Jury rapport B Nieuws Essay Contest

Can architecture students, buckling under the load of production, still find the time to write- and to write well? Architecture students are famous for writing devastating critiques, but often on quite a thin base. The jury, however, was surprised by the amount and the quality of the essays. Strong essays combined a precise architectural analysis with a clear position towards current architectural trends. Weak essays tended to take too wide of a topic or masked a lack of argument with a cloud of criticism. Many essays showed weak English, and the jury advises the contestants to spell-and grammar check more carefully for future essay contests. B Nieuws hopes that this essay contest can be the start of a yearly series of contests, to engage more architecture students to writing.

This year’s jury consisted of Wouter van Stiphout, Christoph Grafe, Fredie Floré, and Gijs van Oenen.

A short commentary on the submissions:

Neues Museum Berlin: Final Reconstruction

Sterk: idea is in principle good and powerful;

Zwak: elaboration weak; English language bad. Presumes that Chipperfield was the only one working on the project, while the project is probably more a result of the collaboration between Chipperfield and the constructor.

NRC Rokin, Amsterdam

Een oude en? een nieuwe façade

Sterk: well written

Zwak: of what precisely do you want to convince the reader? Reader seems disappointed with the banality of journalism.

New York by Gehry, New York

“What year is now, 1980?” (1

Sterk: clear case with elaborate exposition

Zwak: despite clear case, no clear exposition of idea behind building; instead too much critical comments; style & language use weak.

Urban Cubes, Athens

Readdressing the Greek Polykatoikia

Sterk: non-glamorous topic at site not often visited by architectural critics;

Zwak: weak description of project; point of evaluation insufficiently clear

1111 Lincoln Road, Miami

A Public Space Disguised as a Place to Park

Strong: well written & organized

Weak: not very new; too little criticism. The parking place as banal type could be much more interesting than the ‘star-architects’ parking.

Rotterdam Centraal, Rotterdam

Lost in Wayfinding / Positioning Rotterdam Central Station

Strong: well conceived topic with strong appeal: ‘wayfinding’ vs ‘positioning’

Weak: a) new train station ‘formula’ (shopping mall style) is unrelated to specific design of Rotterdam CS; b) alternative unconvincing, or absent.

Rotterdam Centraal, Rotterdam

A Shared Delusion: Rotterdam Centraal

Strong: author consciously aims to develop his/her own specific and recognizable essay-style – whether this style pleases the reader is a matter of opinion;

Weak: too rhetorical; too little argument

Two houses, Delft

All the World’s a Stage

Strong: clear and recognizable ‘local’ topic;

Weak: unconvincing argument; theme of ‘religion’ also unconvincing. Calling the ‘machine-like’ building un-poetic and the traditional one poetic forgoes a whole era of poetry.

Honorable Mention

Book Mountain, Spijkenisse

I Am Because I Do

Strong: very strong and clear, rhetorically effective statement, a typical case of “J’accuse”

Weak: too little argument; and: conclusion of ‘no space for meaningful critique’ is gratuitous, and/or could be elaborated in a more interesting direction.

The Twins, Amsterdam

Tweelingen op de dijk / De dubble torens van 24H architecture

Strong: unusual topic at unusual location

Weak: insufficiently made clear why this topic & location should interest the reader

Centro Niemeyer, Alives

Light Beauty and Heavy Dystopia

Strong: potentially an intruiging, multi-layered, complex ‘dialectical’ argument/topic;

Weak: this complex dialectic is not successfully ‘played out’ in this brief essay; the essay looks more like a promising lay-out for an MA-thesis or PhD-thesis. Jury likes the idea the Niemeyer was a communist without being a Marxist.

 

Veld van Klanken, Hoogvliet

Modern Co-Housing: A Solution and a Dilemma

Strong: potentially nice combination of concrete case/building with social criticism;

Weak: concrete case functions too much (merely) as ‘stepping stone’ for general argument; social criticism too one-dimensionally cast in terms of segregation. Factually incorrect, the architect was involved from the beginning of the process.

‘Bois–le–Prêtre’ Tower renovation, Paris

What is the Cultural Meaning of a Project?

Strong: Balanced critique of the practice of destroying buildings to resolve social problems and the alternative.

Weak: misleading title. The pro- and con style weakens the argument.

Eye, Amsterdam

The Eye, Amsterdam

Strong: good essay-form. Jury appreciates the search for an own style.

Weak: too little criticism, too much ‘advertorial’ style. And: forced perspective in which everything becomes ‘cinematic’, also e.g. the aspect of ‘stage’ (which is ‘theatrical’, not cinematic)

Eye, Amsterdam

A Resonance of Postmodernity / Why the EYE building is a product of architectural language gone haywire.

Strong:  very well composed essay in which the strong interrelation between postmodernism, language and architecture is well brought out;

Weak: essay itself does not escape postmodern style; last paragraph unconvincing and should best have been left out.

Winner

Bloemenbuurt Heilust, Kerkrade

The Neighbourhood that Disappeared / Abortion and euthanasia in 21st century Dutch architecture: a critique

Strong: original and relevant/urgent topic of ‘subtractive architecture’, strong composition – this ‘catches’ eye & mind of the reader! The essay deals with a surprising choice of projects. The text also shows a potential for future architecture criticism.

Weak: not clear what concrete effect of ‘subtraction’ is in case of Heilust

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