Podcast #2: Melle Smets and House of the Future

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'There is a need in our society for artists to set goals that politics neglects,' is the thesis of the second episode of our podcast series What's that doing here?. In this episode, Esther Didden and co-host Khadija al Mourabit spoke with artist Melle Smets about House of the Future in Rotterdam.

Also speaking was Klaas Burger, founder of the Academy of Imaging, and one of the collaborative partners in the House of the Future.

To the podcast
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House of the Future is a project in the Rotterdam neighborhood of Bospolder-Tussendijken, an ethnically diverse neighborhood. Middle incomes have moved away, purchasing power is low and many homes are severely outdated. Now that energy prices have risen sharply, the problems in the neighborhood are increasing. Melle Smets has been working for years, long before the energy crisis, to make this neighborhood one of the most sustainable in Rotterdam.

A big ambition but he fully believes in it, because not despite but thanks to the character of the neighborhood it has what it takes to be at the forefront of sustainability: the houses are small and therefore people know how to use space effectively. Laundry hangs out to dry in the sun and wind. Energy guzzlers such as clothes dryers are hard to find. People mainly use public transportation because they do not have a car. The older generation still knows how to bake bread and mend clothes themselves. In short: the sustainable leaders of Rotterdam live in Bospolder-Tussendijken. The footprint there is low and, based on that fact, Smets and partners are steadily working on the set ambition, which requires relatively little behavioral change.

Five years after its founding, the House of the Future is a thriving community center. Everyone is welcome and can meet. This can be spontaneous, but a program is also offered, such as the weekly stoking of a central neighborhood oven, where people can come and bake bread. The House of the Future wants to share knowledge and, above all, visualize how energy can be arranged more socially. Smets has made a long-term commitment to the neighborhood because that is the only way to realize the goals of the House of the Future. The commitment is for 10 years, during the construction of the heat network that will be ready in 2030.

This year's BK lecture (Feb. 10) discusses the topics of the podcast series.

What other topics are covered in this series?

About the podcast

Under the title What's that doing here? BK-information brings a ten-part podcast series about artists and the social issues they deal with. In each episode, philosopher and expert on art in public space Esther Didden and a co-host discuss artists who realize their work within a social context. A context in which very different criteria apply than within the "usual" art discourse. Why do they work within that context and what does it bring to their artistry? What criteria do they have to deal with? And what does it bring to society? What does an artist add when he or she sits at a conference table?

You can also listen to the podcast via:
Apple Podcast
Podcast Addict
Player FM
The next podcast appears on Feb. 3. In it, we'll talk with Embassy of the North Sea, a collective of artists, scientists, designers and (landscape) architects whose goal is to give the North Sea and marine life a (political) voice by 2030 because non-humans are now not represented effectively enough by politics and institutions. Last October, they organized a test case at the Peace Palace in which the Embassy of the North Sea sued the Dutch state.
What is that doing here? is made possible in part by the Mondrian Fund and the Pictoright Fund.

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