EXCESS OF ARCHITECTURE
One could argue that Dutch modernism effectively ended in 1989 (curiously coinciding with other endings in Europe). Its death knell was the symposium, Hoe modern is de Nederlandse architectuur? (How modern is Dutch architecture?), where its major proponents, namely Aldo van Eyck and his acolytes, were accused of making abstract configurations at odds with the reality of the city, detached from the emancipatory aspirations of the original avant-garde. "Locking down, identifying, proclaiming grand intentions, being unable or unwilling to leave anything empty—these are all characteristics of Dutch modernism, be it Rietveld, Van Eyck, or Van Velsen." was how Rem Koolhaas (who organized the symposium) framed the charges. At the time, Aldo van Eyck was a vigorous seventy-year-old, still making buildings with his wife and partner Hannie van Eyck: the ESTEC complex had just been finished, the Protestant Church for the Moluccan Community was under construction, and the Netherlands Court of Audit was yet to come. This late work, however, remained largely overlooked, seen as a colorful aberration in the otherwise sober béton brut architecture of the renowned CAM dissident who, for better or for worse, had been canonized as the father of Dutch structuralism, his Orphanage featured in every textbook of architecture. With the exception of the universally praised playgrounds and the sculpture pavilion, both conceived as ephemeral structures, Van Eyck's architecture would increasingly be dismissed as dated. Gradually the totality of his (and later Hannie's) work was reduced to a synonym for late modernism (and for everything that had gone wrong with it). In the context of our own neoliberal, post-ideological times, Van Eyck's social concerns could be thought naively populist. His credo that "a house is a small city and a city is a big house" is one of those statements that resonate with the egalitarian and anti-authoritarian activism of the sixties. More than an obvious take on Alberti's classical relation between the parts and the whole, this equation in fact reveals an issue that is at the core, not just of Van Eyck's work, but of modernism as a whole—how to relate the new ways of living with the metropolitan condition. Today, as we experience yet another paradigm shift in the boundaries between living and working, between public and private, Van Eyck has become our unlikely guide.
Aldo & Hannie van Eyck
Excess of Architecture
Kersten Geers, Jelena Pancevac
Students of the Academy of Architecture USI, Mendrisio (Spring Semester 2022)
Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther und Franz König