Inauguration speech at the Society of Arts, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts & Sciences (KNAW)

Recently Ronald and Erik Rietveld were inaugurated as members of the Society of Arts at the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), which promotes cross-fertilization between the sciences and the arts. Other artists at this Academy are Anton Corbijn, Arnon Grunberg, Barbara Visser, Heddy Honigmann, Iris van Herpen, Jaap van Zweden, Louis Andriessen, Pierre Audi, Paul Verhoeven, read more...Below you will find a video of our inauguration speech at the KNAW (in Dutch) and an English translation of our text.

 

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Inauguration speach by Ronald & Erik Rietveld at KNAW, d.d. April 1, 2016.

“For us this is a great honor! The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), where the arts and the sciences meet, has invited us to become members as a duo; a duo that operates at the intersection of architecture, visual art and philosophy.

ERCfigure2forwebsiteWhat you see here is a philosophical worldview. Philosophers normally make a world in words, typically in books without pictures. This is a materialized and experiential translation of my philosophical research at the University of Amsterdam. It is a landscape of affordances. Affordances are the possibilities for action that the environment offers us. Your seat affords you to sit on it, a book affords reading, etc. The installation that we built offers many opportunities for supported standing, leaning and hanging, and invites you to frequently switch positions and postures throughout the day. This installation also represents my position within the philosophy of the cognitive sciences. Cognition is not something that takes place purely in our heads. Cognition is made possible and supported by the affordances available in our human ecological niche.

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What you see here is a spatial thinking model. This dissected monument represents our way of thinking and working. The work:
– breaks through existing conventions,
– breaks through indestructible structures,
– breaks though different disciplines, and
– breaks though past and present, looking for new meaning in the future.

This installation, which we provocatively named The End of Sitting, is also a vision on the office of the future, of 2025. It explores what a world without chairs and tables might look like. In the coming years we would like to make more of these visual explorations of the future. This fits perfectly with what has become both a tradition of the KNAW as well as a strategic priority of the scientific part of the Academy, namely the making of future explorations. However, there is an important difference. The foresight studies to be made here at home have typically been written reports. What we want to do is start from our own fascinations and make imagination central to our foresight in a visual way. We would like to build foresight; to materialize thinking models. By building our visions on the future we make them tangible and sensible to people. We call these visions that we build at the intersection of visual art and architecture, “architectural art installations” or, ‘bouwkunst’ in Dutch (literally translated as building-art).

More than ever, the field of architecture needs new types of ‘bouwkunst’:
– A ‘bouwkunst’ that goes beyond the pragmatism and efficiency thinking of today.
– A ‘bouwkunst’ that develops new spatial thinking models.
– There is a need for a ‘bouwkunst’ that encourages new radical experiments, free from conventional constraints.

In short, working from within the KNAW, we wish to dedicate ourselves to making architectural art installations that show society new vistas.”

 

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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?

 

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).

VIDI-grant awarded by Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)

Great news: Today I learned that I’ve been awarded a VIDI-grant! This means 5 years of fundamental research in philosophy and generous NWO-funding to develop my research group. Here is a short project description:

The Landscape of Affordances: Situating the Embodied Mind

In many situations, experts at work act successfully, yet without deliberation. Architects, for example, perceive immediately the opportunities offered by the site of a new project, and intuitively improve the size of the door in one of their designs. One could label these manifestations of expert intuition as ‘higher-level’ cognition, but still these experts are just acting unreflectively. Traditionally in philosophy, so-called ‘higher’ cognitive capacities are associated more with explicit deliberation and linguistic forms of rationality than with unreflective action, but this has left unexplained the characteristic phenomenon of intuitive expertise (e.g. intuitively improving a design).

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The two central ideas behind this NWO VIDI-proposal are (a) that many of these context-sensitive episodes of ‘higher’ cognition can be understood along the same lines as everyday skillful unreflective activities, such as grasping a coffee cup or riding a bike; and (b) that our surroundings contribute to skillful action and cognition in a far more fundamental way than is generally acknowledged.

My long term aim is to use these ideas to develop a novel conceptual framework for embodied or ‘enactive’ cognitive science (Thompson, 2007; Chemero, 2009). The cognition we find in expert intuition is very context-sensitive because it consists of responsiveness to multiple possibilities for action provided by our surroundings, or ‘affordances’. I argue that the notion of affordances is rich in application, so it makes sense to say both that a cup affords grasping and that a friend’s sad face affords comforting. Moreover, we are bodily responsive to a multiplicity of affordances simultaneously (Rietveld, 2012a/b). Embodied cognition amounts here to skillful responsiveness to the many affordances available in one’s surroundings; a selective responsiveness to a whole field of affordances.

This integrative, philosophical framework is innovative in showing how the increasingly influential field of embodied cognitive science has a much wider scope than previously thought. Findings thought to be exclusively valid for everyday unreflective action (or for sensorimotor behavior) can now be applied to skilled ‘higher’ cognition, or better, expert intuition (project 1). We will also show concrete, real-world applications in the domains of architecture (project 2) and psychiatry (project 3 on Deep Brain Stimulation), respectively. Interactions with renowned experts in these practices feed the development of the overall framework. Another project (4) will advance convergence with Karl Friston’s influential work on the anticipating brain, by situating the latter in the whole system ‘brain-body-landscape of affordances’.

Read more: interview with SMART Cognitive Science

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News Items: New Radicals

Last year in the UK, the Observer and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts joined forces to find 50 New Radicals. They selected “people who were coming up with creative answers to the big issues of our times”, according to newspaper the Guardian.

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Yesterday this initiative got a follow-up in the Netherlands. My brother, Ronald, and I were selected by a jury chaired by Herman Wijffels as New Radicals because of our innovative interdisciplinary approach to architectural design, which also integrates insights from my work in the philosophy of enactive or embodied cognition. Just like the report of the Rotterdam Design Prize jury last year, this confirms the potential of translational embodied cognition and, more in particular, of the field of enactive architecture.

For more information see news item at Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)-website, here.

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Award and new publication

Last Friday the Dutch Psychiatry & Philosophy Foundation has awarded my chapter with a prize for the best contribution to the Dutch Handbook Psychiatry & Philosophy. In my opinion this award confirms the potential of the new field of translational embodied cognition.

Another chapter for a Cambridge University Press volume on Neuroscientific and Philosophical perspectives on Free Will has been accepted recently and is forthcoming:

De Haan, S, Rietveld, E. & Denys, D. (forthcoming), Being free by losing control: What Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder can tell us about free will. In Glannon, W. (ed.) Neuroscientific and Philosophical Perspectives on Free Will. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.