MVRDV Ponders Cities of the Future in PoroCity: Opening Up Solidity

The book, released in November, advocates for porous forms that tackle the stifling effects of urban density, offering social, environmental, and economic value.

MVRDV why factory PoroCity book
The Why Factory’s PoroCity project has been exhibited around the world, from Helsinki to Hong Kong. Courtesy The Why Factory/NAI010 Publishers

MVRDV wonders about the “future city”—what challenges are in store? what opportunities?—and, by extension, so does The Why Factory, the independent think tank led by MVRDV cofounder Winy Maas at Delft University of Technology. The shared interest “leads to intellectual, or philosophical, connections between all of the work,” he says.

Indeed. Flip through The Why Factory’s PoroCity: Opening Up Solidity (nai010 publishers, $34), released in November, and see echoes of some of MVRDV’s built work, like Double House, Mirador, and even the new Future Towers in Pune, India. Except the forms presented here—spanning three Maas-led studios and two exhibitions, plus lectures, workshops, and conversations—swing fantastical and are, characteristically, manically iterative (one studio generated 676 final models at 1:1,000 scale). The Why Factory’s typological exercises enlist not just 16 Grasshopper scripts but the structural expertise of Arup, which appears in a section titled “Engineering Porosity.”

To what end? Porous forms, The Why Factory asserts, bore through the stifling effects of urban density, offering social, environmental, and economic value. To Maas, speculative research, done rigorously and deadly seriously, is a tool of persuasion. “Directly or indirectly, The Why Factory tries to raise the opportunities for that research,” he says.

The Why Factory will release two other books with nai010 publishers this year, including BiodiverCity, evidence that MVRDV’s obsession with nature—living over, under, betwixt, and between it—has only intensified since it completed the Expo 2000 Dutch Pavilion. Later this year, Housing Beyond Uniformity: Architectural Diversity in Hong Kong (a working title) will bring the total of the think tank’s Future Cities books to 13.

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