Think Dutch: Conceptual Architecture and Design in the Netherlands. Bilingual text by Jeroen Junte and David Keunig. Daab/Frame Publishers. $175.
A third of the Netherlands lies below the present sea-level and the first priority is to live with, above and even on water. So it’s appropriate that this provocative survey should begin with a focus on water. Here are inventive bridges, a floating mosque, and a half-submerged tax office, as well as water purification devices.
The subtitle of the book is misleading: these are all concrete solutions, not blue-sky ideas, and perpetuate a centuries-old tradition of problem-solving. In his introduction, editor Robert Thiemann sees the financial collapse of 2008 as a decisive turning point for architecture. “The young designer of today is not, and has no wish to be, a star architect, but rather an anonymous team-player in a collective association of people in search of the correct moral and aesthetic attitude,” he writes. That may be true for idealists, and the spirit of collaboration in the profession is strong, but one suspects that many team players covet the success of OMA, MVRDV, and UN Studio, who have parlayed fame into global practices. A financial crisis doesn’t change human nature, and established firms that took a hit in 2008 are bouncing back.