January 2019

Floris Alkemade on collaboration

Upon his appointment as Chief Government Architect three years ago, Floris Alkemade initiated an annual design contest to challenge architects to perceive societal questions as design questions as well. ‘In the Netherlands, we have excellent architects who produce fantastic architecture, but their responsibilities go beyond just those beautiful designs’, says Floris Alkemade. In his vision, contemporary architects in particular could provide vital contributions in solving major societal issues that have a spatial aspect, such as climate change, healthcare and refugee housing.

Rutger Oolbekkink – advisor on Urban Strategy who has roots in architecture – has been the programme manager on behalf of Inbo for all contest assignments from the very beginning. This was a great match, as Rutger, who also guided large projects in Africa, is committed to lasting solutions that focus on people, spatial quality and a sustainable and inclusive future. He always wonders how his work contributes to the bigger picture. The fact that he started a refugee shelter five years ago helped in getting the first assignment for which the COA was one of the commissioners.

‘When one works on several projects consecutively, there are many opportunities to learn’, Rutger says. ‘Something that we took from Home away from Home and WhoCares projects is that it is good practice to follow the winning projects.’ On 17 January, the 16 laureates of the 3rd contest handed in their plans. In Brood en Spelen (“Bread and Games”), the designers were challenged to formulate new perspectives for the future of the countryside together with landowners such as farmers and estate owners. The teams were given 25,000 euros to prove the viability of their plans, both in the spatial sense and with a business case.

‘The plans should be radical and more far-reaching than the regular ones, and they should survive the experimental phase without having to change all common and easily achievable aspects’, Floris says. 

On 6 February, the closing event for the ‘Brood en Spelen’ contest will be held in the Administration Building of North Brabant under the title Radicaal, realistisch en realiseerbaar (“Radical, realistic and realisable”). The teams will present their plans, and the event will also mark the start of a touring presentation of all 16 winning projects.

Floris: ‘Addressing societal issues requires creativity. The architect who focuses upon that should have a different approach to listening and mediate. I noticed that Inbo is an agency in which the work fields and fascinations to connect spatial assignments to societal themes match mine. The experience that Rutger brings to the table and his personal involvement are indispensable. It is a close collaboration that I truly appreciate.’ 

The fourth contest, which will be presented this spring, is related to the recently presented Panorama Nederland and challenges designers and professionals from other areas to redesign the Netherlands with the optimism of the post-war reconstruction. How will the Netherlands become a country of sustainable agriculture, energy-efficient houses, clean cities and good connections, a country that adapts to the changing climate and uses renewable energy sources? 

In these assignments, Inbo closely collaborates with Architectuur Lokaal, Rufus de Vries (photography), Maurits de Bruijn (digital design) and Marijke Bovens (text). 

Further information: Rutger Oolbekkink (Inbo), Floris Alkemade (Rijksbouwmeester)