BITS AND PIECES
18.11. 2015 lecture at 7.30 p.m.
Academy of Art, Architecture & Design in Prague
nám. Jana Palacha 80, Prague 1
2nd floor, room 115
The lecture will be held in English.
"An architect’s skills are completely wasted on making buildings." This recently much discussed quote by Liam Young, an architect and theoretician, commenting on the status of contemporary architecture and the architectural profession, could well function as the motto for the initiative of ROTOR, a Brussels-based group composed mostly of graduated architects. They have decided to give up on their architectural activities and shift their interest towards a wider field of activity, in which they rethink alternative approaches related to architecture, primarily in relation to sustainability.
Maarten Gielen, along with architects Tristan Boniver and Lionel Devlinger, is one of the founding team members of the ROTOR group, which has been operational since 2005 in Brussels. In their activities they combine practical, research and curatorial approaches towards shaping critical approaches in the use and re-use of material resources in the construction industry and architecture. To them, architecture is the object of recycling in the first place. They approach architecture in its reverse phase of process, i.e. at the moment when it is assigned for transformation or demolition.
The group develop their own economic activities in the "Rotor Deconstruction" company, which deals with the disassembly and resale of architectural and construction material intended for demolition. The specificity distinguishing the practice of Rotor from regular demolition companies is based on the effort to discover new strategies that could affect materials' longevity and continued use in further projects. This applies to the legislative amendments, establishing cooperation with other potential entities such as real estate agencies, developers, manufacturing companies, designers or architects, as well as providing consulting services. The group has recently managed to complete legal and practical guidelines for the reclamation of reusable materials from public buildings. Based on the research by a Belgian informal sector network of small retailers of used building materials, Rotor founded an online Opalis database to gather offer and demand ads. The Rotor group also mainly designs interiors in order to demonstrate how to provide used elements and materials with a new context, meaning and aesthetic value.
Rotor's research activities often lead to exhibition projects executed entirely by the group — from composing the texts and catalogue to design and installation. One of the first exhibitions entitled "Usus/Usures", which won wider public awareness for the group, was held in the Belgian pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2010. A successful retrospective "OMA/Progress" in the Barbican Art Gallery followed in London in 2012, uncovering the work of one of the most famous international studios. The "Behind the Green Door" exhibition held within the Oslo Architecture Triennale in 2013 introduced a critical look at sustainable architecture through 600 selected objects.
The Rotor group collaborates with many organisations dealing with ecology and sustainability in connection with industrial development (e.g. Lafarge Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction). The group has won a number of awards for its activities. Most recently it won The Global Award for Sustainable Architecture 2015, granted by the LOCUS Foundation and Cite de l'Architecture & du patrimoine. Maarten Gielen, despite not being an architect himself, was awarded the Rotterdam-Maaskantprijs voor Jonge Architecten 2015 this year for the social significance of his projects within the Rotor group. Since 2012, he has also been a Visiting Professor at Haute école d'art et de design Genéve (HEAD).