The exhibition Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam is one result of a year-long collaboration on the theme of ‘City Forces’ between Het Nieuwe Instituut and Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York.
66 architects and urbanists wrote 46 letters to the Mayor of Rotterdam. The letters were on show — together with audio recordings of the letters — from 12 January to 11 February 2018.
A meeting at City Hall
During the exhibition opening, Mayor of Rotterdam Ahmed Aboutaleb invited the letter writers to summarise the 46 letters in the 5 most pressing themes for the city of Rotterdam. These topics were presented to Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb and Alderman Said Kasmi of the Education, Culture and Tourism on March 4, 2019, during a meeting at City Hall, in the form of the publication Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam.
The publication includes included five short manifestos on the most pressing issues for the city accompanied by the original letters, three critical reflections, reports from public talks, and an image essay by the Rotterdam photographer Rubén Dario Kleimeer.
Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam was launched on 12 January 2018, in the presence of the Mayor of Rotterdam, Ahmed Aboutaleb.
Corresponding with the format of Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam exhibition consisted of two ‘desks’: a mayoral desk and one at which the architects could symbolically take a seat. The exhibition was designed by architectural duo Studio L A (Lorien Beijaert and Arna Mačkić). They were adamant that visitors should be able to relate to the letters in a different way than only by reading them, therefore they worked with Arif Kornweitz to record the letters in English and/or in Dutch.
Graphic designer Rudy Guedj used the signatures of each letter writer to create an image depicting the skyline of a city. The letters were printed on tear-off blocks, and the visitors could collect the letters in a folder, to read at home.
An initiative started in 2014 by Storefront for Art and Architecture, Letters to the Mayor – Rotterdam invited a select group of local and international architects to write a letter to Mayor Aboutaleb of Rotterdam, articulating some of the pressing issues that, as architects, they believe play an important role in the political dimensions and decisions that drive the making of cities and territories. Letters to the Mayor: Rotterdam questioned the city’s dynamics, and invited local and global architects to deliver their thoughts directly to the desks of elected officials, and simultaneously into the public consciousness.
"As a civic figure, the architect has the privilege and responsibility to articulate and translate the collective aspirations of society, specifically for those not able to sit at the decision-making tables. Throughout history, architects have engaged with this responsibility and with the structures of economic, political, and cultural power in different ways and with varying degrees of success. With the rise of globalization and the homogenization of the contemporary city, the role of the architect in the political arena has often been relegated to answering questions that others have asked. While designing the next economically driven cultural-iconic-touristic object, an increasing number of architects (and with them, politicians) have forgotten the ethics that should be associated with architectural practice and the potential of design to participate in the construction of public life." - Eva Franch, Chief Curator and Executive Director Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York.
Letters to the Mayor is an itinerant exhibition that has been presented in Athens, Bogota, Buenos Aires, Lisbon, Madrid, Mariupol, Mexico, New York, Panama City, Sao Paulo, Taipei and Taichung. It includes a series of public debates between architects, the mayor and citizens at large, and is a forum for the discussion of the future of cities and the built environment. The project provides a multi-facetted understanding of relevant issues within local contexts, and shared concerns throughout cities around the world.
Het Nieuwe Instituut
3015 CB Rotterdam
Tuesday — Wednesday
11.00 — 17.00
11.00 — 21.00
Friday — Sunday
11.00 — 17.00