3rd International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam

POWER – Producing the Contemporary City is the theme of the third International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, which opens in the Kunsthal on May 24, 2007. Two major exhibitions, Visionary Power and The New Dutch City, which will run through September 2, 2007, will show how architecture and urban design can once more play a prominent role within the complex crucible of forces generated by the contemporary city. The curator of the biennale on this occasion is the Rotterdam-based Berlage Institute, the internationally renowned post-doctoral academic institute for architects and urban designers.

The power relationships in the contemporary city are the subject of the biennale’s two main exhibitions. Never before have so many people lived in an urban setting: already more than half of today’s world population, a figure expected to reach the two-thirds mark by 2050. Meanwhile, the city has become the arena for complex and diverse forms of power and the far-reaching effects of globalization. Alongside politics and the market, forces like fear, migration, aging populations, consumerism and tourism are now major drivers of urban development. All of these trends make designing the city more complex, with the result that architects no longer tend to approach the city as a conceivable entity. Even as the cities grew out of control, the traditional architectural manifesto about the city fell into disuse. Two questions are now more pertinent than ever: Who ‘produces’ the contemporary city? And who is responsible for our urban environment of tomorrow? The two exhibitions of the biennale, Visionary Power and The New Dutch City, examine these questions in depth.

Imaginative Power

Visionary Power is a passionate call for renewed architectural imaginative power in order to shape the future of our cities. At its core is the idea that the growing complexity of our cities cannot be allowed to be a pretext for an end to the relationship between architecture and the city; there is greater need for strategies for the city than ever before. Visionary Power exposes the influential forces that ‘produce’ the contemporary city. Leading theorists and architects such as Stephen Graham, Lieven de Cauter, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Brillembourg & Klumpner and John Urry have been invited to present their research into ‘Corporate Cities’ (global money flows), ‘Hidden Cities’ (fear), ‘Capital Cities’ (representation), ‘Informal Cities’ (migration) and ‘Spectacle Cities’ (tourism). Their findings, articulated in interviews and images, mutate into critical and urgent questions about the future of the city.

These in turn are the basis for 15 projects in cities that are emblematic of the phenomena under investigation, like Mumbai, Caracas, Johannesburg, Brussels, Karachi. The projects and visions are being developed by fifteen architecture firms from the areas in question, young professionals from a generation more than ever confronted with the question of how we shall have to live – indeed survive – in our future cities.

Dutch Perspective

With five studies into urban areas in the Netherlands, The New Dutch City forms the counterpoint to this international inquiry. Maintaining the international competitive position of the Netherlands in an era of globalization and explosive urbanization requires a major shift in scale in administrative and urban-design thinking about the Dutch city. To this end the Rotterdam biennale, in close cooperation with the relevant authorities, is inviting leading Dutch architecture firms with international experience to devise plans at the higher level of scale and within the longer-term perspective of The New Dutch City. They will produce proposals for urban areas such as the North and South Wings of the Randstad (the urban conglomeration in the west of the Netherlands that includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht), the Brabantstad knowledge cluster, the KAN area (Arnhem-Nijmegen) and the Maastricht-Achen-Liège triangle.

Meeting Place

The lower gallery of the Kunsthal, transformed into the Power Lounge, and its main auditorium will be the central meeting place of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam from May 24 through June 10. During the opening weeks, the Power Lounge will be the heart of the biennale, the place where professional guests from around the country and around the world will meet and where the debate will unfold. Interested visitors can attend debates, lectures and conferences there. In addition, the Power Lounge will be a platform for public and private players in the urban crucible of forces, which have been instrumental in bringing about the biennale or feel a connection to its theme. In this way, the urgent societal theme of the biennale is connected to social and societal, as well as political and economic, reality. As a meeting place, the biennale must lead to new ideas and to actual cooperation of politics, culture and economics.

The biennale’s two main exhibitions, Visionary Power and The New Dutch City, will run through September 2, 2007 in the Main Gallery of the Kunsthal. From May 2 through June 10 the lower gallery will serve as the Power Lounge: three weekends and two weeks of conferences, lectures, small presentations, workshops and events.