DIALOGUE : : WINY MAAS : : DOMUS

MVRDV founder Winy Maas has taken the helm at Domus in 2019. The Dutch architect is the second guest editor in the 10x10x10 series, which sees 10 architects each take on the direction of 10 issues of the magazine for the 10 years leading up to Domus’ 100th anniversary in 2028.Winy Maas will edit 10 editions of Domus over the course of 2019, under the theme of the future city. This will see both the magazine and website take a focus on the future of urbanism for the year. 

ARCHITECTEM Milan contributor, Ayesha Sabri, held a conversation with Maas on taking up this new role. Maas is behind some of the most innovative urbanism of the 21st century, which he produces through the Rotterdam-based practice MVRDV he founded with Jacob van Rijs and Nathalie de Vries in 1993, and The Why Factory research unit he runs at Delft University of Technology.

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 Every new editor has brought a nuanced direction to Domus. What will be the focus of Domus issues under your guidance?

WM       I will focus, as a basic philosophy, on global urgencies. As you know, our planet is subject to dramatic climate change that requires all of us to speed up our actions to save it. The depletion of natural resources is accelerating tremendously. Huge income disparities create enormous social tensions. Moving populations demand action. Rampant desertification demands forests. Exponential population growth requires more products, more food, more oxygen, more energy, more water, better waste treatment.

So we need an agenda for change. An agenda to be implemented. I want to show how architects and urban planners, together, make and form the future city. I will show positive and optimistic ways to contribute to addressing these global urgencies, because within our disciplines we can make a difference. In that sense, I selected the theme “Everything is urbanism”, which allows me to present all projects in the context of these global urgencies.

 

 Having collected an extensive body of research, how will this contribute to the magazine? Any plans of future collaboration with your think-tank The Why Factory?

WM      The research we conduct at The Why Factory about the city of the future is at the foundation of Domus 19; how to make the city green, social and wonderful are questions that fascinate me. But after the first introduction, the monograph, in which we present the work of MVRDV and The Why Factory, we will of course focus on presenting the work of others. [By the way, I don’t like the word ‘monograph’ and much prefer ‘multigraph’ because the work we have shown is diverse and far from describable as ‘mono’.]

 

 The global outreach of Domus is expansive. Do you feel this is the moment to amplify your vision and ideas of the future cities to different geographical and cultural contexts from the “western -world”?

WM      Yes, the global issues we address are well-served by this global medium. But I would also like to stress that it works the other way too: we have a strong ambition to not be Eurocentric, simply because the majority of the city is currently made in Asia, America and Africa. We want to show this, too, to the European audience of Domus. It is a big world out there. Let’s discuss it…

 

In an ever-changing geo-political landscape, will your time at Domus, touch upon the post-disaster scenarios in cities and their future as potential laboratories for architects?

WM      We are aware of the warning about the implications of climate change and social inequality, of lack of democracy and other dangers to societies and cities. However, I would rather focus on the solutions that might still be part of contributing actively to prevent the worst-case scenarios. I think it’s cynical to opt out, like some software tycoons do, buy a farm in New Zealand and prepare for the worst. Let’s solve issues.

 

 Mobility is the predominant factor of the fabric of our built environment. In your opinion, will it continue to be one in the design of our new cities? or will the soft urban fabric have a chance to supersede, to take over as the base of the built    environment?

WM      Like the construction industry, transport is also a massive contributor to climate change. There, too, we need to find solutions and what is quite heartening is that there is a paradigm change in terms of the economy of transport. In more and more cities the old dogma that removing cars reduces economic value is over. We worked on aspects of the car-free city in Oslo or Seoul and have seen incredibly positive economic effects. In other places like Bordeaux, for example, we see that a smaller role for the car can create a more pleasant and intimate urban environment. Transport is changing and hopefully for the better, and these experiments deserve a global audience.

 

 We are curious to know if this new role will bring you to Milano more often and do you see this as an opportunity to develop a unique relationship with this city?

WM      Yes, I will come to Milano on a regular basis, which will allow me to understand the city better and perhaps to develop ideas and a vision. In Milano, as far as I have seen so far, the centre has a high quality whilst the outskirts are problematic suburban sprawl with social problems, transport issues and a lot of ugliness that is in stark contrast to the immense beauty of the inner city.

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