Engelse versie – Daniel Rosbottom over oeuvre Office Winhov
Eind november 2016 is aan Office Winhov de ARC16 Oeuvre Award uitgereikt. Professor Daniel Rosbottom blikt in deze tekst terug op de betekenis van het oeuvre. | The work of Office Winhov is part of what has long felt an undercurrent, a counter culture to the concern with formal invention and spectacle that has dominated Dutch architectural culture for a generation.
Their work follows a line of European rationalism and situated modernity that is grounded in a sophisticated and open reading of history and which avoids a reliance on motif as an expression of authenticity- The buildings made by Office Winhov exist and oscillate between figure and ground, figuration and abstraction. For them critical observation is the first act of proposition – they are concerned with the found condition – nonetheless it is also a practice that finds its essence in the making of things. Thinking quickly translates into building and language into the language of construction.
When you visit the buildings of Winhov, the mastery of material and the processes and craft of making are immediately apparent. Within the same constrained circumstances that many architects work within, they demonstrate a consistent ability to produce work of a refined, crafted sensibility, carefully detailed and exquisitely made. This is important for a culture from which such qualities feel largely absent.
Office Winhov: Uri Gilad, Joost Hovenier (1963-2016), Jan Peter Wingender – foto: Dana Lixenberg
The character of their architecture is enriched through proximity, time and familiarity. The buildings they make have the capacity to become old friends – with qualities that mirror the precise, questioning but above all generous spirit that the architects themselves embody. This is intimate, hard won knowledge. It can be seen in their mastery of the language of brick, which in more recent work has been translated into other materials and forms of expression. – exemplified in the beautifully wrought precast concrete of their newly completed project Studentenhuisvesting Eindhoven for example. Whilst each building is concerned with its immediate situation, they can equally be understood as part of a larger whole, as this award recognizes – their collective qualities found in the subtleties of detailed expression and in silent, poetic variation.
Studentenhuisvesting Eindhoven, foto: Stefan Müller
Of course, an interest in material and the processes of making can become a kind of fundamentalism but with their work, this is always tempered by a broader interest in place, people programme and the structures of the city.
This innate understanding of architecture’s responsibility to the city is the other key contribution the office makes to contemporary architectural culture – one is particularly important in the context of the Netherland’s recent architectural history but which is also embedded in the deeper structures of the country’s spatial memory.
Their projects start from an understanding of the wider role that buildings can play in developing the city’s structure and the life it hosts.
This can be seen in the series of housing projects upon which the office built its reputation. These can be seen not only as well made, generous and dignified places to dwell but also as the urban tissue that forms shapes and stitches together the spaces and edges of our urban environment. Their more recent work makes a different but no less valuable contribution to this urban discourse in its translation and transformation of monumental structures to meet the requirements of contemporary urban life with dignity and vitality, the W Hotel in Amsterdam being a notable example.
This interest in the architecture of the city encompasses both its modernity and its heterogeneity. As architects, they take note of anonymous buildings and those made by architects overlooked in the larger trajectory of history. In this they are part of a tendency, which has gained wider international attention in recent years, allowing their importance to grow from what they themselves might describe as ‘local heroes’ into a practice whose work has growing significance far beyond the borders of the Netherlands. Their current diverse and international workload demonstrates that whilst this award celebrates their oeuvre – it is one that is still very much in the process of development and enrichment – we have only seen the beginning.