The opportunity to spend two weeks in Rotterdam, Holland, is one most would jump at. When Nolan Golgert, UNL College of Architecture alum and Shop Manager, learned of Camposaz, a wood-oriented self-construction workshop, he applied without hesitation. The underlying theme of the workshop was, as the organization describes it, “to promote interaction between disciplines and practitioners dealing with architectural design while understanding the significance of the 1:1 scale.” Only 12 applicants were selected and came from a total of nine different countries which included Italy, Spain, Serbia, France, Israel, Greece, Netherlands, UK, and the USA.
The 10-day workshop, hosted by the Italian based organization, Camposaz, occurred this summer in the Quarantaine quarter of Rotterdam (renowned for its important historic and social value). The riparian site at one time was the quarantine facility for Rotterdam; today, it is the last remaining plot of undeveloped land in the city and home to the Stichting Kunsteiland Foundation. Isolated and surrounded by the Rotte river, the site features manufacturing facilities, cargo container holding lots and other harbor industry facilities.
From June 19th through September 4th, the unique location was home to the In Quarantine: Contemporary Hermitages exhibition that included 25 hermitages built by artists, designers and architects on site. The focus of the exhibition was to ask the question, “Can we still really retreat to ourselves?” As the Foundation describes it, “There is an increasing need for individual idyllic places outside the busy world…It is clear, we are full, we need to ‘come’ to rest areas and associate ourselves temporarily detached from the pace of our daily lives. In the almost paradisiacal space of the quarantine area, surrounded by the port of Rotterdam, we want to represent this need and reflect on the truly essential aspects of our existence.”
Participants had the opportunity to design and build the 26th hermitage during the exhibition and visitors witnessed the design and construction process taking place. The participants’ design intention followed the general guidelines of the exhibition, to create a hermitage that enters into a dialogue or confrontation with the surroundings. At the culmination of the exhibition, the hermitage built by the Camposaz participants will remain on site while the 25 other hermitages are relocated to Germany for the next leg of the exhibition.
The participants were limited with only two strict parameters set by the Foundation and the organization 1) no occupiable platforms above four meters high and 2) the manufacture must have the ability to pass inspection as a “semi-temporary structure.” The workshop started off with two days of design charrettes after which a singular “Y” shaped proposal was unanimously decided upon. The intention of the design was to blur the line between the natural and the built environment in subtle ways that engaged the earth, plant life and the sky/tree canopies through the procession of space. The design was situated between three trees that were left physically untouched but visually engaged.
For eight days, the participants started construction around 9 a.m. and stopped working to relax and eat around a campfire at 7 p.m. With the assistance of Romanian-based professional carpenter Gabriel Lenghel of Atelier Lenghel, the final structure was completed on the 10th day of the workshop and named Nina’s Treehouse after Lenghel’s late mother who had passed away during the project.
“This experience has enriched my knowledge as a designer by broadening my world view of making and the common language designers and makers use to communicate their ideas, regardless of their place of origin,” commented Golgert. He believes the workshop will greatly enhance what he offers College of Architecture students.
“My existence as a designer, maker and user revolves around better understanding how the presence of man-made objects and the process of their creation alters the perception of reality of individuals differently,” Golgert said. “Making design proposals at various scales is a valuable and necessary tool. Building while designing at a 1:1 scale with an international group of individuals with their own perceptions of reality is an invaluable experience that I would encourage all of our students to seek out, be it through Camposaz or any other design-build workshop.”
Photo Courtesy of Camposaz