Ole Bouman (1960) has been editor-in-chief of Archis/Volume since 1996. Under his leadership the tone and nature of the magazine has changed significantly. It has transformed from a bilingual trade journal on architecture into an English-language thematic periodical on architecture, the city and visual culture with as tagline: ‘To beyond, or not to be’. He co-wrote the encyclopaedia The Invisible in Architecture (1994) with Roemer van Toorn.
Bouman, who studied archaeology, helped to curate the illustrious exhibition RealSpace in QuickTimes – Architecture and Digitisation, a modern poème électronique set in a pavilion designed by Ben van Berkel, which formed the Dutch entry to the Triennale in Milan in the spring of 1996. Bouman was also involved in Manifesta 3, and for Museum Boijmans van Beuningen he curated the exhibition Egotecture about the development of the human self-image and the experience of architectural space. Bouman is also the author of numerous books and articles. In addition to his work as editor-in-chief, Bouman is currently chairman of the Committee for Landscape, Architecture and Urban Design for the Dutch Council for Culture.
Bouman’s appointment comes as a surprise in view of the uneasy relationship between him and the NAI in the past. Up until 2000 Archis formed part of the NAI. When no new publisher could be found that year, the NAI requested permission from its staff council to terminate the employment contracts of the entire editorial board. The editors were, to put it mildly, staggered. The NAI, too, voiced its unhappiness with the situation but couldn’t see itself taking on the role of publisher even if funding were available. Questions were even asked in the Dutch parliament about the threatened disappearance of the magazine. Archis eventually found a new publisher, continued independently, and developed into an activist platform that went beyond the pages of the periodical to encompass the RSVP events.
The past has been put to rest, however, and views in Rotterdam have changed. The press release issued to announce the appointment of Bouman: ‘As editor-in-chief of the magazine Volume and previously Archis, as author of various books and articles and as curator of exhibitions and events, Bouman has become a prominent voice in the international professional arena. He is one of the most versatile thinkers on architecture at the moment and a certain asset for the NAI. For us, Bouman was the best candidate to connect the NAI to the public debate. We think he will be able to contribute to finding a powerful mandate for architecture, activating our material heritage, exploring new exhibition concepts, finding new partners, and further expanding the international significance of the institute.'
Bouman himself is looking forward to the challenge: 'It is terrific to be able to direct the NAI, an institution that has developed in a relatively short time into a leading international institute for architecture. My task as I see it is to ensure that architecture in general, and the NAI in particular, draw inspiration from the major spatial challenges of our time.'
Full marks also go to colleague Kees of Architectenwerk, who tipped Ole immediately after the announcement that Aaron Betsky was to step down. In Ole Bouman the NAI has certainly found a high-profile and controversial new director. Things certainly won’t be dull in the coming years.
Bouman takes up his position as director on April 1, 2007. Until then he will remain with the Council for Culture. Always useful, for he’ll he able to advise on the policy to be adopted by his future employer.