The exhibition Architecture of Appropriation was the first step in a research project around squatting and architecture, focussing on subjects including vacancy, property and diverse forms of living.
Architecture of Appropriation examines how squatters use radical improvisation techniques to appropriate the city and influence thinking on contemporary urbanism. Available spaces, which have usually fallen vacant as a result of speculation or neglect, are taken back into use. This does more than just transform the re-occupied building from the inside out; new forms of use, management and accessibility give it a new purpose in the neighbourhood. The squatting movement has developed tactics that renew the city from the inside out.
Even though squatting has been illegal in the Netherlands since 2010, it still takes place on a limited scale. Through exploring such themes as vacancy, ownership and collective housing, Architecture of Appropriation shows how the infrastructure of a city can be adapted, how networks can be reconfigured, and how buildings can be reinvented. A new programme can be written for just about any situation, so that the potential of the existing city may be fully realised.
This tactical approach to urban transformation occupies an important place in the research Het Nieuwe Instituut will be carrying out into the practice of appropriation. Architecture of Appropriation highlighted squatting from a range of angles. The modus operandi of squatters themselves is examined through the protocols they adhere to in their spatial interventions. The exhibition also presented views on improvised architecture in squatted industrial buildings from architect Hein de Haan, who worked a great deal with squatters, and photographer-artist Dave Carr-Smith. Documentation of the histories and spatial transformations of five Dutch case studies were distributed throughout the space.
Spatial Installation by ZUS
ZUS [Zones Urbaines Sensibles] designed the installation in which the research is presented. This design office founded Het Schieblock in Rotterdam, which started as a vacant office building and has developed over a number of years into a mixed-use cultural building. Because its tenants work across the city, Het Schieblock’s influence stretches far beyond its immediate surroundings. The tactical approach employed by the designers to create space in the city prompted Het Nieuwe Instituut to ask them to design an architectural intervention for Architecture of Appropriation.
The outside stairs designed by ZUS for the installation gave the public direct access to the exhibition space. The space was constructed, as much as possible, from reused materials, partly gleaned from previous exhibitions in Het Nieuwe Instituut. The architectural installation refers to the ways in which squatting leads to buildings being repeatedly programmed and appropriated, and provides a space for collective research, conversations, and the generation of new (research) material, which will accumulate over time.
Read the interview with ZUS here.
Research and Programme
Architecture of Appropriation marked the start of research into squatting as an architecture of appropriation and addressed the themes of vacancy, alternative housing, the transformation of existing architecture, legislation and forms of organisation.
The exhibition presented five architectural analyses of recently squatted buildings and terrains. The research project took shape throughout the exhibition in collaboration with universities, academies and researchers, and provided a residence for temporary presentations by guests from other countries.
The State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning will concurrently research how the spatial inheritance and influence of squatting on the development of Dutch cities may be preserved for the future. The personal archive of Hein de Haan and the photographic archive ‘Improvised Architecture’ by artist Dave Carr-Smith provide points of departure for a conversation about the preservation of documents and material relating to ‘squatted architecture’.
The live programme AOA on Air was held every Thursday in the exhibition space. Makers, thinkers, squatters and designers discussed contemporary forms of urban appropriation through interviews, collective reading sessions and discussions. The conversations are available to listen to in the exhibition and through podcasts in this web magazine.