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CAFÉ GOURMET, interview: Winka Dubbeldam

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Keywords: Architect, Dubbeldam, Rotterdam, Redes, Tecnologia.


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Fredy Massad (Argentina, 1966; architect & photographer) and Alicia G.Yeste (Spain, 1974; B.A.degree in History of Art) set up BtbW? in 1996.

Since then, they have been writing articles on Architecture, along with interviews to Wolf Prix, Enric Miralles, Frank O.Gehry, Ben Van Berkel, Winka Dubbeldam, Jacques Herzog and Mario Gandelsonas; reviews on books and exhibitions.

Their articles appear in cultural/architectural magazines in Spain (WAM; Transversal; Ajoblanco) and Argentina (summa +).

Their last common project was the exhibition ‘Cuerpo(s) al desnudo’; (March 1998), which meant to be a reflection (through photographies and writing) on the gaze cast by the architect at the naked feminine body .

They are currently involved in the preparation of the exhibition ‘Una visión sobre ciudades’ (A Vision of Cities), based upon their theoretical text on the evolution of megalopolises (Notas sobre) Ciudades Mutantes.

An interview to Winka Dubbeldam
by Fredy Massad & Alicia G. Yeste (BtbW?)

A form of architecture can now be located within video and computer technology. It is electronic volume(...). This is intelligent space!.

Kathy Rae Hauffman

The world gets smaller. The speed of changes becomes too dizzy. Aproaching to each other and getting through becomes easier (despite increasing sophistication) and available to a considerable portion of the population on Earth. We are coming close to the turn of the millenium. And every millenium’s end is conflicting and brings back confusion and leads us to a lot of conclussions, which are intended to justify the fact things modify very slowly-which are intented to justify the fact we are forever going on and on about the very same stuff.
We do it (writing, thinking...) for the sake of satisfying our ego and also for the sake of persuading other individuals that we are into the game they are playing too. (We will get paid for playing the game and we will make a living out of it.).
Our performance is improved as we learn better the secrets of our craft (i.e.persuading other people). Nevertheless, we manage to keep intact our strong will to produce/to work primarily for our own pride and joy.

We wait for meeting the individuals urged to communicate excerpts of their thoughts, who aspire to work sincerely (lacking in moral speculations); wait for meeting the individuals who are not intending to prove they are the ones endowed with the ultimate wisdom or who want to modify that which is unalterable. (‘El concepto de texto definitivo no corresponde sino a la religión o al cansancio, Jorge Luís Borges).
We wait for meeting the individuals whose ideas are strong (passionate, fervent, solid), and who are lacking in stinginess and arrogance, as opposite to those ones lapsing into vanity after having tasted glory and reputation for a very short while.
We wait for individuals who are sensitive enough to have ideas, which are able to open the gates to the necessary confusion that pushes us towards the constant need for reflection.

Winka Dubbeldam started her training as an architect in 1978, in Rotterdam. She completed her degree in 1983 and spent six years working in The Netherlands. Then, she moved to New York to carry on studying (a Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design at Columbia University) and worked at Steven Holl, Bernard Tschumi and Peter Eisenman’s studios. She set up her own studio, Archi-Tectonics, in 1994 and her work started to be known and built in North America and Europe.
Her work has been exhibited (New York, Rotterdam, Ljublijana), analysed in a book (Cont-Tex-Ture, 010 Publishers, Rotterdam, 1996) and is being shown on an interesting website (http://www.bway.net/~wdubb4ny).

Winka Dubbeldam works very hard. She is probably someone who could be described as ‘highly talented’. She is an individual who belongs to the present time and who owns the ambition to form her own knowldege and to transcribe it using a language of her own.

The book she edited in 1996 on her works shows her project for the Yokohama Port Terminal; urban projects (for a Dutch city, for Beirut and for Mojave Desert); an extension of the UN building in New York and some projects for art centres.
The reading of the book requires a process that has almost nothing to do with the conventional process of reading the text of a book. Sólo una nueva escritura puede exigir una nueva modalidad de lectura.

Arlindo Machado

The iconic layers and the text layers fold, emulating onto the surface/structure of a book the lay -out of information in the way it would be organized on a computer screen. Her book is a precise printed reproduction of the info displayed on the screen of a computer connecting her website (i.e.visiting her virtual space): an integration of photographies, written text and computer graphics, so that the alteration to the conventional structure of book demands a new way of perception for it to be read.
La mente produce conocimiento cuando hace una imagen de la complejidad.

Jorge Wagensberg

Winka Dubbeldam has required a new -more powerful- alphabet to write her discourse.

BtbW?: What is the reason for the interest, present in your theory writings, for terminology and the search for precision in the setting up of a definition?

W.D.: The most obvious reason is, precision will lead to a clear concept ( both for myself and the client i.e. reader) which will lead to a clear spatial development of this concept. The underlying reason is that I am interested in ambiguities, parallel meanings. To create a possibility to read, or experience, issues in more than one way. This is connected to the idea that between sciences there could be a blurring of boundaries. This assumes that the architect could not copy science, or scientific diagrams, to develop architecture, but should investigate overlaps with science, which then can be translated in architectural terms and interpreted in a spatial way.

BtbW?: We first approached your work through the Web. Eisenman and Holl have mentioned some time the value of an Architecture lacked of presence. Holl says that a project can be as equally potent and rotund as a built piece of work. Related to this sort of ideas, what do you have to say about the perceptive experimentation of an architecture lacked of materiality (‘presence’) when it is observed from the computer screen?

W.D.: “Absence of presence” can be understood in a few different ways; in a more ephemeral way, as Peter understands it, which is related to history. Or in S. Holl’s opinion that a project is conceived in its design phase and that the actual building it is merely a conclusive act. I do believe that a project could be read as complete in the “virtual stage”, on a conceptual level, although I think it is still satisfying as an architect to actually build the project. Built form thus becomes the discussion between the body and the virtual, which then becomes the real.......The web could be seen as the collapsed formal communicator of all these ideas.

As a working space, electronic architecture impacts our creative practices and physical reality-which certainly will bring about new social practices and observed realities.

Kathy Rae Hauffman

BtbW?: What would you reply to the statement: ‘an architectural work must be something else and should refer to concepts (such as tension, unstability...)?

W.D.: I am not sure about the word “must”: I think this is a quite personal notion, related to the architect’s interest in the further development of architecture. For me personal, I am more interested in architecture as a discussion of the recent and future development of architecture, as it relates to culture and science; Heidegger discusses in : “The Question concerning Technology” science as the “theory of the real”, and the “real” as “that which works”. This statement describes for me exactly how architecture could relate to science

BtbW?: Does the new architectonical language spring through all these new technological innovations for obvious reasons?

W.D.:To work on the computer enables the architect to investigate more complex forms, as well as use the connected technology to actually produce these forms. ( CFAO systems: Computer Assisted Conception and Fabrication) As Bernard Cache mentions in his “Earth Moves”: Thus unique objects are produced industrially. We will call variable objects created from surfaces “ subjectiles” and variable objects created from volumes “ objectiles”. Simultaneously the introduction of the computer has also enabled the scientists to model certain scientific processes in the computer, which made those principles much easier to communicate. Architects, by looking at these scientific modelings found parallel interests which occupied both sciences : dynamic processes, complexity theory, all phenomena which surround us in every day life.

Would you attribute the change in the global architectural working method exclusively to the introduction of new technologies?

W.D.: No not exclusively, a lot of the new architecture will be mostly defined by the densification of the metropolises; the extremely high ground price and the foreign developers’ input will become more and more important, for example; in Hong-Kong the ground price is 7 x higher than the building costs, which leads to the construction of the so-called “ pencil towers” , with one apartment per floor ( S. Holl would be jealous of...). Together with the extremely dense topography, this leads to a complex treatment and blurring of the public and private space. This shift is of incredible importance both for the use of the urban space as well as the implications it has for the domestic space. So it is the global market which defines the change more than anything . Technology will enable us to fulfill these extreme circumstances, and to import specializations from other countries.

BtbW?: How do you imagine the cohabitation of buildings in the XXIst century metropolises?

W.D.: Looking at Asia, one could say that the metropolis becomes denser, the pollution worse and therefore the surroundings more artificial, an example is “Linear City” a private initiative of a Kuala Lumpur investor, who is planning to built a 12 km zone along the river and “Giga World” a 2.4 km structure positioned over the river, suspended on “legs” ( the English architect Peter Cook is here the consultant...). This initiative originates from a negotiation with the city: a free 99 year lease in exchange for the mere task to clean the river for 12 years..... Our future will be a negotiation on many levels.

BtbW?: Do you know by intuition whether there may a new socio-cultural movement which might create a new urban condition in the upcoming decades, as you consider the ‘Black circuit’?

W.D.: The metaphor of the “black circuit” was based on the fast individualization of the society: where inhabitants of cities become global nomads, no longer belonging to a nation but living in an almost “neutral state” of being inserted in different work- and living circumstances all around the world. They form a culture of temporality, tax evasions, fast-living, blurring the already dissolving borders even more.

BtbW?: Considering the optimum situation for young architects that there seems to be in your country, leaving Holland and getting based in New York was due, in your particular case, to purely casual reasons or it was your own option?

W.D.: I came to NY to do a post-graduate study at Columbia University: I guess the architectural discourse here has seduced me to stay....... It inspires me to be on the edge, both of America and Europe. I know there are negative sides attached to it; I had to start all over in NY....

BtbW?: Which was the rôle or the debt that should be attributed to Rem Koolhaas in the young generation of Dutch architects?

W.D.: Rem, as a critical thinker, definitely has influence on the Dutch architectects. Especially because in such a small country almost everyone with ambition has worked for him! He himself has gotten in the strange position that he is overstated by the architectural and art community and underused by clients, developers, etc. The “young” generation builds more than OMA...

BtbW?: We would like to ask you to comment something on the following paragraph:
In the mediated virtual world, there are no longer fixed places in the sense we once we knew them. Architecture must now address the problem of the event and even rock concerts may be considered the archetypal form for an architectural event. If, as Peter Eisenman, the new architecture is a rock concert, then the ultimate skyscraper of the recent past is the example by U2 with their concert tour of ZOOTV, a mobile live satellite spectacle connecting their concert with the broadcast of regular television programs, and the viewers to the concert, by satellite dish and by telephone.
(Kathy Rae Huffman, Video, Networks, and Architecture: Some physical Realities of Electronic Space, in T.Druckrey (ed.), Electronic Culture. Technology and Virtual Representation, Aperture, New York, 1997).

W.D.: I think this notion to focus on the media is quite “ old-fashioned” , Guy Debord and Marshall McLuhan have in the sixties focused on media as event, with the TV as a new technology. This concert is an extreme version of the same. The electronic society, with the computer, has actually influenced the meaning and / or materiality of architecture, surveillance systems and data systems have changed our borders, our walls. This is no longer a “mass” society but it seems much more focused on the individual, the hacker, the internet. ( essentially different from TV)

BtbW?: Are we currently facing the consequences of Deconstruction? Is the new architectonical language learning to build what Deconstruction brought down?

W.D.: I think decon dealt with different issues, than we are now. Its expression was mostly esthetic and formal, I like to think that the “new” architecture is focused on research and analysis. Leading to not only technological innovation, but to other spatial relationships, the “modular“ is of interest.

BtbW?: Your article Architecture as Art or Science leads us to the presumption that your approach to Architecture is more scientist than artistic. Is this impression right?

W.D.: I try to find a balance, my fascination is at the moment with innovation; the artistic is a second nature. Philosophy is a large influence, but I guess that is a science too!.

BtbW?: If traditionally/historically Architecture has been conceived as an artistic practice, would you consider your own architecture as an activity somehow linked to media art (defining ‘media art’ as: creative works produced upon electronic supports and by technical procedures) or would you consider it as something completely different, by no means related to the notion of ‘Art’?

W.D.: That is a good question. I think traditionally architecture was mostly considered a craft, taught by a “master”. I think art and science are considered both an expression of a culture, art as the spiritual, as discussed by Heidegger, and science as: that which works.... I would say that architecture can only be both. Good art is conceptual rather than purely esthetic?

Winka Dubbeldam is on her way to learning what Architecture is and what Architecture is becoming. Her mind is pragmatic, a precise perception about our present time and space. Time and space are the basis and the device which will enable us to develop an accurate reflection (a reflection that will not attempt to force or fake the Present time and space).
The only real important thing to do these days is having something to say (As an individual).
Branching complexity, allowing rationale and imagination to flow through all the brain’s processes.

Reflection is the courage to make the truth of our own presuppositions (...).

Martin Heidegger



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