Dutch Pavilion, Venice Architecture Biennale 2018: WORK, BODY, LEISURE

The 2018 Dutch Pavilion is envisioned as a collaborative research endeavor by a national and international network. This network, which brings together the expertise of architects, designers, knowledge institutions and the private sector, will test and disseminate outcomes before, during, and beyond the exhibition timeframe and venue of the Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018. Het Nieuwe Instituut will announce the list of commissioned exhibitors for the Dutch Pavilion, including those selected through the Open Call, in the coming months. The curator, Rotterdam-based architect and researcher Marina Otero Verzier, head of the Research Department at Het Nieuwe Instituut, will act as the instigator and creative mediator of the multiple contributions.


With the title WORK, BODY, LEISURE, the 2018 Dutch Pavilion addresses the spatial configurations, living conditions, and notions of the human body engendered by disruptive changes in labour ethos and conditions. The project seeks to foster new forms of creativity and responsibility within the architectural field in response to emerging technologies of automation.

From New Babylon to Rotterdam Harbour

The Netherlands is, arguably, a testing ground where the future of labor has been and continues to be reimagined. The work of architect and artist Constant Nieuwenhuys has been a particular trigger for this conversation. In Constant’s New Babylon (1956–74)an architectural paradigm of free space and leisure afforded by automation—society devotes its energy to creativity and play, and individuals can design their own environments. And yet, as Constant’s oeuvre evolved, his optimistic vision on the possibilities and pleasures of automated labor gradually gave way to a more conflicted perspective. Violence would not be eradicated by the new technological order, mobilized to satisfy society’s immediate needs; it would become, rather, an intrinsic part of its processes and aims.

“Automation is a material condition and achievable,” Constant claimed in May 1980 in a lecture at the Faculty of Architecture of TU Delft. More than thirty years later, the architecture of full automation is currently being implemented in the city of Rotterdam, from the self-managed logistical infrastructures of the port to the logic and relations that define the physical and social landscape of the city, and across agricultural clusters in the Netherlands.

Reflecting on a spectrum of theoretical viewpoints—including New Babylon’s initial proposal for a leisure-oriented society liberated from the bondage of labor; the recent techno-optimistic premise that full automation will bring increasing bounty and luxury; and the dystopian forecast of rampant, machine-abetted human unemployment and inequality—WORK, BODY, LEISURE claims that these visions are already shaping contemporary labor structures and, ultimately, our capacity to redesign them according to a different set of ethical principles.

The project builds upon “Automated Landscapes”, a long-term collaborative research initiative on the implications of automation for the built environment, launched by Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2017 and directed by its Research Department. In the Dutch Pavilion, this perspective will be in dialogue with contributions by other individuals and organizations.

In addition to historical and present-day case studies of automated landscapes in the Netherlands, the project will analyze spatial arrangements and protocols that are molded for the interaction between man and machine; will explore spaces that challenge traditional distinctions between work and leisure; will address the ways in which evolving notions of labor have categorized and defined bodies at particular moments in time; and will discuss the legal, cultural, and technical infrastructures that enable their exploitation.

Open Call

Encouraging the collaborative dimension of knowledge production in the field of architecture, Het Nieuwe Instituut and Creative Industries Fund NL have jointly organized an Open Call to engage researchers and practitioners in the development and dissemination of unconventional, critical ideas. Launching on 21 September 2017, this call will support project proposals for the extended program of the Dutch Pavilion with a maximum budget of €50.000,-, a shared contribution by Het Nieuwe Instituut and Creative Industries Fund NL.

The selected proposals will reflect upon and respond to the theme of the pavilion, and will be in dialogue with a research network that includes the curatorial team, contributors and associated institutions, as part of the extended program of WORK, BODY, LEISURE. The official Dutch contribution to the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale aims to become a catalyst for a long-term global conversation on alternative modes of living, intersecting work, body and leisure, and building upon the long history of the Netherlands as a fertile ground for innovative architectural and societal visions.