The office is no more. We work anywhere, anytime. We don’t have professions any longer. We don’t even think we work, it’s just different things we do, alone or sometimes with others to whom we connect through a myriad of mutating platforms and dynamic structures. We meet, tweet and charette in, lounges, clubs, incubators, hot-desks, café cars, dropdown benches, skype booths and so on. A flexibility and freedom that used to be limited to executives, now applies to responsibilities as accounting, design, contract writing. Not only the space of work has changed. Terms as playbour, enterprise gamification and hackathons suggest a general ‘ludification’ of work, the merging of leisure and obligation. The worksphere has become a big social playground, its players a hybrid troop of nomadic urbanites accessorized with a menagerie of technologies. Like con-artists we juggle our hybrid devices as they get faster and ubiquitous, while roaming from hotspot to hotspot. The office as type has vanished.
For centuries the Netherlands has been an exemplary Modern nation. Architecture was happily participating in a euphoric journey towards a totally planned system. This quest cumulated in the last decade of the 20th century in a system coined the Polder model. Its architectural counterpart operated several monikers (Super Dutch or Supermodernism). At the advent of the 21st century, a globalized, digitized and demographically dynamic world has muddled the clarity of its course. The project of Modernity has lost its ground, and has entered an unstable condition of suspension. In this spin architecture has lost relevance. This studio’s context will be the murky waters of the contemporary Dutch condition in an endeavor to imagine a way out.
The site is a secondary commuter station in the urbanized outskirts of The Hague. With 13,000 passengers daily the station is well used, but its spatial quality poor. Adjacent stands an enormous empty office building, a Herman Hertzberger designed, 80,000 m2 abandoned Ministry of Social Affairs and Work. Opposite the station is an empty lot. The condition here is exemplary of how a project for total modernity came to a sudden halt. While the urban project seems incomplete, the architectural one is over determined.
The semester will consist of research and design. The research is twofold: one is to develop an understanding of the historic trajectory of the modernist (post-war) project in the Netherlands—its ambitions, strategies, and methods. Second is to understand the relationship between mobility, public transit, the changing nature of work and its effect on public space and (office) typologies.
The design will consist of re-envisioning the station area and its components, both existing and new, and imagining a new life for the Ministry complex. The Hertzberger towers used to house a bustling office, served by the transit station. Reinventing the building will imply studying its scale and gravity within the city, as well as a changing idea of work, work environments, and a notion of the public catalyzed by mass transit.