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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Vacant NL rated as one of the Top-10 of Sexiest Models of All Time

The installation Vacant NL – RAAAF’s contribution to the Venice Architecture Biennale 2010 – is in great company in this piece on Architizer: Lebbeus Woods, Antonio Gaudi, Jorn Utzon, Tadao Ando, Yuraka Sone and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe amongst others.

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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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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.

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).