Balloon Home

A most interesting exposition in Brussels CIVA on the work of architect A.J. Lode Janssens, in particular his ‘Balloon Home’. He is “one of Belgium’s most radical architects and educators. However, for the past two decades he has been living in voluntary exile, resisting any form of public life. Throughout his career he had an ambiguous relationship with architecture, fascinated by its experimental possibilities but equally appalled by its often presumptuous nature.”

A discussion between curators Peter Swinnen and Nikolaus Hirsch illustrates the importance and actual value of this work:

101 jaar Constant

101 jaar geleden werd Constant Nieuwenhuys geboren en op diverse manieren wordt hier – zeer terecht – aandacht aan besteedt. Literair tijdschrift ‘de Gids‘ wijdt een groot deel van haar 2021/6 editie aan ‘New Babylon‘, Constant’s utopisch project waaraan hij werkte tussen grofweg 1959 en 1974. Het leverde, zoals bekend, prachtige maquettes en tekeningen op; tot hij op het eind besloot het project als ‘voltooid’ te beschouwen. Het artikel van Dirk van Weelden gaat uitgebreid in op de link met het heden en de toekomst: ‘Welk New Babylon zouden we kunnen gebruiken in een tijd waarin we vooral dreigende catastrofes het hoofd moeten bieden?“. Ook de bijdrage van Christoph van Gerrewey – een ‘autodialoog’ – biedt prachtige aanknopingspunten. Ik zou zeggen: het gehele project is in zijn denk- en verbeeldingskracht een uitermate interessante en opnieuw actuele aanzet om fundamenteel anders te denken over onze samenleving en haar gebouwde omgeving. Veel van wat Constant hier presenteert is allereerst een oproep tot een substantiële rol voor bewoners, eigen regie en een oproep tot grotere vrijheid; die was in zijn tijd actueel en is het nu eens te meer.

New Babylon

Last Thursday, September 30th.; after the “Welcome’ at Art Institute Melly and afterwards at ‘het Nieuwe Instituut‘: the fine and thoughtful lecture ‘Continous Now‘ by Prof. Mark Wigley on Constant’s New Babylon, after the  exhibition in 1998 still a most actual topic/project. What is this contemporary value; which views have continued to be in line with the developments, what elements are still worth-wile to consider and implement?




Wonderful, illustrative and well-documented exhibition in Centre Pompidou Metz: ‘Aerodreams‘, “The exhibition reveals this human dimension of the «pneumatic», from the first industrial and military exploitations (airships, weather balloons, floating assemblies, inflatable decoys…) to the experiences developed by numerous artists designers and architects.” From Buckminster-Fuller’s dome over Manhattan to Haus-Rucker’s extension at the Kassel- Documenta this is again an actual topic worth-while presenting and discussing. 

Maison Fibre

Most interesting, innovative and seemingly beautiful as well: the Maison Fibre, a research project from the University of Stuttgart on show at the Venice Biennale Architettura 2021,”explores an alternative approach to the design and construction of future habitable spaces.”

Kengo Kuma architect

Lovely and interesting documentary about and interview with the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma; illustrating ways of creating and adapting architecture to actual circumstances and at the same time use history and nature to create synchronized environments.


The French filmakers Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine , famous for their documentary film ‘Houselife’ of Rem Koolhaas’ Bordeaux House in which housekeeper Guadalupe Acedo verbally guides a tour around the house, have produced a new, rather intimate portrait of Keisuke Oka, a butoh dancer. A Japanese man building his ‘house’, folly, shell in an adapted area of Tokyo; a ‘small universe built and thought in a rare freedom’, built over a period of 15 years.


shelter, or dwelling?

In the Netherlands some 40.000 (registered) people are homeless; in all of Europe it is some 4 million. A recent initiative in the city of Ulm, Germany shows a ‘sleeping pod’ as a solution for shelter, complete with solar panels, electricity and a connection to a network. In the technical sense this is nothing new; see the wide variety of innovative projects devoted to elementary shelters over the decades. Of course: the need for protective measures in winter is urgent, the question that remains is whether this is a structural or temporal solution. After all, the ‘inhabitant’ still is excluded from society; while a more permanent place to dwell (as is a legal right) is far more necessary. Ultimately the focus should be on a real integrated ‘place’ within larger scales, i.e. as part of an environment that includes space for shelter, be it temporary or more permanent. So; reserve a certain amount of space within each housing project to function as ‘free space’ when needed, as part of the community.

het Nieuwe Wonen

Illustratieve en informatieve online AIR-sessie rond ‘het Nieuwe Wonen’ , met presentaties/lezingen van eerst Robert Winkel (MEI Arch.) aangevuld door Atto Harstra, Piet Vollaard, Annuska Pronkhorst en Wenda Doff. Nadruk; circulair, duurzaam, gezond en flexibel bouwen; voorbeeld m.n. het komende SAWA-woongebouw in Rotterdam dat vrijwel volledig met hout wordt gebouwd.


book to come

After 2 years of research and writing my book is (almost) ready for publication and its envisioned broad discussion. Yet to come is a language check as well as some editorial work; so far many, many thanks to all who contributed, participated, reviewed and reacted; first of all to Antony Gormley for the use of one of his works on the cover. Most probably its contents will be discussed at the coming ‘Stadsmakers Congres’ on November 6th. 2020 on a variety of locations in Rotterdam, organized by AIR.

For more information, see the publishers website