United We: Frank van Klingeren

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"Imperfection is nothing to be afraid of; perfection is something we cannot afford. A kitchen is never good enough. Give the people an unfinished house. The basic object (...). You have to make an appeal to the skills and ingenuity of the residents themselves."1 The year is 1968 and these are the words of self-made architect Frank van Klingeren (1919 -1999), who, as no other, succeeded in transforming the ideas of collectivity of the sixties and seventies into buildings. In the above quote Van Klingeren openly campaigned against the indestructable standard-sized cupboards in state-subsidized houses. He was a great advocate of self-efficacy, in his view something entirely different from participation or public involvement, things he didn't like at all: ‘De Meerpaal never would have been built, if we had relied on public participation'2.

De Meerpaal is Van Klingeren's most famous building. At the time, both in The Netherlands and abroad, people talked about ‘the thing' in Dronten that was inaugurated in 1967. At the time it was a revolutionary building (and even now it still is). A square with a roof and glass walls, where all kinds of activities could take place side by side: a theater next to a bowling alley, a bar next to a market, a volleyball court next to an exhibition space. The clash between these simultaneous activities was exactly what Van Klingeren was aiming for. He was greatly concerned with the demise of our public domain as a meeting space and a space for communication, as everyone was retreating (‘clotting') to his or her own private one square meter. This concern became the main motive behind
his work: all his projects are imbued with special attention to communality. Although Van Klingeren never realized a housing project, his ideas about housing are also apparent in the youth hostels he built, including the one near Kijkduin (1973). In the view of Van Klingeren this temporary, alternative and nomadic form of living, where social interaction was more important than having a room of your own, was the model for innovation in (public) housing. For Ockenburgh he designed the possibly greatest form of United We: conversation promoting bunk beds. No wonder this bed takes center stage in the exhibition space. It is a remake, based on a photograph and drawing.

The youth hostel was demolished to make room for a new housing project. Thanks to the Comité tot Behoud Van Klingerenvleugel (The Committee for the Preservation of the Van Klingeren Wing) the building was dismantled in a way that makes it possible to resurrect it on a new location. Studio Léon Thier and HVE Architecten developed a wonderful plan, but at the moment the building is kept in storage, all the parts dismantled and numbered (in itself an admirable achievement), waiting for the funds and the willpower to rebuild it.

In addition to the bunk bed, the exhibition also presents various building elements, a number of films, including the film of the demolishment of the youth hostel by Denis Guzzo, photographs and drawings. United We Live (5 June 2013) will be dedicated to the ideas of Van Klingeren and the reuse of three of his buildings.

In the exhibition the tv documentary Signalement: F. van Klingeren (VARA, 1967) will be shown.

*1. Marina van den Bergen and Piet Vollaard, Hinder en ontklontering. Achitectuur en maatschappij in het werk van Frank van Klingeren (Rotterdam, 2003) p. 119.

*2. Van den Bergen and Vollaard, Idem, p.18-19.