The NAi effect: creating architecture culture

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At a time when cultural institutions (both in the Netherlands and abroad) are adjusting to new societal and political conditions (and financial restrictions), The NAi Effect aims to elucidate the social and cultural aims of architecture museums and their impact in creating architecture culture. Specifically, it provides an objective analysis of the work of architecture museums, how they have attempted to enlarge the audience of architecture while also gauging the always difficult to quantify impact of an institution dedicated to improving something as intangible as the context for the production and appreciation of architecture. Ultimately, this book offers insights to how cultural policy works in practice and how specific national cultural actions relate to a global context.
When the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi) was established as an institution during the 1980s, it was intended to be the final point of a process to emphasize the relevance of architecture as a cultural force in society. Its existential necessity was prepared by over a century of philanthropic collecting of architectural artifacts in paper and model, temporarily stored in several improvised locations. The decisive impulse to develop such haphazard efforts into an officially supported, centrally organized, institute came from the sphere of cultural politics, as the contributions of the architectural profession to the public realm became increasingly appreciated. Based on widespread support for the creative dimension of architecture, the NAi was considered to be a solution with aspirations of permanence. In reality, this permanence lasted no more than a quarter of a century. Ironically, while the NAi had been the result of a culture political impulse, it also became the victim of such an impulse when the ideological preferences shifted.
Based on extensive historical research, The NAi Effect presents, contextualizes, and interprets the history of the NAi, as it became a forceful instrument in shaping both the production and appreciation of architecture in the Netherlands. By connecting architectural history, theory, and practice as well as engaging a wide audience with architecture, the NAi was able to considerably shape Dutch architecture culture. Beyond effectively democratizing Dutch architecture culture, the NAi also altered its perception, blurred its boundaries, and developed new discursive territories for its reflection and discussion. Inevitably, the influence of the institute, that is, the ‘NAi effect,’ was experienced far and wide, being perhaps most discernible as an entire new generation of Dutch architects increasingly garnered attention from international architectural circles. But beyond noting the institute’s accomplishments, this book also identifies and discusses its shortcomings, since its comprehensive historical analysis has afforded a unique perspective into the causes for the institute’s demise. Ultimately, this book clarifies both ends of the relatively short history of the Rotterdam institute, while also providing an overview of what was achieved in between.
By contextualizing the work and ambitions of architecture museums both in a historical and societal context, The NAi Effect hopes to stimulate a greater appreciation for the work of these institutions and foster a public conversation regarding their role in the current cultural apparatus. Therefore, this book intends to provide – a much needed – critical reflection and stimulate an informed public debate on the legacy of the Netherlands Architecture Institute (NAi). Such reflection is particularly timely, since not only there are increasing concerns over the public funding and support of cultural institutions, but the very management of the Het Nieuwe Instituut (HNI) has come under close scrutiny. Most importantly, this book reframes the discussion on the essential topic of assessing the work of institutions (rather than individuals) and thus assist in developing better institutional practices. Given the state of the public conversation, this project is not only relevant, but may very well have a crucial impact in devising the future of the institution.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationRotterdam
Number of pages368
ISBN (Print)978-94-6208-307-3
Publication statusPublished - 25 Nov 2016


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