next to shopping lists and other personal notes. How is that with digital material? Will the archive provide access to all emails from MVRDV? Should twitter feeds be preserved? Information about the social context in which the work is created is of great importance to researchers.

A colleague of Mulder’s in the audience drew attention to another aspect: the so-called toolkit of the architect. Information about the tools used by the architect, about developments in the construction process, budgets, techniques, is just as important as the drawings and models that have always been the focus of attention. Such a toolkit allows you to research how working digitally has influenced the way of designing. What do we need to file in the archives to be able to tell that story? Should we also start collecting software?

More on the subject

Book MVRDV Buildings

22 October 2015 saw the release of the book MVRDV Buildings: the updated edition, featuring completed works such as the Market Hall and Villa VPRO. 

New Archive Interpretations

Het Nieuwe Instituut invites artists, designers and researchers to reflect on the influence and impact of the digital archive in relation to its digital predecessor, the paper archive. Richard Vijgen, the Thursday Night guest on 17 September 2015,  was the first in this series of New Archive Interpretations. He was followed by design duo Template, and recently artist and writer Erica Scourti recently started her research.

DISH 2015

Op 7 en 8 december 2015 vindt DISH 2015 (Digital Strategies for Heritage) plaats. Deze internationale conferentie over digitale strategieën voor cultureel erfgoed staat in het teken van Money and Power. Annet Dekker spreekt hier de lezing The Archive: From Memories of the Past to Predictions of the Future uit over de Nieuwe Archiefinterpretaties.