Tentoonstelling voor verbeelding

Steven van Raan graduated with ‘Exhibition for Imagination , a capriccio of an incomplete past’ (Tentoonstelling voor Verbeelding , een capriccio van een onvoltooid verleden) from the Academy of Architecture (Master in Architecture). 

‘The architect as artist versus the architect as realist. Free and intuitive creation versus deliberate and structured work. These are two totally different design approaches that intrigue me.

In this graduation work, you will find my redesign for the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam. The Frederiksplein is a place with a rich history, of which unfortunately nothing is visible in its contemporary form. I aim to restore the old historical value by means of a layered design, which is based on a lot of research, while at the same time creating a lot of space for imagination, alienation and wonder.    

The graduation work is a study only on paper in which there are no limits and I do not allow myself to be hindered by the reality of architecture. I want to create a field of tension between architecture and art, but also between imagination and reality. I will go far in this; as far as I can, to eventually design absurd spaces in which people will continuously marvel. 

In the design process, I tried as an architect to disconnect from the limitations that I consciously and/or unconsciously impose on myself – a process that I associate with drawing, a fascination of mine. Moreover, I have used existing design techniques from surrealist art, another fascination of mine. This graduation work can therefore also be regarded as an investigation into the extent to which the process of making (surreal) drawings can yield a better, more exciting and more fascinating architectural design.   

With my participation, I hope to reach a wider audience and encourage them to go off the beaten path and transform criticism of existing processes into strength during a search for innovation.'

'This work is an ode to the imagination and drawings.'


Marlies Boterman & Paul Kuipers, (both architects and members of the graduation committee): 'Steven van Raan has conducted research into the history and the layered quality of the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam. By meticulously tracing the built context and its users, he (re)introduces the importance of historical awareness of architectural practice. He has defined the future in his project in a poetic way as an ‘incomplete past’.It has resulted in a wonderful and speculative architectural design in which a future full of imagination is evoked on the basis of the layered history of the site.  

Steven's project can be read as a critical reflection on current building practice in which contemporary pragmatism prevails over historical awareness, realism over the surreal, the general over the specific and efficiency over the architectural narrative. Steven has taken the ‘capriccio’ as the guiding principle for his design process. In painting, the 'capriccio' is an architectural fantasy in which existing and historic buildings conjure up a new world in a wondrous composition. 

All of this has been richly documented in a voluminous book that can be used both as an archive and a manual for the future. It is not only a feast for the eyes, but above all makes a relevant and innovative contribution to the architectural methodology of research, analysis and design. With his wealth of ideas, Steven does a major and inspiring service to the practice of architecture.'

Gus Tielens, architect and added member board of examiners: 'Steven van Raan's graduation evening was one in which we reflected on the (future of the) city in silence, in conversation, in wonder, in admiration and with great enthusiasm. The work seduces, questions and is confident. The work is about the physical city with its public spaces, and its buildings past, present and future. However, it is also about how we move through the city, who moves through the city and how we meet each other or how we deny each other therein.    

Out of frustration or discomfort with architectural practice in which research seems to be done fleetingly and we cling to the traditional, especially efficiency-oriented working methods, Steven has developed his own methodology, in which he draws inspiration from the Capriccio style in painting. Temporal layers, buildings and spatial elements from different temporal layers are woven together as if they were samples in a hip-hop track in fantastic feats of imagination that form a possible new world. Steven listens to the narratives and events of the location, in this case the Frederiksplein in Amsterdam, and builds on them in a natural, but also entirely unique, way.   

The work is beautiful and inspiring. It is respectful towards the past, and tremendously curious and hopeful about the future. It is an ode to imagination and to drawing. This work deserves a big platform. But conversely, I especially want our profession to see this methodology and this work.  The city deserves that.'

A project of: Steven van Raan