Scroll to explore Open: A Bakema Celebration

The Dutch entry at the 14th International Architectural Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia will examine the work and ideas of the architect Jaap Bakema. The exhibition Open: A Bakema Celebration will critically reflect on the idea of the open society through Bakema’s work and research. It will constitute one of the first activities of Het Nieuwe Instituut and Delft University of Technology’s new Jaap Bakema Study Centre. The 14th Venice Architecture Biennale opens on 7 June and runs through 23 November. 

The shifting roles of the state and the market, the architect and the individual citizen are scrutinised in an installation that utilises a multiplicity of media: models, historical correspondence, photography, drawings, TV material and films as well as the Post Box for the Open Society, an online platform for architects and designers to share new ideas for the open society.

Open society

Jaap Bakema (1914–1981) aimed to build toward a new, open society that was democratic, egalitarian and all-inclusive. He believed architecture should accommodate the emancipation of the masses while allowing for the self-realisation of the individual citizen.

What is the relevance of such idealism today? What was the open society then? And what could it be today?

Jaap Bakema

Jaap Bakema was a partner in the Rotterdam office Van den Broek en Bakema. He and his team were responsible for some of the most monumental proposals for the Dutch welfare state, such as the monumental design for the extension of Amsterdam: Plan for Pampus (1964). Other projects by the office that still inspire include the design of the Lijnbaan shopping centre in Rotterdam (1948–1953), the town hall for Terneuzen (1963–1972), the Hansaviertel tower block in Berlin (1957) and the suburb ‘t Hool (1969–1972) in Eindhoven.

Bakema was a leading voice in the post-war avant-gardes of 20th-century architecture: CIAM and its successor Team 10. Together with Aldo van Eyck and Herman Hertzberger he was a member of the now- famous editorial board of the Dutch journal Forum in the years 1959–1963, which sought to renew modern architecture by pioneering the interrelations of architecture, planning, the arts, history and the social sciences. Bakema was also an eminent professor of architecture at Delft University of Technology.

Open is curated by Guus Beumer, the director of Het Nieuwe Instituut, and Dirk van den Heuvel, an associate professor of architecture at Delft University of Technology and the head of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre. Dutch design studio Experimental Jetset is responsible for the spatial and graphic design of the exhibition. Photographer Johannes Schwartz will contribute a photo essay of Bakema’s work

Rem Koolhaas, the chief curator of the Biennale, has chosen the overarching theme Absorbing Modernity, 1914–2014. Koolhaas has cited the First World War as the beginning of modern globalisation. Koolhaas has asked the curators of all national pavilions to respond to this overarching theme in relation to their respective national identities. Het Nieuwe Instituut views Bakema as a compelling exponent of the Dutch welfare state and the idea of an open society.

The Netherlands Ministry Of Education, Culture and Science has appointed Het Nieuwe Instituut as commissioner for the Dutch biennale entry. Partners: Ministry of Education, Culture and Science, Embassy of the Kingdom of The Netherlands in Italy, Delft University of Technology, Foundation Rietveld Pavilion Venice, Mecanoo Architecten, J.E. Jurriaanse Stichting, NWO, ArchiNed, Volume


07/06 – 23/11/2014
Venice, Italy