Dec 2, 2013

'Transcending & Translucent', Cameracronica #3

Cameracronica Magazine
Publisher: Casa Editrice Libria, Melfi, Italy
ISSN: 2281-1311

Wiel Arets is an architect consistently defying categorization, reveling in this status as he innovates and reshapes architecture’s original role of refuge. The output of Arets’ eponymous firm, WAA, is an oeuvre demanding careful contemplation; a complete overview is not easily grasped. A ‘dialogue’ allows Arets’ design concepts to remain concrete throughout conception, allowing an elevation of ideas above form to determine final results. This ‘dialogue’ provides Arets with a fluidity when traversing scales, inventing within each, and in turn creating an architectural output that escapes its context while remaining flexible and open to future change. Paralleling the stealth of a chameleon, WAA’s oeuvre requests classification while simultaneously denying that possibility. Transcending and translucent, the output of Arets is cloaked in an aura of mystery derived from its complexity of highly refined content, and never form.

WAA, founded in 1983, traces its humble origins to the city of Heerlen, the Netherlands, located in the eastern portion of the Dutch province of Limburg–near the borders of Belgium and Germany. As such, the office rapidly expanded–with early projects dispersed throughout these three countries–allowing Arets to assemble an early portfolio of modest houses, orthogonal offices and striking pharmacies alongside exhibitions and installations, all at the confluence of three distinct cultures. The Academy of Art & Architecture was completed in 1993 in nearby Maastricht–a city founded by the Romans–which ultimately propelled Arets into the stratosphere of internationally recognized architectural fame that was amplified by numerous essays and monographs produced on the building. Most importantly, the Dutch photographer Kim Zwarts photographed the building, beginning a collaboration with Arets that lasted until the early 2000s and whose imagery shrouded his structures within a glamorous aura of mystery, arousing further intrigue in both Arets and WAA’s enigmatic output.

Arets’ four WAA studios–two in the Netherlands one in Z├╝rich, and one in Berlin–serve as testing grounds for ideas and innovations; new research and untaken initiatives; results of which are published digitally and in print. These studios could be compared to Andy Warhol’s famed ‘Factory’; emitting a constant flux and flow of energy, ideas, and people united in stance towards the creation of the new. Like Warhol’s ‘Factory’–which saw multiple Manhattan incarnations–no singular WAA studio retains Arets’ ideas; all contribute to a prolific oeuvre. In Arets’ absence these ‘factories’ never cease production, as material research and elusive rethinking form the core of their endeavors. Every WAA project explicitly relates to both its surroundings and itself, in profoundly simple ways. And thus the output of Arets is never isolated from the world beyond WAA’s walls, instead remaining flexible and open to future change–an homage to Warhol’s self.