Dikkie Scipio (MArch) is a co-founder and architect partner of KAAN Architects. Photo: Max Dereta

Sculptures in public space

We think it's normal that we walk around in Rotterdam in one of the largest sculpture gardens in the world. How special it is that we stumble over, lean against or sit on, sometimes world-famous names that give meaning to our public space, how special it is that we have the right to be against or for the placement of works that other cities can only dream of , we don't seem to know about it.

Siebe Thissen has ensured that there is now a beautiful overview work through which we can oversee the wealth of visual art in Rotterdam in public space and place it in its context, socially and historically. Browsing the book filled me with pride. I see it as the grand finale of an era as our concept of public space is rapidly changing.

Where publicity used to indicate the space that is not private and the facades and entrances of the buildings as edges of the public space were occasionally entrusted to the artists as an enormous gesture by the client, the hard line between public and private is now slowly blurring. A new generation has emerged that no longer pursues property. Not from a political ideal but from the idea that it does not see the meaning of the usefulness of property. It is the backpack generation that was brought to school in the morning with the announcement that they would be picked up by their father, their neighbor or their grandfather's third wife. It is a generation that grows up in prosperity knowing that everything is always there, but not in one place and not owned. It is a generation that takes sharing for granted and is not impressed by ownership. The line between private and public disappears. The emergence and popularity of Uber, Airbnb and Greenwheels are the result. Even Porsche currently has one sharing program!

This also has major consequences for the perception of the idea of ​​public space. When the term 'property' no longer indicates the hard division between private and public, where does public space end? Does it end at all? The emergence of the first POPS - the Privately Owned Public Spaces - is already a fact. As far as I know, visual art still reacts to this new public space as if there is no difference, but it cannot be delayed whether there will be a reaction.

Another exponent of the new sharing is the 'sharing of knowledge'. While knowledge used to be a private good that could be traded, we have now become used to a knowledge and network society in which it seems as if we have access to all knowledge for free. What we have overlooked, however, is that it is about intellectual knowledge, not the knowledge and experience that we have to undergo physically to master a craft.

Now one of the things that is so special about works of art in public space is that they are very well made. They have to, because whether they are free-standing or part of a building, in addition to having the right physiognomy, the right appearance, they also have to withstand the nurturing of the public and, moreover, survive our climate. Also, the statues often have a scale such that if not properly constructed, they would fall or collapse under their own weight. In addition to exceptional artistry, the works also require great craftsmanship. There is always a lot to say about the meaning of the works, but the skill with which the works were made has long been taken for granted.

How wrong that is is shown by the enormous shortage of real professionals. There are hardly any masters who have mastered the skills of, for example, glass blowing, the processing and casting of metals, the processing of leather, the many types of processing and application of natural stone, baked stone and concrete and the making of fabrics, lace and patterns. , etcetera. The list of endangered crafts seems endless. It is serious business, because to actually master a craft, it sometimes takes up to decades of practice and patience. That the need is high is evident from the fact that various multinationals now have programs in which they are looking for real craftsmen. Often older and sometimes even very elderly people are hired so as not to lose their professional knowledge and to pass it on to young people who rediscover the value of the profession. Crafts that are often necessary to make a good work of art.

I am grateful for the fact that Siebe's book contains numerous photos of artists at work. It makes clear the importance of craftsmanship. It is often the artists who have ensured that some knowledge is not lost. Let us be particularly aware of this. Without craft there would be no art in public space.

The timing for the book IMAGES to publish could not be better. It ensures awareness of the quality with which we are accustomed to surround ourselves and, hopefully, also with respect for the expertise that is needed to achieve this. It also shows us our attitude to public space, where the visual arts are the discipline that helps us to understand how the world can be viewed as the ultimate public space. Right now this world is changing very quickly and we are there to experience this. Is not that great?

MArch Dikkie Scipio
On the occasion of the presentation of the book Sculptures. Urban embellishment in Rotterdam since 1940 from Siebe Thissen
Rotterdam, 1 June 2016

Publication date: 10 / 06 / 2016