On 28 May, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, en Milieu, opened the sixth edition of the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam, IABR–2014–URBAN BY NATURE.
The opening ceremony was moderated by Henk Ovink, advisor to the American government and one of the curators of the last biennale, Making City.
The guests were welcome by Ed Nijpels, chair of the Supervisory Board of the IABR, and a former Minister of Spatial Planning and the Environment.
THE NEED FOR RESEARCH BY DESIGN
In her opening speech the Minister, Melanie Schultz van Haegen, urged everyone to seriously explore the future of our cities. New technologies, the transfer of responsibilities to regional and local governments, water and also nature are important issues on which to focus. "How can we combine urban development and the dynamics of nature in the coming decades? This is one of the most important questions the world faces right now."
The Minister stressed the IABR's role as a research biennale: "We cannot know the future of our cities in detail but we can still explore it. The Biennale helps us to discover and to see the future a little more clearly. So I urge you all to make good use of it and design answers to the questions of today and tomorrow."
Executive director George Brugmans asserted that it is IABR's mission to promote the research by design methodology: "The role we claim is that of a free and open cultural space that brings together designers and all stakeholders for a detour that acts as an alternative route to the future; a free and open space that acts as an incubator for innovation. This makes the IABR first of all an ongoing research by design program. A submarine that comes up for air every two years – and now is the moment again– to present the outcomes of the ateliers and build a public argument around these, with exhibitions, films, conferences, and whatever we think of."
Adriaan Visser, vice-mayor of Rotterdam, underlined the biennale's importance for the city. "The International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam has become a genuine Rotterdam tradition. It has proven to be an innovative platform to outline new perspectives and opportunities for our city."
In his speech, Visser focused on the results of the IABR–Project Atelier Rotterdam, a comprehensive research by design trajectory in which city and biennale closely collaborated: "The knowledge resulting from the Project Ateliers contribute to a strong, attractive and resilient city. A city that will inspire other cities worldwide."
VIDEO MESSAGE FROM WASHINGTON DC
The American Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Shaun Donovan, who was going to attend the opening, had to cancel but spoke to the guests in a specially recorded video message.
The ceremony was concluded by the curator, Dirk Sijmons: "Not only the boundary between the city and the countryside is blurring but also the boundary between nature and society. The fascinating aspect of our time is the hybridizing of the biosphere with the techno-sphere at large. Hence the observation that the urban landscapes forms our habitat, ecology and our nature. We are a social species with a propensity to cluster together and to build cities: we are Urban by Nature. This positive angle on urbanization as a highly successful model of spatial organization does not eclipse the observation that most global environmental problems have urban roots. If we want to solve these problems we have to solve our urban problems."
After the opening 800 guests from all over the world previewed the exhibition URBAN BY NATURE– in the Kunsthal and in the Natural History Museum Rotterdam.
On 29 May the biennale opens its doors to the general public.