society in 2050

In the Netherlands there are lots of neighborhoods with a shopping strip meant to be locally orientated. These shopping strips often are built in the  1950’s and 1960’s and lost functionality through changes in society(which is not strange after 50-70 years). New things as online shopping, sustainability, more parking spots, scale up of store sizes, environmental issues and legislation, and so on make these strips ready for a new life. How these strips can change is something I am doing a little research on at the moment.

To start my research I wanted to look where we are going in the future, and which trends we can see today. With this we might get a reasonable guess what we can expect and think of a good concept to improve this local shopping strips and give people a boost into the future.

Where we want to go I looked up at the site of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, but you could find it anywhere. In a nutshell, that outcome would be a planet of around 9 billion people, all living well – with enough food, clean water, sanitation, shelter, mobility, education and health to make for wellness – within the limits of what this small, fragile planet can supply and renew, every day.

Well, that is a very general statement, now back to human scale and how to get there. First of all, I think we have to look at some recent trends which might be leading us into the future.

TREND 1: traditional company concepts are no longer guarantee for success. What we see lately is that crafts become more important (again). It is a general reaction to the digitizing and scale growth in the world. Not only quantity and cheapness should be measured, but look for quality, craftsmanship,  genuineness and authenticity. That this often works with fair trade, use of local products, awareness of local situation and therefore is sustainable is a nice extra. 

TREND 2: people get more and more dependent on the local community / network. Social facilities and providings from national or local government are cut back and one has to rely on his/her family or neighbors.

TREND 3: we still have to hold the torch for enabling good education for everyone. Education is getting more and more expensive, and with that not available for everyone.

TREND 4: care is moving from hospitals to homes, where insurance companies pay only for cure, and hospitals do have to work as commercial companies.

TREND 5: Let us not forget those people who are not connected to internet and/or do not have a computer. They are with many.

TREND 6: globalization, social media, home automation, robotics, leads to other ways of living.

TREND 7: we are running out of traditional resources for energy.

As this is a research topic, more posts on this topic will be published in the future. any comment/ thoughts are welcome at this moment!
tnx in advance!


participation in architecture

What is participation? Looking at what the government of the Netherlands means with it (they call it ‘participatie-samenleving’, lit. participation society) it means doing it yourself. Everyone has to take his/her own responsibility, and the government does nothing. Mainly in care for sick and elderly people, social services, unemployed people – the weakest links in society – this leads to a non structured, chaotic situation.

In architecture participation has to do with different levels of influence people want to, or can, have at the look on the inside and outside of buildings, what leads to a slight line between chaos and structure. It comes with words as adaptable, flexible, integration, layers, bearing construction and loose elements, etc. How to turn stakeholders into shareholders. But actually, between the lines, people want to identify themselves in their surroundings, what was lost in modernity.

Constant Nieuwenhuys-new babylon

Participation becomes an issue in architecture in the 1950’s, when modernism gets old fashioned. Living, experiencing and seeing becomes more important than the pure functional and pragmatic modernism.  The lost interaction between human and his surroundings, a consequence of modern housing and urban planning, must been restored. For example Constant (Situationist International, avant garde) made the project New Babylon, where he envisioned a “world wide city for the future”, where land is owned collectively, work is fully automated and the need to work replaced with a nomadic life of creative play. As Constant puts it himself:

“The project of New Babylon only intends to give the minimum conditions for a behavior that must remain as free as possible. Any restriction of the freedom of movement, any limitation with regard to the creation of mood and atmosphere, has to be avoided. Everything has to remain possible, all is to happen, the environment has to be created by the activity of life, and not inversely.”

Building on this statement,  in the 1960’s architects mentioned  the separation of ‘support’ or base building from ‘infill’ or interior fit-out in residential construction and design. With this they want to give inhabitants a meaningful participation role in the design process, making it possible to let people give their own identity to their house to make it feel like home.

Later on in time new concepts like IFD (industrial, flexible and demountable) modular building, division from fixed, semi fixed and detached elements and lately I read about a new concept of creating a generic space with the fixed elements, a sort of fixed frame which gives the user the freedom to fill in all other elements the way he wants to.

But, looking beyond this beautiful concepts, people are not waiting for moving their kitchen a few inches, or to place a wall every 30 cm. people want to make their houses into homes, give it their identity so they feel at home, feeling able to explain to someone how to reach their home. That last thing is sometimes not very easy. Living in the Netherlands some city’s have endless districts with all the same houses, no shops libraries or whatsoever. To create more identity you need to have some specials like shops, library’s, schools and other buildings to prevail in a redundant surrounding. It also helps when a designer puts more meaning in the design.



some good books about architecture

Books about architecture there are a lot. The titles I want to recommend are not the usual books with pictures, they have their own purpose, but some theoretical books which give a background on why, what and how questions. Why do architects design the way they do, what means modernism , why is ornamentation such a big issue, how does politics or the condition of society influence architecture and so on and so on.

The titles are listed below in a random order. In my other articles (the ones already written and the ones to come) on architecture I hope to make more sense of them and give a more coherent view on architecture. If this was a scientific blog I would already have listed some of this books as source for my earlier posts on architecture.

– Architecture and modernity, a critique // Hilde Heynen
The book discusses the relationship between modernity, dwelling, and architecture, and goes into what modernity is, how it can be interpreted. This is discussed within the fields of philosophy, sociology, and cultural theory.

– On thinking, dwelling and housing // Martin Heidegger
Gives a different view about what building and living actually is or can be. How you can look at a thing, a work, at housing, building and dwelling. //philosophy 

– Meaning of the built environment // Amos Rapoport
A good book about meanings in architecture, linked to flexibility and vernacular architecture, symbols in architecture. Gives really good insight in how meaning and tradition were, are and in my humble opinion should be embedded or at least not be forgotten in contemporary architecture. The book is concerned with the meanings which buildings, their contents, and their inhabitants convey, and the conclusions which can be drawn therefrom for procedures of architectural design to satisfy the people who will ultimately live in these buildings.

– Image of the city // Kevin Lynch
A for me very important work about perception of the built environment. This work is often used to say something useful about image quality of a city, neighborhood, street and building in its context. How people experience and remember a city, paths, edges, nodes, districts and landmarks.

mental map of LA

– Studies in tectonic culture // Kenneth Frampton
A must read book about evolution of architecture, a very different approach, about the poetry of structure and construction.

– A history of building types // Nikolaus Pevsner
A standard on typology of buildings, with lots of 19th century examples of houses, libraries, hospitals, police stations,  etc.

– Language of post modern architecture // Charles Jencks
The book is about the paradigm shift from modern to postmodern architecture. Modern architecture concentrates on univalent forms such as right angles and square buildings often resembling office buildings. However, postmodern architecture focuses on forms derived from the mind, body, city context, and nature.

– De Architectura libri decem // Vitruvius
Ten books about principal views on architecture, city planning and more, written about 30 years BC, and still a standard.

– Collage city // Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter
More of the same Kevin Lynch is also writing about: human perception of the built environment.

– Complexity and contradiction in architecture // Robert Venturi
this book is a gentle manifesto for a nonstraightforward architecture, a complaint against modern architecture in favour of post modern architecture

 Well, I could go on for a while, there are more interesting books to read, but the ten books above make a nice start!

What is beauty?

What is beauty? can we say something more than only taste on image quality? That is what this story on architecture is about.

Once I was asked (the office I worked for at the time) to make an oversight on what the special architectural/image quality was in a specific neighborhood in Amsterdam. It would be used by the city council to determine what the image quality of the neighborhood is, so they can make local legislation on how to build. With it they inform citizens how to build or make an extension to their house, what color to paint it, etc.

What I did is describing the architecture, ensemble quality, how the houses are made in a certain style and what is appropriate for that style. Look how houses form a neighborhood, how a street is ended, how cars, bicycles and walking people find there way, how parking is solved and how these thing influence the image of the street.

Also adding to the quality of a neighborhood, and with that to the buildings, is the differentiation of buildings. Some shops and for example a library or a school add to the quality. I remember looking around in a city with a friend, and strange enough we saw that the quality of the pavement says something about the quality of the buildings along that road. In the beginning you think it doesn’t matter, and we didn’t realize it till we walked into another neighborhood and we saw the difference.

Having done this, I found that talking about the beauty of a building was not about taste, but about the condition of the building in its context. How the concept of the building fits the architectural style, how it relates to the people in the street and to the users or inhabitants of the building. What I think is important to make beautiful architecture is give a building meaning, embed it in the context and have an eye for detail, structure and texture. I like duality, ambiguity, hiding and revealing.

Quality of image, beauty of architecture is for me not only the beauty of the building, how it is designed on a drawing, but also how the surroundings fit the concept, are the surroundings also designed, does the building fits the place and has meaning (which can change in time). On the level of the building itself one can look for the detail, the material use, structure of the material, colors of the different materials fitting together, pure or eclectic in its style.


stranger in Syria (before the current war)

On my trip to Syria I decided to make some free sketches besides the photos, which are published in this post for the first time. We moved to Syria from Lebanon (more about Lebanon another time). To  Syria we went, traveling in a cab, an old Russian Volga. Our luggage was on the roof baggage rack on the top of the car, and we were with five people and a driver inside. As soon as we passed the border the trip became really cosy, because our guide, who waited there for us, wanted to drive with us, and seven people in a Volga is pretty crowded.

I visited Syria end of October, start November 2007. With the Volga we drove to the outskirts of Damascus, where we changed to two city cabs to go into the city centre. In Damascus we visited the national museum, the khan and of course the beautiful Omayyad mosque. Damascus is a beautiful and relaxed city. Often you are invited for a cup of tea in a store when you have interest to buy something, very nice people!

different impression of station of the orient, souks and Omayyad mosque. IMG_7804


After Damascus we went to Palmyra where we visited the valley of tombs, with the tower-tomb of Elabel, hereafter we went to the classical site (ruins)of the city where we saw the beautiful colonnades, old city entrances, a theater and a wonderful sunset.

By the route of Homs we went to a beautiful little town which is absolutely worth visiting: Hama, well known for its noria’s (watermills). Hama has a lovely town center with narrow streets with lots of children in it!

different impression of tomb of Elabel, pillar of Simeon, noria in Hama and Krak de chevaliers.

On our way to Aleppo we visited Qalat Semaan,  where the church of St Simeon Stylites is, with a stone from what is left of his pillar (see my sketch above). A very beautifull site! When you are in Syria and have the time: go there! this pillar is surrounded by the beautiful remaining of a church, mainly Byzantine style. It is the earliest Byzantine church I have heard of, dating back to the 5th century BC.

Aleppo I remember as a beautiful city, like Paris, only the eastern way. Bought some stuff for my family over there. enjoyed soukh. khan and the old city and citadel. About citadels: we also visited krak des chevaliers, an old very impressive crusader castle. On the top floor we met some engineering students learning how to draw in perspective.

To finish this post I want to mention a village called Ma’lula. there is a  cloister from st Sergei with a magnificent church, where we heard an ‘our father’ pray in Aramaic.  After a good cup of (Turkish) coffee we walked through a canyon to the tomb/cave of of st. Thecla, where we drunk some water from the holy well.

Syria: when war is over I highly recommend to go there, it is a beautiful country!


your name is… my son

In honor to my son Jonah Jari Senna, a short history on meaning of his name. My son Jonah was born on Saint Joseph’s day in the year 2012 AD.


For  more about Jonah see piece I wrote before. [click here]


Jari is a Finnish name which means helmeted warrior, and a shorter version of Jalmari/Hjalmar.

It is also a biblical name, in Hebrew spelled as  יערי , found in 2 sam 21:19 where it says : And there was again a battle in Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jari-oregin, a Bethlehemite, slew the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the staff of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam. In Hebrew Jari means the one who will spread the light, who will plead for you.

The name Jari is also mentioned in an ancient (ca 1000 AD) Scandinavian poem and prose called Edda, which tells us about the creation of the world, addressed to Odin by a prophetess. Jari is one of the dwarfs who is created. In Germanic mythology, a dwarf is a being that dwells in mountains and in the earth, and is variously associated with wisdom, smithing, mining and crafting.

Besides the named above Jari is a river in Brasil, affluent from the Amazone river.



Senna is an originally Arabic name which means brightness or truth, and well known from the formula 1 driver Ayrton Senna. Senna is an old name and, besides Arabic, also found in inscriptions from Roman Britain (40-400 AD) and thought to be an ancient Celtic name.

Senna is a flowering bush common in the tropics, with bright yellow flowers. This plant has gained some notice in herbal medicine as the active ingredient in so-called “dieter’s teas”.

stranger in Berlin

Berlin, a memorable city which I visited three times till now, once in 1996, once in 2004 and once in 2007. First time with a group friends, second time with a group of architects and the last time with a group of students (lots of fun).

The first time to Berlin we traveled by night train from Utrecht (the Netherlands). Hardly got any sleep, but far more comfortable than going there by bus. we stayed at an hostel at die Osloerstrasse, we saw lots of tourist places. The Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (memorial church for emperor William I) at the end of the Kurfürstendam (and a visit to KaDeWe), Hackesche Höfe and of course what was left from die Mauer (the Berlin wall). visited checkpoint charlie and museum, and the Pergamon museum: very impressive.

berlijnse muur

The Berlin wall, the no go area and wall at the opposite side.

The difference between East and West Berlin was still (since the collapse of the wall November 1989) very visible. There were lots of construction sites, lots of empty spaces were the wall has been standing. Alexanderplatz with the Fernsehturm (TV tower) and Weltzeituhr (World Clock) was being refurbished, the Potzdammerplatz was a very large building site around the underground station of the U-bahn (metro) and from the stairs of the Reichstag building you saw lots of emptyness wit a few buildings at the horizon, where is a beautiful park now and new buildings for the government.

berlijn uitzicht rijksdag

View from the stairs of Reichstag building 1996

Later trips made clear that the empty spaces were filled in, history partly washed away, which changes the spirit of the city, but in a good way I think . Berlin is ready for new history! Looking at the beautiful new buildings, making Berlin a very modern city which only is possible because of the past. New monuments were built.


Potsdammerplatz before realisation

In later visits, the new Potsdammerplatz, the new roof on the Olympic stadium, buildings from Mies van der Rohe, Renzo Piano, Philip Johnson, Jean Nouvel, and so on. The Jewish museum designed by Daniel Libeskind is a real must see. How he can design a building, wriggling uncomfortably in its place!

berlijn ned ambassade

The Dutch embassy designed by Rem Koolhaas. below the interior with art from Andy Warhol showing paintings of former queen of the Netherlands Beatrix.

berlijn ned ambassade binnen

Concluding on this: Berlin is a city you really should visit. the ‘genius loci’ changed, the city has grown in its advantage! just enjoy the lot, have a Berliner Weiss (beer), and go to the nice and beautiful places!

berlijn moderne architectuur

new modern architecture 😉