New publication in Harvard Design Magazine

Harvard Design Magazine has now published our article on the way the theory of affordances developed in our philosophical VIDI-project has contributed to RAAAF’s award winning End of Sitting landscape of standing affordances. The paragraph below gives an impression of the philosphical ideas behind this enactive art installation.

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“Can we use this soliciting power of relevant affordances to make healthier working environments? Can we create new material affordances that solicit different activities? Recent philosophical work on affordances in embodied cognitive science defined affordances more precisely:

“Affordances are relations between aspects of a material environment and abilities available in a form of life”, which includes socio-cultural practices in our human case (Rietveld & Kiverstein, 2014, p. 335).

This definition suggested to us, the Amsterdam-based multidisciplinary studio RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances], that it should be possible to piggyback on peoples’ existing abilities for standing, leaning and hanging to create new affordances for working in all sorts of supported positions. Moreover, from studies on affordances in ecological dynamical-systems theory we know that offering a large variety of affordances can help create an environment that invites roaming around in a certain area (see Bruineberg & Rietveld, 2014 on “metastability” and action readiness). The combination of these ideas let to the End of Sitting, a large, spatial art installation that offers an entire landscape of (body-scaled) affordances that scaffold working in many different positions and invites people to switch positions frequently.”

Download the paper here:

Rietveld, E., Rietveld, R., Mackic, A., Van Waalwijk van Doorn, E., Bervoets, B. (2015), The End of Sitting, Harvard Design Magazine 40, pp. 180-181.

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RAAAF elected New Talent by Metropolis NYC for our architecture of affordances

NYC based Metropolis magazine has elected RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances] as New Talent for its combination of architecture and philosopy in works and conceptual installations that highlight urgent societal and cultural issues and are described by the magazine as: “Strangely poetic, if haunting.” “The genius of RAAAF is in its strategic interventions that, though small, invite viewers to imagine a completely different way of living”

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Former Venice Biennale curator Aaron Betsky had nominated RAAAF and emphasized the importance of their architecture of affordances: “They have been at the forefront in the development of an architecture of affordances, designing potentials and activators rather than mere enclosures.”

Read the Metropolis article here.

Read Betsky’s earlier text on the impact of the architecture of affordances, titled “The evolving landscape of archtiectural affordanceshere. The following quote emphasizes its important for the archtecture academies and comes from that latter text:

“A theory of affordance lets us understand buildings not as objects, but as environments that afford us possibilities, that open and enclose, that respond and give us clues, and that do not differentiate themselves into the duality of inside and outside, form and space, structure and enclosure. If that theory lets us create architecture that is more human, that allows us to be at home in the modern world, and that opens us up to each other and the world we have made together, then it is a useful design tool.”

Read also What are affordances?

 

New publication: enactive ethnography of skilled intentionality in architecture

Well known philosophy journal Phenomenology & the Cognitive Sciences has accepted our paper on optimal grip on affordances in RAAAF’s architectural design practices. It is based on Anne Brouwers’ ethnography as an embedded researcher at RAAAF ‘s studio.

Download it here: Rietveld, E. & Brouwers, A.A. (2016) Optimal grip on affordances in architectural design practices: An ethnography. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, doi: 10.1007/s11097-016-9475-x

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This paper will be interesting for philosophers of enactive/embodied cognitive science, philosophers working on distributed cognition and architects/artists curious about RAAAF’s way of working and affordance-based architecture more generally.

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International award and media attention for enactive art installation

Our enactive architectural art installation The End of Sitting (by RAAAF | Barbara Visser) won an important international prize in the world of interior architecture and industrial design: The Great Indoors Award!

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The jury recognized the radical potental of our enactive art installation:

“The award winners display a radical […] approach.” “Although all submissions to the competition are thoughtful and well executed, not all of them push the boundaries and show us new ideas. This project is a prototype and a wonderfully creative attempt to think spatially about future workscapes. [T]he design is not about taste but about the subject being addressed. Will we, in 20 or 50 years, be working while leaning over, lying down or standing up?”

Jury members:

-Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum in London

-Nora Fehlbaum is Co-CEO and Member of the Board of Vitra

-Alexis Georgacopoulos is director of ECAL- Ecole cantonale d’art de Lausanne

-Brendan Cormier, curator Victoria and Albert Museum London

 

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CNN visited our installation The End of Sitting -Cut Out at the Chicago Architecture Biennale. CNN’s news item is about how architecture can radically transform our lived experience:

International reviews and media attention of our enactive art installation can be found here.

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TEDx and other upcoming invited lectures, exhibitions & new publications.

University of Cambridge, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities. The skillful body and affordances for material mimesis. December 17-18, 2015.

Bi-City Biennale of Architecture/Urbanism Shenzhen and Hong Kong’s Aformal Academy, December 6, 2015.

Keynote at Society for Phenomenological Philosophy, Amsterdam, Nov. 7th, 2015.

Exhibition on RAAAF’s work.French Architecture Instititute. Platform for artistic creation, Cité de l’architecture, Paris. Opening and debate with TVK, 22/10/2015.

University of Cincinnati, The Rich Landscape of Affordances. Workshop title: ‘Affordances and brain-body-environment-systems‘, October 8, 2015. With a.o. Randall Beer, Tony Chemero and Harry Heft.

Chicago Architecture Biennial, Exhibition with RAAAF. October 1, 2015-January 3, 2016.

Radboud University, Neurophilosophy, August 12, 2015.

TEDxGhent talk. Situating the Embodied Mind in a Landscape of Standing Affordances. June 13, 2015. (You can read the article version of it here TEDxGhent paper.)

Van Abbe Museum talk. Disability & Skilled Intentionality. June 1, 2015. (in Dutch)

Stockholm Business School, Symposium on Innovation, Embodiment & Sociomateriality. The Skilled Intentionality Framework for Innovation in Context. May 22-23, 2015.

Society of Arts, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences (KNAW)/Looiersgracht 60. The End of Sitting 1:1 – A Projection. March 23, 2015. (in Dutch).

KNAW Society of Arts on The End of Sitting: Towards a Landscape of Standing Affordances

On March 23 2015, the Society of Arts of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts & Science (KNAW) organized a night around Barbara Visser’s movie on our joint project The End of Sitting in collaboration with Looiersgracht 60. The title of her movie is The End of Siting 1:1 – A projection. This movie uses the audio recordings of two expert meetings I organized last November in Amsterdam to discuss this new enactive art installation.

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The move is now available online here:

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New Enactive Art Installation: The End of Sitting

The End of Sitting is a large spatial installation at the crossroads of visual art, architecture, philosophy and empirical science.

The End of Sitting. Photo: Frederica Rijkenberg

In our society almost the entirety of our surroundings have been designed for sitting, while evidence from medical research suggests that too much sitting has adverse health effects. RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art Affordances] and visual artist Barbara Visser have developed a concept wherein the chair and desk are no longer unquestionable starting points. Instead, the installation’s various affordances solicit visitors to explore different standing positions in an experimental work landscape.

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The End of Sitting marks the beginning of an experimental trial phase, exploring the possibilities of radical change for the working environment. This project is a spatial follow-up of the recently released mute animation ‘Sitting Kills‘ by RAAAF | Barbara Visser, developed as a vision on the workspace of 2025, commissioned by the Chief Government Architect of the Netherlands. Moreover, the art installation is the visual component of Erik Rietveld’s philosophical research project titled ‘The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind’; the installation visualizes the  philosophical notion of a Landscape of (Standing) Affordances. You can find a link to the philosophical paper on the landscape of affordances in this earlier post.RAAAF-Rietveld-Architecture-Art-Affordances-The-End-of-Sitting-000958image

The End of Sitting is a collaboration with Looiersgracht 60, a new space for art and science in Amsterdam. Gibsonian ecologicla psychologist Dr. Rob Withagen of the University of Groningen (Center for Human Movement Sciences / University Medical Center) has studied 1) how people use the landscape of standing affordances and 2) how the amount of movement and 3) productivity compare to working in a traditional open office setting. The experiment on the rock of standing affordances has been recorded with 4 camera’s. The subjects’ use of standing affordances and data on productivity are currently being analyzed by Dr. Withagen. They expect to publish the findings on affordance use and productivity next spring.

You can find an overview of the attention this project attracted in the international media here and a summary of RAAAF’s research for the End of Sitting below:

10007071_611178232341127_6202838570440143848_nPhotos: Maarten Kools (Vrij Nederland), Jan Kempenaers (other color photo’s) and Frederica Rijkenberg (b/w)

What are Affordances? Top-3 most downloaded in Ecological Psychology

My VIDI-research group at the University of Amsterdam works on a project named ‘The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind’.  But what are affordances exactly? Our new philosophical article (in collaboration with Julian Kiverstein) deals with this important question, amongst others. We just learned from the publisher that it features in the top-3 most downloaded articles published in Ecological Psychology in 2014. To celebrate this the publisher now offers free access to the paper, which is titled ‘A rich landscape of affordances‘.

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In recent years, more and more researchers in cognitive science have embraced the notion that was originally introduced by J.J. Gibson. However, the notion of affordances is complex and unfortunately it often is used in ways that ignore its roots in Gibsonian ecological psychology (e.g. Reed, 1996 and Heft, 2001). In this conceptual article we take insights from that tradition seriously and integrate these with my own earlier philosophical work on situated normativity in Wittgenstein (Rietveld, 2008, Mind) to develop an improved definition of affordances. One that will inspire new research projects in philosophy, art and science.

Free access to article here: Rietveld, E. & Kiverstein, J. (2014). A rich landscape of affordances. Ecological Psychology 26 (4), pp. 325-352.

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In a complementary paper we have argued that taking seriously the richness of the landscape of affordances has important implications for a neuroscience that recognizes the situatedness of the embodied mind. We also sketch its implications for Karl Friston’s work on the ‘anticipating brain’.

Update: These philosophical ideas on the landscape of affordances have inspired RAAAF and visual artist Barbara Visser to make an artwork titled ‘The End of Sitting: Outstanding Landscape of Affordances‘. This large spatial installation allows people to experience a novel landscape of standing affordances and move through it. It is the visual, or better artistic, complement to some of the ideas developed in our Ecological Psychology paper. One of the ambitions of the installation was to offer a large variety of standing affordances so that people would be solicited by multiple possibilities for working in different positions, ideally motivating them to switch postures every 30 minutes or so.

Updates 12/12/15: Our Ecological Psychology paper is now in their top 3 most read papers of all times online and RAAAF has been elected New Talent by New York’s Metropolis magazine for being at the forefront in the development of an architecture of affordances that could architects “create an architecture that is more human”. Harvard Design Magazine has published our article on the landscape of standing affordances we built.

New publication on self-organization and skilled intentionality

Jelle Bruineberg and I have published a new paper on self-organization and skilled intentionality. (An earlier 2008 paper on this topic can be found here.) Jelle is one of the PhD-students on VIDI-project ‘Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind’ at the University of Amsterdam. The paper is published in a Frontiers in Human Neuroscience special issue on the implications of Tony Chemero’s (2009) book Radical Embodied Cognitive Science. Here is the abstract and a link to the page where one can download the PDF of our paper:

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Self-organization, free energy minimization, and optimal grip on a field of affordances

In this paper, we set out to develop a theoretical and conceptual framework for the new field of Radical Embodied Cognitive Neuroscience (cf. Chemero, 2009). This framework should be able to integrate insights from several relevant disciplines: theory on embodied cognition, ecological psychology, phenomenology, dynamical systems theory, and neurodynamics. We suggest that the main task of Radical Embodied Cognitive Neuroscience is to investigate the phenomenon of skilled intentionality from the perspective of the self-organization of the brain-body-environment system, while doing justice to the phenomenology of skilled action.

In previous work, we have characterized skilled intentionality as the organism’s tendency towards an optimal grip on multiple relevant affordances simultaneously (Rietveld, 2012a/b/c). Affordances are possibilities for action provided by the environment (Gibson, 1979; Chemero, 2003). In the first part of this paper, we introduce the notion of skilled intentionality and the phenomenon of responsiveness to a field of relevant affordances.

FigureRietveldBruineberg2014ISSASpdf2Figure 1: Sketch of conceptual framework to be refined (Rietveld, 2012c). Through skilled intentionality one gets a grip on a field of affordances. (Inspired by: Thompson, 2007, 2011; Chemero, 2003, 2009; Dreyfus, 2007; Tschacher & Haken, 2007; Rietveld, 2008a/b/c).

Second, we use Friston’s (2000, 2011) work on neurodynamics, but embed a very minimal version of his Free Energy Principle in the ecological niche of the animal. Thus amended, this principle is helpful for understanding the embeddedness of neurodynamics within the dynamics of the brain-body-environment system. Next, we show how we can use this adjusted principle to understand the neurodynamics of selective openness to the environment: interacting action-readiness patterns at multiple timescales contribute to the organism’s selective openness to relevant affordances.

In the final part of the paper, we emphasize the important role of metastable dynamics in both the brain and the brain-body-environment system for adequate affordance-responsiveness. We exemplify our integrative approach by presenting research (De Haan, Rietveld, Stokhof & Denys, 2013) on the impact of Deep Brain Stimulation on affordance responsiveness of OCD patients.

A giant monkey rock, that is how the office of the future might well look like

Sitting kills. RAAAF | Barbara Visser made with their Outstanding Landscape of Affordances a vision on the future of the workplace where the chair and the table are no longer the starting point. Barbara Visser is a visual artist and since 2014 chair of the recently re-established Society of Arts of the Netherlands Royal Academy (KNAW). This new work was commissioned by the Netherlands Chief Government Architect and motivated by a widely shared feeling of dissatisfaction with present-day standardized open spaces for “flex-working” as implemented at the various ministries, municipalities and universities.

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Medical research has suggested that constantly sitting at work is bad for you. Even worse, a recent BBC News article noted: “We can’t simply fix it by heading for the gym.” Sitting kills. The BBC-article was titled: “Could offices change from sitting to standing?” Outstanding Landscape of Affordances shows how our offices could invite a more active and healthy life style. RAAAF | Barbara Visser presented an animation of a futuristic landscape of possibilities for working while standing up, a sculpture to be realized by the artists in Amsterdam later this year.

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The mute animation ‘Sitting Kills’ shows a large rock-like structure. It is designed out of a thousand different possibilities for working in positions between standing and laying. The key is that the sculpture’s affordances stimulate people to take up different working positions during the day and promotes concentration. The richness of this landscape of affordances gives people the freedom to find the optimal position for their different tasks and needs during the working day. This vision presents a radical break with regular office furniture and current working models such as “flex-working”, which all are still based on sitting. In fact our societies’ entire surroundings are designed for being seated. This is a first step towards a future in which standing at work is the new norm. A lifelong health where we are both physically and mentally active.

This project is is also a next step in visualizing the landscape of affordances, this time focusing on possibities for standing, leaning and hanging provided by the monkey rock-like sculpture. Links to earlier visualizations related to Erik Rietveld’s VIDI-project ‘The Landscape of Affordances’ can be found here.

Designboom’s coverage of the animation can be found here.

See also how Barbara Visser has filmed the tendency towards optimal grip on standing affordances in these making-of movies: 

Update 11/12/14: The Landscape of Standing Affordances has now been built as an enactive art installation, see here.

Upcoming invited talks Spring 2014

Over the next few weeks we will present work at several interesting and recommended events. Most are in the field of enactive or embodied cogntive science, some in the fields of art & architecture.

May 22, An Outstanding Landscape of Affordances, lecture and animation, RAAAF together with Barbara Visser, Invited by Atelier of the Chief Government Architect (Rijksbouwmeester Frits van Dongen), Ministry of Finance, The Hague.

May 26, Sitting Kills: Towards an Landscape of Standing Affordances, Grand Round, Academic Medical Center (AMC), Amsterdam.

June 20, The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind, Expert Meeting Psychiatry & Philosophy, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

June 20, Expert Practice in DBS Parameter Optimization (presented by Maarten van Westen), Expert Meeting Psychiatry & Philosophy, Radboud University, Nijmegen.

June 24, Vacant NL on the Move (together with Ronald Rietveld), Kunsthal, Rotterdam. (An interview with Dutch newspaper Volkskrant can be found below.)InterviewVolkskrant2zoom230614

June 24, Vacancy Studies (presented by Arna Mackic), Strijp S, Eindhoven.

June 26, Affordances in archtectural practice, EWEP 13 symposium organized by Rob Withagen ‘Affordances and architecture: Towards an ecological approach‘, Queens University, Belfast.

July 6-14, Action readiness in a landscape of affordances (together with Jelle Bruineberg), International Summer School in Affective Sciences, Swiss NCCR Affective Sciences Center (ISSAS), Geneva University, Château de Bossey, Switzerland.

Vacancy Studies: Toward a new professional and academic field

Proud to present our new book Vacancy Studies!!
A first media-preview for the international press will take place where it all started: at the Venice Architecture Biennale. The book is available in the better book stores and online here and now.

Vacancy Studies: Towards a new professional and academic field

Many bunkers, forts, churches, castles, hospitals, water towers, post offices, prisons, palaces, and airports are empty. Thousands of them. The book Vacancy Studies focusses on the affordances they offer and provides the architecture world with an optimistic perspective on the temporary reuse of vacant spaces.

According to RAAAF (Rietveld Architecture Art-Affordances), there is great potential in vacant public and government buildings. At the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010, RAAAF visualized the gigantic scale of these vacant spaces in an installation called Vacant NL. The worldwide media attention by organizations such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and The Architectural Review shows the international relevance of RAAAF’s vision for the new field of Vacancy Studies.

Artists, architects, and other designers can make a major contribution to social issues such as vacancy, and this requires new ways of working. The field of Vacancy Studies has been further developed in the practice of RAAAF and by a multidisciplinary team at the Sandberg Institute, Gerrit Rietveld Academy Amsterdam. The book ‘Vacancy Studies: Experiments and Strategic Interventions in Architecture‘ introduces the design approach of ‘strategic interventions’, and presents new ideas and experiments. Vacancy Studies is an indispensable reference work for anyone interested in the possibilities of vacant spaces.

This book consists of two parts:

Part I, Surfing on a Sea of Vacancy, presents a vision of the potential offered by vacancy and a new way of analyzing and designing known as ‘strategic interventions’. Some radical experiments for knowledge development are presented in this part;

Part II, Parachuting above Vacant NL deals with experimentation in art & architectural design education and in real life.

RAAAF (Ronald Rietveld, Erik Rietveld & Arna Mackic) wrote this book together with Jurgen Bey, Barbara Visser, Ester van de Wiel en Martine Zoeteman. Ronald & Erik Rietveld are the editors-in-chief. The book is available in English and Dutch. Graphic Design by Studio Joost Grootens.

The Annual Art & Science Lecture at Utrecht University

On April 7th Erik and Ronald Rietveld will give the Annual Art & Science Lecture in the Aula of Utrecht University. In earlier years this lecture was given by Prof. Paul Schnabel, Prof. Henkjan Honing, and Prof. Vincent Icke.

For more information on this public event (in Dutch): http://www.sg.uu.nl/programma/voorjaar-2014/kunst-en-wetenschapslezing

And an integral recording of the lecture (in Dutch) is available here: http://www.sg.uu.nl/opnames/kunst-en-wetenschapslezing/kunst-en-wetenschapslezing

Erik Rietveld gave a preview of this lecture on national radio in NTR-program De Kennis van Nu (in Dutch as well). The link to this can be found here: http://www.sg.uu.nl/opnames/science-caf%C3%A9-utrecht/science-caf%C3%A9-31-maart

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RAAAF elected Dutch Architect of the Year

RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances] is Dutch Architect of the Year 2013. A jury composed by Archtectenweb selected RAAAF out of a shortlist of 6 nominees including Mecanoo and RAU. From the jury report: “The jury appriciates RAAAF as a unique and headstrong architecture studio. Focusing on relevant issues RAAAF sets its own agenda, explores hidden layers within these themes, and creates unprecedented possibilities in the places touched. Their work expresses crafsmanship, is concrete, visually strong, optimistic, and detailed beautifully.”

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Read more here (in Dutch).