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Department of Architecture


Professor Arie Graafland (TU Delft and Dessau Institute of Architecture)


This paper develops a line of thought started in Space Fighter (Actar Publishers Barcelona 2007), a design project with the Dutch firm MVRDV, the Berlage Institute and the Delft School of Design (DSD). Space Fighter found its name in Wargaming, the computer war game. It suggests an overview, an omnipotent view, the high end of our contemporary computer technology with the capacity to fly over stretches of land, making digital pictures of the earth, and at the same time engaging with Michael Speaks’ provisional and incomplete concept of gathering ‘intelligence’. Speaks’ idea of ‘intelligence’ is of course directly related to military thinking. But in the design process, with the students working on this model, we found that most of them stayed ‘on the ground’, Space Fighter never really took off to unexpected heights. It stayed on the ground, not unlike contemporary warfare where the horizontal takes precedent over vertical tactics. What students produced as end results were mainly knots of interconnected spatial problems, much like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which has an important urban component. But the real issue I want to raise is Michael Speaks’ ideas concerning the end of critical thinking, and to explore to what extent there is actually much more at stake in his notion of ‘intelligence’. For Speaks the times of criticism and social issues in architecture are over. We might be in a period of ‘after theory’ as Terry Eagleton suggests, (a book every architecture student should read), but there is still a lot to be done. I will conclude with a reflection on architecture as a ‘medium of the social’, explaining provisionally how we might relate research to design, relating to a building we recently built in Amsterdam.

Speaker Biography

Arie Graafland is professor in Architecture Theory at the Faculty of Architecture, TU Delft and is currently Visiting Professor at the Dessau Institute of Architecture. After a three year technical education in Rotterdam, he studied sociology (VU) and philosophy (UvA) in Amsterdam. He worked for several years in urban research for the city of Arnhem. In 1978 he began his academic work in the department of Urbanism at the TU and in 1986 he received a PhD in architectural theory. In 1992 he became Associate Professor in the department of Architecture Theory where he continued to carry out research and education in both Architecture and Urban Theory. He has lectured internationally and published extensively in these areas. Dr. Graafland was awarded the Antoni van Leeuwenhoek chair in 1999 and founded the DSD in 2002. He is the editor of The Delft School of Design Series on Architecture and Urbanism with 010 Publishers. Together with Harry Kerssen he is principal of Kerssen Graafland Architects in Amsterdam. He resides in Amsterdam.

Monday, 14 November, 2011 - 17:00 to 19:30
Event location: 
Faculty Library