In addition to Studio Ossidiana’s research, Animal Encounters showcases a selection of projects from the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning. These propose a relational understanding of the animal-human encounter and expand the ecological to notions of systems theory.
These hand-drawn maps are examples of Gonggrijp’s profound analysis of the Dutch delta and its defining geological landscape formations in relation to different settlement and migration patterns. For Gonggrijp these drawings were a way to conceptualize the specific identity of the Dutch delta landscape and its inhabitants.
While teaching at the former TH Delft and Academie van Bouwkunst Amsterdam, Aldo van Eyck frequently challenged his students with design assignments for animals. Among the students was urban planner Joost Váhl. His proposal for a hippopotamus house enables hippos and humans to observe each other and even interact: through a hole in the air-bridges, the two can carefully touch one another, and it is even possible for people to enter the hippo house.
As a student Jan Verhoeven designed an aquarium, half of which was situated below sea level. Through an ingenious meandering of spaces, the human domain and the aquatic world seem to interlock. His teacher Aldo van Eyck published the design together with his own review in the Forum journal.
“The designer has actually succeeded in building a bridge between the worlds of humans and fish (...) the fish, which are also ‘visiting’ here, can view their fellow visitors, the people, in their own way. If the visitor is reasonably receptive, he or she will be able to experience the phenomena: sea – marine depths and seabed – currents and more – by means of fish and architecture (...) From the meniscus, this wonderful dividing line, the building drops down into the water just as organically as it protrudes into the air space.” (Forum, 1960/61, p. 69)
Systems and spatial configurations
Theories of ecology overlap with the more abstract notions of systems theory. According to the cybernetic theory of the mathematician Norbert Wiener (1894 - 1964), there is no fundamental difference between the automated networks of machines and natural habitats. Both can be described as interactive feedback systems, in which the flow of communication enables the control of dynamic environments.
In the 1950s and 1960s, this new insight contributed to a different understanding of architecture and cities as relational and systems-based, an assumption that was also supported through research in the fields of anthropology and sociology.
Together with the introduction of the computer and the need for buildings to accommodate computer centres, this led to an interest among architects in abstract spatial configurations of interlocking geometries.
In the archive of the National Collection for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, one encounters a striking conceptual and formal resemblance between design proposals for animal shelters in zoos and the new workspaces of a post-industrial society.
Bankgirocentrale Rekencentrum Algemene Bank Nederland
Rudi Bleeker designed numerous school buildings and offices, including several early computer centres in Breda, Amstelveen and Leusden. The robust character of these large-scale buildings is defined by sculptural facades and raw concrete prefab panels.
Concept Design Games
While teaching at MIT, John Habraken developed Concept Design Games, open-ended research tools to understand how we design ‘complex physical organizations’, i.e. buildings. Following Habraken’s view on participation design, these boardgames take the interaction of many actors into consideration. The recording scheme for all games could be manipulated by a computer.
Siemens office complex München-Perlach
This model can be seen as a three-dimensional diagram that communicated the programmatic organization, complexity and flexibility of the design to the clients. Each floor was represented by a transparent perspex grid that could be filled in with colour-coded fiches. The model was transportable in a custom-made suitcase.
Faculty for Applied Mathematics and Computer Centre
The design for this university complex, including an early computer centre, is based on a repetitive unit combined with larger spaces for the computer and lecture rooms. The urban plan of the TH Twente university campus was devised by Sam Van Embden and Willem Van Tijen, with buildings by Piet Blom, Joop van Stigt and Herman Haan.
A spatial installation by Studio Ossidiana explores how architecture might mediate between all sorts of creatures, making room for a variety of encounters and setting the stage for interactions between humans and non-humans. The installation is an environment occupied by drawings, diagrams and architectural models – creature-like objects – that address issues of proximity, scale and cross-species politics.
Variations On A Bird Cage
On 14 November Giovanni Bellotti and Alessandra Covini of Studio Ossidiana talk about the Animal Encounters installation and their research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht. Afterwards, they discuss architecture, ecology and cross-species exchange with Dirk van den Heuvel.