Against the Grain

16 till 17 January 2015

Against the Grain
on the narrative characteristics of architecture

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust
and ashes, and forgot."
The Sandman, Neil Gaiman

From ancient Aboriginal Dreamings and Greek Mythology, to today’s Facebook Fictions and Urban Myths, stories are the foundation of our culture, giving meaning to everyday events, oiling our social machinery, interweaving the past and the present, and imagining visions of the future.

At the symposium, we want to discuss the original meaning of the term narrative, as a form of knowledge production that embraces variety and interdisciplinary conceptions of experience, association and belonging. What is the current status of the curriculum at the architectural schools in Aachen, Delft, Eindhoven, Liege, Hasselt and London?

Our aim is to bring together young architects, educators, thinkers and artists from various fields that are currently engaged in the subject of the narrative. In their role as experts/referents they will be asked to enter the debate and prevent the discussion from becoming self-referential.

Woven into the discussion are performances and interventions that will further fuel the debate. The audience is taken on a special journey through the derelict area of Belvedere. In this way, the symposium is set up to compose its own narrative.

From the late 60s up to the 90s, narrative became a central element in the architectural debate, first in Europe and later in the USA. Architectural schools opened their curriculum to narrative modes of architectural education and representation. The early works of students and teachers like Rem Koolhaas, Ettore Sottsass Jr and Bernhard Tschumi contributed to a script for action and a utopian dream for the future. Instead of the singular representation of form, the focus of the architectural project moved to a multidimensional strategy, thereby opening up the debate to more than one reading.

After an influential period of academic and theoretical discourses there have also been approaches to apply narrative methodologies into the built architecture. Early projects by OMA, Bernard Tschumi, Peter Eisenman, Coop Himmelblau as well as Diller + Scofidio have a clear narrative approach towards architectural production. Yet, although most of these offices still play a leading role in today ́s architectural world, it seems their focus on and the meaning of the narrative in their works have become less significant.

In this symposium, our particular interest is to investigate and open up a debate on the importance of narrative design not only in the period from the 1960s to the 1990s, but today – and in the future. Is narrative architecture still relevant to the current condition? How is it being used and adapted in theory and practice today? And how does it differ from other, more traditional methods of architecture? Has it changed from then to now? And if so, how?

We want to open up a debate concerning the importance of narrative methodologies, and its adaptation in architectural design in both practice and education. Has the narrative become such an obvious part of architecture that the concern for it has completely vanished? Has the bourgeois media culture and commercial interest de-emphasized the coding of the narrative into a naturalized ongoing story, artfully presenting architecture as the product of natural circumstances, thereby divesting it of its decorum?


* Naja & deOstos, London
* Klaske Havik, TUDelft, Writingplace
* Koen Deprez, architect
* Jacob Voorthuis, TUEindoven
* Wim van der Bergh, RWTH-Aachen
* Patricia Austin, MA Creative Practice for Narrative Environments, London

And special performances by: Het Geluid, Joris Lindhout, Sjoerd Vreugdenhil and Intro in Situ.

Location: Bureau Europa
*:Friday only:  € 12,50 (excl. VAT) / student: € 5,-
Friday and Saturday
: € 25,- (excl. VAT) / student: € 12,50
* includes lunch, drinks, special performances and entry to our current exhibition ‚Cedric Price - The Dynamics of Time’ 



Friday 16 January: 19:30 - 22:00 hours

- welcome

- prologue

- main act by Naja & deOstos

- scene I discussion

- epilogue

- informal reception


Saturday 17 January: 10:30 – 18:00 hours

- welcome

- prologue

- act I: secret performance

- interlude

- act II: 11:30 - 13:30

- scene I Jacob Voorthuis

- scene II Patricia Austin

- scene III discussion

- lunch

- interlude

- act III 15:00 - 17:00

- scene I Klaske Havik

- scene II Koen Deprez

- scene III discussion

- epiloog

- informal reception

The symposium is organized by Bureau Europa in collaboration with the Department of Wohnbau, Faculty of Architecture, RWTH Aachen, and placed in the context of Bureau Europa’s ongoing research ‘Notes and Notations’, to which knowledge production informed by neighbouring disciplines is the central theme.

Photos taken during the symposium