When the Oppressive New and the Vulnerable Old Meet; a Plea for Sustainable Modernity


  • Hubert-Jan Henket





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


The following article is an edited version of the keynote presented at the 13th International docomomo Conference that took place in Seoul, Korea, on September 2014. The economic miracle, increasing transparency and growing emancipation are some of the striking advantages of modernity. However these meet their opposites in severe conflicts at both global and regional scales. Where the oppressive new meets the vulnerable old the damage is at its heaviest and often non-reversible. The history of modernity in the Western world, from the European Renaissance, the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution to the Machine Age provides information of the root causes of these conflicts, such as the dominance of rationality, fragmentation, the linear and short term mind frame, devotion to constant newness and ever increasing scale. The history of East Asian civilizations shows the millennia old care for the environment and for dynamic tradition. Precisely the 14th International docomomo Conference in Seoul — for the first time organized entirely in an Asian country — offers the opportunity to widen our scope. docomomo has four advantages that make it particularly useful to contribute to soften these conflicts in the future. Today it is a global organization with many different cultural backgrounds, it is multidisciplinary, it concentrates on history and on the reuse of what is already existing and it shares communal enthusiasm. Until today we concentrated our efforts mainly on the history of the Modern Movement and the restoration of its icons. We could enlarge our scope to include the reuse and transformation of the ordinary Modern Movement heritage and to research the history of modernity as well in the various cultural regions. Some proposals will be made how we could change words into structured action, in order to contribute more effectively to a circular mindset of reuse, reduce and recycle, to arrive at a sustainable future for all.

How to Cite

Henket, H.-J. (2015). When the Oppressive New and the Vulnerable Old Meet; a Plea for Sustainable Modernity. Docomomo Journal, (52), 14–19. https://doi.org/10.52200/52.A.TBI5OOGF




Author Biography

Hubert-Jan Henket

(b. 1940, Netherlands). Hubert-Jan Henket is a practicing architect in the Netherlands, professor emeritus of the Eindhoven and Delft Universities and Honorary President of docomomo International. He graduated cum laude in 1969 at the Faculty of Architecture at the Delft University of Technology Afterwards and he studied Urban Design at the Otaniemi University in Helsinki Finland. From 1971 he worked in London until 1976 when he started Hubert-Jan Henket architects in the Netherlands. Since 2010 the practice is known as Bierman Henket architects. He held the chair of building technology at Eindhoven University from 1984 till 1998 and one of the chairs in architecture at Delft University from 1998 till 2005. In 1988, together with Wessel de Jonge, he founded docomomo. He is the chairman of the Rietveld Schröder House Foundation and the Theo van Doesburg House Foundation. Together with Hilde Heynen he edited the book Back from Utopia, the Challenge of the Modern Movement. Recently he published a book in Dutch: Where New and Old Meet, a Plea for Sustainable Modernity in Architecture. His architectural work, which mainly concentrates on the relationship between new and old, received wide coverage. He is involved in the restoration of buildings by Rietveld, Dudok and Duiker. He designed among others 11 museums, such as the extension to the Teylers Museum in Haarlem and recently the Museum de Fundatie in Zwolle, for which he received the Dutch Design Award 2013. Together with Wessel de Jonge he received the World Monuments Fund, Knoll Modernism Prize for the restoration of the Zonnestraal Sanatorium in Hilversum, the Netherlands. Hubert-Jan Henket was awarded the Bernhard Cultuurfonds Prijs for his complete oeuvre and the Kubus of the Dutch Institute of Architects. He is a Knight of the Order of the Dutch Lion.