4th International Architecture Biennale, Rotterdam

The models were arranged in three groups
(Image credit: Press)

'We genuinely think that the future of cities will very soon become more important than countries,' declared Biennale Director George Brugmans as he introduced the 2009 event.

The 4th International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam (IABR) launched its main exhibitions last week, introducing the curators and unveiling the participants’ extensive research on a theme as wide and all-encompassing as it is important; the contemporary city.

See our highlights from the Biennale

Entitled Open City: Designing Coexistence, this year’s biennale is set to investigate both the present and future of the urban environment as we know it, as well as comment on its myriad effects in urban planning and architecture.

Wallpaper* Future 30

‘Naturally, we couldn’t miss such an architectural gathering. Our own Future 30 exhibition, presenting the 30 models of all the houses created for the 2009 Architects Directory, also opened with the official biennale celebrations. With models made at the DMC Bartlett, housed in the Chabot Museum just across the street from the NAI and appropriately launched with a lovely cocktail party.

A group of models from the exhibition

(Image credit: Press)

See more images from the Wallpaper* future 30 show

Watch the film of our making of the Wallpaper* Future 30 exhibition

The 4th IABR

Building up from Mobility (2003), via Flood (2005) and through to Power (2007), the IABR has, since its birth six years ago, elaborated on some of the most important current urban design issues, always working with the concepts and realities concerning the contemporary city. This year’s Biennale seems to be incorporating most of its previous concerns, adding even more questions and themes to the debate and trying to identify what creates the future’s ideal ‘open’ city, a state of inclusion, diversity and coexistence.

Physically divided into six themes touching on different aspects of a city: De Maakbare Samenleing (a standard Dutch expression from the 1960s for the ‘make-able’ society), Squat, Refuge, Collective of Eastern Europe, Reciprocity and Community; the Biennale’s main exhibition at the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAI) spans all the continents and a variety of urban situations.

'We are very much a research biennale,' continues Brugmans, 'we pay a lot of attention to research and there is a big part behind the scenes which you cannot see.' His claim quickly became evident as we took in the dense and analytical exhibition of drawings, sketches, photos and films at the NAI. Featuring teams of architects and students from around the world, the scope and scale of the brief means the handsome catalogue (available from SUN Publishers at the NAI bookshop on site) is an essential purchase.

Adding to the extensive research, the plethora of events taking place in and around the main exhibition for the next three and a half months; like the Parallel Cases students projects show at the RDM Campus curated by Ralf Pasel and featuring work by 45 Universities around the globe; a two-week masterclass for Dutch and international students; and a series of collaborations and archive projects with Dutch broadcasting company VPRO; and you’ll get a very well informed, multi-faceted and fully grown yet thoroughly enjoyable Biennale event, which is certainly worth visiting.

See our highlights from the Biennale

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture & Environment Director at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018), Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020) and House London (2022).