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Social geographer Leo van den Berg and architect Madeleine Steigenga discuss the 'everyday heritage of reconstruction' with the audience, moderated by Dirk van den Heuvel. They reflect on the multifaceted architecture of the first two decades after World War II, the current conditions of dwellings from that period, and their future resilience in a changing streetscape. Finally, they ask what possible lessons contemporary housing projects can learn from the example of the many Irenestraten in the Netherlands. 

19:30 – 22:00
also this evening

18:00-19:30 Thursday Bite 

19:30-22:00 Lecture, presentation & discussion: Small homes: the new normal?

The museum is free of charge from 17:00-21:00 


Het Nieuwe Instituut
Museumpark 25
3015 CB Rotterdam


Free entance, RSVP via ticket link 

There are almost 400 streets, avenues, squares, and alleys in the Netherlands named after Princess Irene. Together, these Irenestraten form a kind of sample of house construction in the first 20 years after World War II, when a huge number of affordable homes had to be built in a short period of time with limited resources. In 2019, Leo van den Berg and Madeleine Steigenga published their book under the same name, giving an account of how these streets have decayed since their construction, with a plea for the recognition and preservation of this undervalued heritage.

Unity in diversity

Van den Berg and Steigenga will demonstrate the wide variety of building forms they have come across in this cross-section of reconstructed streets. For each building form – terraced, semi-detached, and detached houses as well as apartments – they present an image of 'unity in diversity' through a rapid succession of photographs. From traditional to modernist housing construction, from small to large, and from quiet residential streets to main highways.

Drastic changes

Van den Berg and Steigenga discuss the history of construction and the dynamics to which these streets are subsequently subjected. They explore adaptations to the public spaces (green or otherwise), due in part to the increase of cars, the changing way in which residents set up and used front gardens, and of course, renovations to the houses themselves, as well as their demolition and replacement.

The fate of our Irenestraten

Moderated by Dirk van den Heuvel (associate professor at TU Delft and head of the Jaap Bakema Study Centre at Het Nieuwe Instituut), the authors explore the possibility of using research as a starting point for answering topical questions. Reconstructed houses, for example, are a familiar sight in Dutch neighbourhoods, but have demonstrably had to make way for replacements. A graph charting the construction years of all Irenestraten houses shows what proportion still date from the early and later stages of post-war reconstruction. What is the future of this possibly obsolete housing stock, often owned by housing corporations? Are there alternative ways to make the streets future-proof without compromising heritage? Moreover, there are striking parallels to be drawn between the reconstruction period and today's concerns – there is once again great demand for affordable housing, yet many limiting factors to building enough fast homes quickly. What are the lessons to be learned from the everyday reality of the Irenestraten?

Thursday Bite

Before the Thursday Night you can grab a bite to eat with the speakers and staff of Het Nieuwe Instituut. At 18:00 Het Nieuwe Café will serve a light vegetarian meal. Dinner vouchers are available for € 7.70 up to a day before the particular Thursday Night event via the Tickets link.

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Become a Member of Het Nieuwe Instituut and you’ll support our mission to navigate the vast and evolving field of design. You’ll also be inspired by our special program of Members’ events, meeting up with other like-minded people as we invite you to reflect with us on design’s changing role in technology, economics, culture and society.

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.