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RAAAF: ‘Every project is a “built manifesto” in itself’

RAAAF   The End of Sitting Photo Jan Kempenaers 06

AR_EA Netherlands: Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances

Based in Amsterdam and founded in 2006, RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances) operates at the crossroads of architecture, art, philosophy and science. Its design approach of ‘strategic interventions’ stems from the respective backgrounds of founders Prix de Rome Architecture laureate Ronald Rietveld and philosopher Erik Rietveld. Together with junior project leader Arna Mackic they form the core design team.

What interests us is how the world would be if we were free from conventional limits and the role architecture could play in this: the new thinking models we could have if we lived by a different set of rules. Showing these visions is the aim of each project. The models link local qualities and long-term strategies so we have a unique working method, based on multidisciplinary research with scientists and other specialists. Our interventions are the result of an independent attitude and research agenda, which stems from our fascinations and then confronts them with urgent societal issues.

For us, every project is a built manifesto that functions as a spatial thinking model. A striking example of this is the installation Vacant NL, the Dutch contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010, in which the potential of 10,000 government-owned vacant buildings was shown – now central in the discussions about innovative reuse. Another example is the cut-through monument Bunker 599, which questions the Dutch and UNESCO policies on cultural heritage. Something else we question is our ‘sitting society’. The End of Sitting is a concept for the work environment of 2025. The chair and desk are no longer unquestionable starting points. Instead, visitors are solicited to explore different standing positions in an experimental working landscape.

Vacant NL

Vacant NL

Source: Rob ‘t Hart

Most contemporary architecture is not that interesting in our opinion. Seldom does it open up real new perspectives on our living environment; it is too driven by commercial goals and constrained by today’s conventional limits. It is rarely about unlimited possibilities in the long term. But we do draw a lot of inspiration from art, architectural history and, of course, daily city life around us.

Financially, things are not easy because our installations are often huge and expensive, but it’s great to operate at the boundaries of architecture, art and science from an independent position. Our mission is to make every project as clear and radical as our first build, Bunker 599.

‘The mission is to make every project as clear and radical as our first build project, Bunker 599’

Bunker 599

Bunker 599

Source: Allard Bovenberg

As well as having a huge fascination for military architecture, we also have one for absence. The world is filled with stuff and images. Architecture critic Aaron Betsky saw this in our work; he called it ‘the power of absence’. I’m not sure whether this is what is unique about us but we like to declutter. With the Prix de Rome we had six months working on just one project with a good budget, resident in one of the best art academies imaginable. Silence and isolation. We also had that kind of focus for the installation for the Venice Architecture Biennale.

We would love to create a Serpentine pavilion soon but we don’t know where we’ll go from here. The essence is to stay small as a studio, not too many projects. Focus! The rest will follow. History will dictate what we are remembered for.

Secret Operation 610

Secret Operation 610

Source: Michiel de Cleene