Wiel Arets is a Dutch architect, architectural theorist, urbanist, industrial designer and the former Dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Previously was he the Professor of Building Planning and Design at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) and studied at the Technical University of Eindhoven, graduating in 1983. The same year later he founded Wiel Arets Architects, a multidisciplinary architecture and design studio, today with studios in Amsterdam, Maastricht, Munich, and Zurich. From 1995-2002 he was the Dean of the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam, where he introduced the idea of 'progressive-research' and co-founded the school's architectural journal named HUNCH.
His father was a book printer and his mother was a fashion designer, both from whom he learned respect for the tradition of craft and a love of books and reading. He briefly studied engineering, and then physics, before ultimately deciding on architecture. He divides his time between Chicago, Maastricht, Berlin, Amsterdam and Zurich, living and working in each city.
During his studies at the Technical University of Eindhoven (TU/e) Arets became fascinated by the works and words of Paul Valery, Giorgio Grassi and Cesare Cattaneo, quickly developing his admiration for 'the dialogue' as an operative method, best exemplified by Valery's 'Eupalinos' and Cattaneo's 'Giovanni e Giuseppe'. While studying Arets co-founded the architectural journal Wiederhall and organized a series of visiting lecturers at the TU/e that included the architects Zaha Hadid, Tadao Ando and Peter Eisenman. Subsequently, Arets organized the first European exhibition of Tadao Ando's work. It was during this period that Arets 'rediscovered' the work of Dutch architect Frits Peutz, who transformed the city of Heerlen from an industrial coal mining hub and into a modern city through his many built commissions funded by the coal industry, most recognizably the Glaspaleis. After graduating from the TU in 1983 Arets travelled extensively throughout Russia, the United States and Japan. While in Japan Arets visited and interviewed several prominent architects including Fumihiko Maki, Kazuo Shinohara, Itsuko Hasegawa and Tadao Ando, later publishing interviews and articles in the Dutch architecture magazine de Architect. Arets first garnered international architectural attention with the completion of the revitalization of the Maastricht Academy of Art and Architecture in 1993.
Utrecht University Library
In 2004 Arets completed the library of Utrecht University in the Uithof area of the campus designed by OMA, which dictated an orthogonal requirement for all buildings. The library's exterior glazing is screen printed with an image of bamboo shoots returning as a tactile imprinted surface pattern on the library's interior prefabricated concrete panel walls, which are painted black. This 'tactility' has since returned to more of Arets' projects in the form of imprinted-concrete or screen printed glass exteriors.
Theoretical Concepts and Teaching
In 1991 Arets published his first theoretical text 'An Alabaster Skin'. The text merged Arets' fascinations of his studies and early career, including: cinematography, photography, the 'city', technology of the 20th century, the membrane or skin of a building, biology and the act of cutting and editing (in regards to cinematography), as well as the Postmodern architecture of the 1980s.
He was Dean of the Berlage Institute from 1995-2002 where he changed the school to a research based institute focusing on 'progressive-research', public lectures, publications, field trips, and intensive debates. Prior to that position he was and is a professor or guest professor at many architecture schools among them Architectural Academies of Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Architectural Association, London, Cooper Union, New York City, Columbia University, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen, Berlin University of the Arts (UdK), RWTH Aachen University, Universidad Politecnica de Madrid, Washington University, St. Louis. From 2012-2017 was a Dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago .
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