Studio René Boer

René Boer (1986, he/him) works as a critic, curator and organizer in and beyond the fields of architecture, art, design and heritage. He is based between Amsterdam and Cairo and is a driving force behind the Failed Architecture platform. In recent years he developed a wide array of exhibitions, public programmes and research projects, often with a focus on spatial justice, urban imaginations and queer tactics. His current projects include Contemporary Commoning, an experimental exploration of the relation between art and (urban) commons; Terraforming Indonesia, a programme investigating and reimaginging large-scale land reclamations in collaboration with the ruangruapa collective; and Smooth City, a forthcoming publication on the obsession with perfection in cities worldwide.

selected projects
Architecture of Appropriation
Contemporary Commoning
Failed Architecture
Grounded Urban Practices
Post-Fossil City
Reimagining Cairo
Smooth City
Terraforming Indonesia
The Right to Build
Useful Life

Architecture of Appropriation

This research, archival project, series of exhibitions and publication acknowledges squatting as a spatial practice with a large impact on the urban landscape, and recognizes the resulting spatial constellations as an architectural style. In collaboration with Het Nieuwe Instituut, and the communities of ADM, Landbouwbelang, Plantagedok, Poortgebouw, Vluchtmaat and WH7.

Wijde Heisteeg 7. Photo: Johannes Schwartz.

This project originates from a request by the State Archive for Dutch Architecture and Urban Planning, who seek to make their collection more inclusive by adding queer and feminist perspectives but also the contribution of anonymous, precarious and even criminalised groups on the city. In response, this collaboration was set up to collectively document the architectures created by six communities in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Maastricht.

Experimenting ew representations. Collage: Anastasia Kubrak.

The project emphasises the importance of such non-normative spaces. It brings the expertise of the squatting movement together with the insights of architects, activists, scholars and lawyers, to discuss approaches to researching, archiving and representing such spaces in the institutional framework of an archive and museum, and establish forms of reciprocity and solidarity within the project.

The exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut. Exhibition design: ZUS. Photo: Johannes Schwartz.

The São Paulo exhibition. Exhibition design: Maria Fernanda Duarte. Photo: Luiza Strauss.

Architecture of Appropriation was presented in an exhibition at Het Nieuwe Instituut in 2017 and at the 11th São Paulo International Architecture Biennale. The final publication (free pdf) forms the basis of a new acquisition policy for the archive. Edited in collaboration with Marina Otero Vezier and Katia Truijen. Photography by Johannes Schwartz and graphic design by Maud Vervenne.

The following podcast conversation with Guus Beumer (director HNI), Marina Otero, Katia Truijen and René Boer was recorded after publication of the book and extends the discussion on intersectional archiving, methodologies for documenting informal architectures, and the increasing need for non-normative spaces in cities today. In 2021, the project became part of the permanent exhibition Designing the Social in Het Nieuwe Instituut.