‘What I think is most important is that we – the cultural institutions – connect with our environment, the makers in the area, our city and our planet. I strongly believe in the need to portray alternative perspectives, and that is where design is absolutely key’, says Saskia van Stein, managing director of Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. IT’S ABOUT TIME we engaged in conversation with this harbour maker!

Saskia was educated in the visual arts at the Koninklijke Academie in The Hague, but after spending a year in New York, she exchanged the art scene for in-depth reflection about architecture and the city. Now a senior lecturer on the Critical Inquiry Lab master programme, she teaches at the Design Academy in Eindhoven, somewhere that many makers from M4H Rotterdam also have their roots. For those who are not yet familiar with M4H: M4H or the Merwe-Vierhaven area is a progressive city port of Rotterdam. It is a place where experiment, creation and growth are given ample space.

Unpolished port aesthetic

The IABR team (Internationale Architectuur Biënnale Rotterdam) have been operating from the Keile premises in Rotterdam for two-and-a-half years. Why this location? Says Saskia: ‘I love the aesthetics of the port: expansive, raw and unpolished. Anything could happen here and there is room for daydreaming. There is a ravelled edge to this area, a good vibe that naturally creates inspiring insights. Things are pretty informal here. You can feel that something is happening; things are bubbling…’

20 years of Internationale Architectuur Biënnale

Saskia explains: ‘In 2022, IABR will have existed for twenty years. The exhibition we are preparing now is all about time and climate, and the question of what we have to do tomorrow to ensure a liveable society in fifty years. This will be the tenth time the event has been held in the Ferro Gashouder. The title IT’S ABOUT TIME refers to the time pressure that we are experiencing in counteracting the effects of climate change’.

A stage for climate change

A former natural gas holder is the ideal setting for an exhibition devoted to climate change. The natural gas that was stored in the dome of the Ferro Gashouder was used to supply gas to a large part of Rotterdam. Saskia: ‘To me, this seems an appropriate site to reflect on possible ways to approach a future without fossil fuels. The building symbolises the very topic we are addressing’.

One hundred designers

The IABR consists of several exhibitions: IT’S ABOUT TIME in the Ferro Gashouder tackles time in relation to climate, and the work of high-potential alumni will be featured in FUTURE GENERATION at the Keile premises. Saskia: ‘We asked all the universities and academies in the Netherlands and Belgium to list their outstanding talents from the past three years’. The third exhibition, in which the themes of residential building, energy transition and the consequences of climate change will play an important role, features the work of 100 designers and is called Ministerie van Maak!

You can visit Architecture Biennale Rotterdam from 22 September to 13 November.

Photos: Eric Fecken

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