Stephen Bates on Kleiburg


In the Barcelona pavillion, 26 May 2017

“ The Kleiburg project

makes minimum but significant interventions

for a dramatic and maximum effect.

I am so impressed by the simplicity of the project,

and in a way,

it provides room for the personal intervention.

It is a collective effort of many people.

It is, as Kamiel Klaasse described in the presentation,

about facilitating individual dreams.

He said:

there should have been 500 people presenting the project

– and collecting the award.

The transformation of this megablock,

is a radical one.

As it turns many of the ideas inherent in this ville radieuse inspired project,

on their head.

It is against uniformity and instead promotes communality.

It is against the separation of pedestrian-vehicle movements,

which created dislocation,

and is instead for engagement with the ground floor, and with the street.

But it also retains the good aspects of the concept,

the relationship with the maturing landscape for example.

And I think it offers an exemplar

of how to adress the build legacies of the sixties and seventies.

Not the single answer to every problem, off course,

but an exemplar to solve a problem when you come across it.

An issue that most European cities share,

and by transforming a building that could embody negative associations,

with dense poor housing say,

it seems to be making peace with that past,

in this respect,

and it tends to heal

and provide a new opportunity for the building to be redefined.

It’s not afraid of grappling the big scale.

It exposes a majestic, industrial building,

comprising surprisingly refined repeated elements,

and provides a muscular infrastructure for living patterns

to express themselves and to evolve.

And in the current housing crisis,

it offers a positive alternative,

a wider offer, to home owners,

who do not anymore represent the nuclear family,

but instead a wide varied in their character in need.

In that sense,

it is an example of a new interpretation of affordable housing,

appealing to the majority of people who have a little money,

but often not enough to join the property ladder.

It is not subsidised,

- remember the social housing lord gave up on the project.

So it offers cheap property within the private market.

I believe it is heroic and it is ordinary,

all at the same time.

It was presented with such modesty,

such good faith,

and not only the building itself,

but in my opinion certainly the team,

who made this project,

was filled with empathy,

which I believe is the single most important characteristic

for architects to have.