On Wednesday evening, I attended a public lecture by Winy Maas at the Bartlett School of Architecture.
Winy Maas is the ‘M’ in ‘MVRDV‘, the world-renowned Dutch architecture firm famous for its unprecedented designs all over the world as well as thought-provoking proposals for experimental projects.
Needless to say, the lecture was very interesting both because of Maas’ way of presentation and the content presented. First of all, I was amazed at how straightforward and frank Maas was. His somewhat arrogant yet encouraging tone made the talk even more alluring.
It was somewhat challenging to keep up with the pace of the talk, but I managed to capture one quote that I find quite interesting.
‘Randomness is a direction too’
Maas mentioned this while he was quoting a sentence from the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It is reassuring to hear that not having a particular direction while tackling design projects is normal and even sometimes preferable for a productive process. Randomness can indeed be a very refreshing and dynamic way of forming something usable out of arbitrary thoughts. Randomness may very well be one of the methods Maas himself uses to come up with his verging-on-crazy ideas about the future of architecture.
During his lecture, he argued that architecture can be and should be more about copying and less about originality. Although the word ‘copying’ is a notorious and an over-dramatic one, Maas is referring to using existent architecture as a source of inspiration or a starting point rather than trying to invent something from scratch. Even as an architecture student, I have felt the pressure to be authentic starting from the very first days of school. Taking this constraint off of the designer’s shoulders may very well prove beneficial to both the mental health of creative professionals and the quality of the final product. Using references is the standard procedure in most academic subject, and in art as well, so it is only sensible to question the egotistical reluctance to mention precedents when practicing architecture.
Questioning architecture today, Winy Maas has some truly unexpected proposals for housing in the future. He showed a video during his talk in which spaces shrunk and grew according to use. For example, when a room is not being used, space would completely collapse on itself and the room would grow if more space is needed for its program. Obviously, this technology does not currently exist, but it is thrilling to think about the efficiency of use of space, especially in dense cities.
What I really liked about Winy Maas was how surprisingly encouraging he was. At the end of the lecture, there was a Q&A session and it was amazing how attentively he listened to the questions from the audience. Although the questions were not that interesting, his response was completely supportive of curiosity and questioning. I find this attitude very crucial because his practice challenges norms and proposes exceptional designs so it would be contradictory if his success had made him become overly critical. I imagine this supportive attitude is what makes the Why Academy chaired by Maas at Delft University a remarkable place for studying innovative architecture.
Architecture Lecture Series at the Bartlett
An interview with Winy Maas
MVRDV Design Philosophy