Breaking News & Top Stories

13 March 2015

Strategic spatial planner, architect, and researcher Jan Willem Petersen will give a workshop in which he will discuss his particular working methods on the basis of projects such as 'Assembling Afghanistan', 'Constructing Lebanon' and 'the Terrorism as Urban Practice'. Collectively participants will reflect on JWP’s presentation and discuss the surplus value of an alternative practice based on engagement rather than participation and on expansion instead of framing.

In his direct approach to spatial practice, Petersen leaves no means unexploited to penetrate the complexity of a specific context. He actively employs strategies of immersion and engagement as operative tools to reveal the stakeholders and structures that make up the reality of seemingly impenetrable conditions.

Inhabiting a unique position within a relatively conservative profession, Jan Willem asks how we choose the appropriate means and attitude to engage in a project? How do we manage our way to the table of decision-making and how do we extract knowledge necessary to intervene.

Collectively we will reflect on JWP’s presentation and discuss the surplus value of an alternative practice based on engagement rather than participation and on expansion instead of framing. We will question the validity of the architect’s instinct to respond with the idea of building.

The workshop participants will engage in a field exercise that aims to generate ‘Breaking News & Top Stories’ derived from a pre-defined site in the city of Maastricht. You will pair up, and as couples opportunistically seek specific spatial conditions and make those explicit by means of a column.The column is the result of an active immersion on site. You will engage with the most compulsory element that defines the given space; its people. With an investigative attitude you will gather spatially significant information. The encounter you select forms an integral part of the urban fabric, however mundane these situations might appear on first glance.

The exercise is an encouragement to distil urban realities and mechanisms that are otherwise hard to discover. An architectural section is unlikely to discover the shoplifter warning system that local shop owners informally agreed upon. A street map will doubtfully reveal the strategy of dead drop for illicit substances by addicts and their suppliers. But also less dramatic encounters can inform your column; ambulance personal escorting an elderly for his routine medical check-up, someone rumouring the underground party, the hint of a congregation space of the local brass ensemble by a remembrance picture, the staffing levels and hence accessibility of church to confess your sins, the transition of the site through the eyes of by ‘antique’ market stall figure, etc. All the above are spatial conditions that design traditionally caters for, like designing crime prevention (i.e. more flood flights), or public square design and subsequent market arrangement. The exercise argues that immersion and a thorough understanding of the underlying realities can distil invaluable design ingredients. They are part of your design ‘vocabulary’.

Bio Jan Willem Petersen
Jan Willem Petersen is a graduate of the Architectural Association School of Architecture London (Hons) and the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam.  In 2006, he founded Specialist Operations; an independent spatial strategy and design consultancy.

During his study at the AA School, he developed a strong interest in working in an integrated way with professionals who shape profoundly the urban environment, but are often from non-spatial fields. This has led to his regular involvement in highly complex projects. His work has supported governments, international organizations, and local communities by providing strategic consultancy, cultural analysis, in-depth urban research, and design. Currently Petersen works on the evaluation of the Dutch reconstruction mission in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan.

Date: Friday 13 March, 9:30 - 18:00
Costs: 7,50 euro (incl. lunch)

Please register at

There is limited space, so hurry.

Breaking News & Top Stories