NDI NEWS [ 4 march 1996 ]



The Institute's website (you're looking at it) was re-launched on 1 March with new editorial. We learned from using our DOME website as a project and communication tool at last November's Doors of Perception conference that considerable time and editorial energy is required to keep these environments lively! Our revamped site includes this bi-weekly news section; new home pages for our main activities; and links to other web-linked projects we're involved with: the European Design Prize; UIDesign World; the Dutch Pavilion of the World Internet Expo; and the DesignAge Network.


Our good friend and collaborator Ragu Kolli has - with support from us, and more to come this year - re-worked the website formerly known as UIWORLD into a specialist site for multimedia and interaction design professionals and clients involved in the development of CD-ROMs, websites, GUIs, etc. The site contains more than 175 valuable resources such as books, software tools, design studios, showcase events, netsites and jobs.


We are also working with VanRiet Consulting and with Nikhef, a kind of Dutch CERN, on the design of a Dutch 'pavilion' for the Internet World Expo. In this worldwide event, which is based on a very high bandwidth network, national pavilions will act as 'virtual gateways' to thousands of cultural, scientific and business websites. Many millions of online visitors are anticipated. Our design for the Dutch pavilion goes online 1 April.


This year's Doors of Perception will be a two-day conference in Amsterdam in November on the theme of "speed". The conference will be followed by a series of four-day professional design workshops. Dates and other details will be announced by the end of March.


For the second time, the Institute is helping to organise the European Design Prize (formerly known as the European Community Design Prize). Together with its partners APCI (the main French design promotion organisation) and the European Design Partnership in Dublin, the Institute won a competitive tender to organise the selection of up to five Dutch companies for consideration by an international jury; to produce an EDP website that will allow thousands of European companies to obtain information and, in the second half of the year, to communicate directly on-line with each other; to publish a management textbook based on case studies of the most interesting small companies in Europe; and to organise a European Design Industry Summit (EDIS) in Paris, just before the EDP award ceremony in January 1997.


Another note for your diary: we are organising an open weekend at our building here in Amsterdam - the former Fodor Museum - from Friday 14 June until Sunday 16 June. Presentations, lectures, exhibitions, and party! More later.


It cannot be denied that Dutch design criticism lacks tradition. Frederike Huygen, author of the essay 'Design Criticism in the Netherlands' researched a century of impassioned attempts - in books, periodicals and newspapers - at critical analysis of contemporary material culture. But is criticism alive and well? Indeed, can the design world tolerate mature criticism, or does it still prefer a trustworthy applause machine?
On Thursday 21 March (1400 - 1700 hours), the essay (commissioned by the Rotterdam Art Foundation and the Netherlands Design Institute) will be presented with a public debate about the condition of criticism today. The debate will be moderated by architecture critic Bart Lootsma and will include teachers, publishers, authors, designers, curators and scientists.

For more information, and to attend, contact: Netherlands Design Institute, att.: Erna Theys


Dick Rijken and Conny Bakker have sifted through the results of 6000 person hours of work at the Doors 3 professional design workshops. First results are online.


Case study products requested:
The Royal College of Art in London and the Institute are making a database in collaboration with the NVI, the so called Case Study, of products which follow the criterium 'design for elderly is design for all'. Dutch designers are asked to enter their products into the database. They can enter by filling in a form available from Anne Voshol (fax +31 20 6201031, e-mail: anne@design-inst.nl)

Exhibition entries requested:
Dutch designers are asked to send information on rehabilitation design projects to Anne Voshol if they want to be selected to be part of an exhibition we are organising in Rotterdam from 09 May until 9 July.

Mentalitšten catalogue out now:
The catalogue is available of the exhibition held in Bremen between November 1995 and January 1996, covering three years of the Rotterdam Design Prize. For more information: Yvonne Janssen (phone +31 20 5516506, e-mail: yvonne@design-inst.nl.) (We'll tell you who the winners of this year's prize were in two weeks time.)


Gert Staal, our deputy director, is the father of Louise Willenborg's fabulous new baby Chiara - born on 7 Feb, at 19.30.


S M L XL: Sim-City Without Batteries
Rem Koolhaas has published a huge book, S,M,L,XL, which is selling like crazy and has everyone talking. The Dutch magazine ITEMS called John Thackara and said: "Everyone is being so polite about this blockbuster: we need someone to be critical." Here is an extract of what followed.
The problem with this book is helpfully explained by Professor Koolhaas himself on page xix: "Incoherence, or more precisely randomness, is the underlying structure of all architects' careers they are confronted by an arbitarary sequence of demands, parameters they did not establish, in countries they hardly know, about issues they are only dimly aware of".
He should have continued: "So I decided not to become an architect." Instead, we are confronted by a devastating 1,400 pages of evidence for the systemic crisis of architecture as a basis for understanding the world we live in. Some of the criticism is intentional. On page 967: "We have dismantled urbanism (leaving) only architecture. A world without urbanism creates immanent disaster: more and more substance is grafted on starving roots." But the book fails in its aspiration to be urban compost for cities stunted by feeble architecture. I kept recalling the author's introductory comment about "issues they (architects) are only dimly aware of." There is virtually no mention here of the ecological performance of cities; of connectivity; of the future of work; about caring for 2 billion old people; or about feeding eight billion. And spare me, please, that 1980s crap about urbanism as "the staging of uncertainty" (page 969). I don't ask for Godlike answers to these intractable questions, but I do demand effort to find a framework to help us think about them - and the city - collectively.
No such framework is offered by this book, which is why it ultimately arrives, heavy footed, at a dead end.