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ARCHITECTURAL KITSCH WITHIN MVRDV'S LEVELS?

    MVRDV´s latest achievement is materialized by the completion of the Holland Pavilion at the world Expo in Hannover. Amongst everyday viewers it is a different, perhaps beautiful building. Some considerer it to be one of the most interesting pavilions standing at the Expo, some abhor it. Such a feverish polarization in opinions is primarily found at the design and architecture level. Many critics, and architects agree that this pavilion is the ultimate evidence of how literally models, and process of ideas and thoughts can be taken. Some of the people from this group would like to label MVRDV´s creation under the dim, shallow lights of kitsch; however, for others, this building represents a total lack of exacerbating factors against how feasible a designer’s ideas in building construction are. As writer and critic Jos Bosman explains, MVRDV´s latest creation shows us to what extent visions are feasible, based on a published cartoon of stacked up cities that first appeared in Life magazine: “…And suddenly the cartoon which first appeared in Life magazine in 1909 and was reproduced by Koolhaas, showing a piled up landscape in the Dutch Pavilion at the Expo 2000 in Hannover becomes real… MVRDV has clearly recognized the feasibility of such visions” (1 ) Thus, a very important question arises: How literally we take the feasibility of ideas? If almost anything can be conceivable in the realm of our reality, if almost every idea that comes up in our mind can be transferred from the vision to the tactile world? Then, what should we bring into our reality? It is all a question of justifying our actions and ideas as the creators. Yet being a creator, a judge, and our own best personal critic is a cumbersome task. In the Dutch pavilion the mollifying points to this paradigm are the nature of the building created and the achievement of the concept through its execution.
     The first is a very important reason as to why the minds of MVRDV escaped the deep abyss of the architectonic kitsch. When creating a space such as a pavilion, the question of what is a pavilion and what you want to achieve with it become important. Blatantly, a vast array of this year’s pavilions was aimed to show the most positive and attractive qualities and potentials of the nations in order to attract investments to these. Holland is a country that boasts about how a great amount of their landscapes have been designed with high detail, yet they do not seem as pre-meditated, pre-designed environments. (2) Thus, the main phrase that bolstered the pavilion exhibition was: “Holland makes space.” MVRDV is using materials in a beautiful fashion, taking them as indigenous to Holland as possible, and arranging them in layers to create different spaces that portrait the essence of Holland landscapes. It is the nature of the pavilion the factor that is allowing the creators to literally take materials that are part of Holland and use them to create spaces, e.g. the pavilion’s forest level.
     The second factor sprawls from the previous one. The execution of this nature concept links the section of the building, in terms of the layers, and the circulation in what seems a very banal gesture, yet it possesses an extraordinary level of order. The main entry is at ground level, yet the beginning of the visit path is on the rooftop garden. As the visitor takes the elevator ride, he/she engages with the open fields of the German landscape, to then face an open field with a pond that marks the beginnings of Holland territories. Contemporary windmills flank the top of this level, and the water of the pond streams down the wall of the level that is below, starting to indicate the next step of the visit. On the way down, the water curtain becomes accessible to the touch and sight of people, and at the moment the spectator is surrounded by these water curtains, a feeling of engaging with a very exotic aquatic habitat is achieved. These curtains create a very fresh space that, in turn, refreshes the forest level that is exactly below this floor. The spare water is pumped back to the top level at this point. (2 )  Already in a section analysis the designer literally starts to connect the first three levels by the use of water. The huge logs of the next level serve as structural members that sustain the previous levels, and are part of the artificially created forest that is created here. One level below this there is a space that is created by using flowers, one of the most important exports of Holland, and the other two levels become a type of man-made transition that is shown by a finished-concrete space and a rough-finished concrete space. All these layers are combined so that the visitor experiences nature at a high opened level, coming down to latter stages of human intervention at the last three levels. The theme of how Hollanders have created a varied spectrum of spaces by using natural resources is conveyed by creating a pavilion that is very circumspect of how the ideas were rendered in reality, yet it is very abstract in the tectonics and its use of materials. Overall, MVRDV is exonerated of the charges of architectural kitch, because the program of a pavilion is plastic enough for this, and their innovating use of materials to formulate, new fresh spaces allows them to avoid kitsch, and achieve a paragon level.

(1) Bosman Jos. Form Follows Function.  Daidalos Magazine. July 2000.
(2) Russel James. In Holland the shock of the New.  Architectural Record. July 2000.
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